Gummer targets bad architecture

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JOHN GUMMER yesterday declared war on bad architecture and poor urban planning. The Secretary of State for the Environment launched a glossy document intended to put an end to a free-for-all approach towards development.

He wants every new building, from small starter homes to giant shopping and office developments, to stand the test of time - fitting into its locality, doing its job well and pleasing the eye far into the next century.

The consultation document, Quality in Town and Country, will be followed by a symposium later this year. It is intended to warn all developers that from now on the watchword will be quality, and to give heart to local councils minded to refuse planning permission because they consider a proposed development to be an eyesore.

Mr Gummer is keen on the concept of urban villages, communities of several thousand where people can live, shop and work all within walking distance. This was the principle behind the Poundbury housing scheme near Dorchester, promoted by the Prince of Wales and the Duchy of Cornwall.

'Some communities feel that they have been burdened with poorly designed buildings, shoddily built, uncompromising in their visual assault on the neighbourhood and oblivious to the needs of their users,' Mr Gummer told developers, architects and planners in London yesterday. 'At the extreme, they degrade their setting fatally.'

Not only large developments like high-rise flats were to blame, he said. People perceived 'a gradual erosion of the local fabric by small-scale, everyday developments'.