Sunday, 13 August 2017

National space standards for new housing

It's being suggested more and more that 'a way out of the housing crisis' is to just build smaller homes - but at what cost?
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: tiny homes >>> >>> dog kennels or eco-pods?

The District Council has just given the go-ahead to build six units - where the Town Council would have preferred four:
17/0203/RES | Demolition of former surgery building and construction of 6no affordable terraced dwellings (application for approval of all reserved matters following grant of outline planning permission 16/0382/OUT) | Sidford Branch Surgery Church Street Sidford Sidmouth EX10 9RL

To quote from the Town Counci's planning committee:

Members continued to be concerned about the lack of parking and were of the view that the proposed houses were too small. 
Members would have preferred to see 4 bigger houses built on the site with parking. 


Councillor Marianne Rixson spoke at the District Council's planning committee meeting on 7th August when the application was approved:

As stated in my objections to this development, we build some of the smallest homes in Europe. 

I was perplexed that only the ground floor plans had been sent, so cannot comment on the first floor layout apart from hoping that there will be sufficient room for the furniture usually associated with bedrooms…

More generally,

> the officer’s report admits that the internal floor area is 5sq m short of the national space standards (the size of an additional room):
‘the dwellings have an internal floor area of 65 square metres compared to the nationally described space standards of 70 square metres for a 2-bed three-person dwelling’

The report further states:
‘In the absence of any locally adopted space standards, or any related policy in the adopted Local Plan, a refusal of planning permission on the basis of the size of the dwellings could not be justified.‘

> Is there any way the lack of a space standards policy or an addendum to address this omission can be made to the local plan before 2031?  Or is it within the remit of this committee that a recommendation can be made (perhaps in the form of a DPD) to Cabinet?

> How many dwellings will be constructed in the next 14 years before this policy can be addressed?  

> In my submission, I referred to the RIBA report which states, ‘This squeeze on the size of our houses is depriving thousands of families of the space needed for them to live comfortably and cohesively, to eat and socialise together, to accommodate a growing family or ageing relatives’.

> I sincerely hope this policy can be amended long before 2031 or more and more residents will have to live with the consequences.

The following applications were APPROVED subject to such conditions as may be indicated

And here is Councillor Rixson's formal written objection:

Sidmouth Sidford - Cllr M Rixson

Comment Date: Thu 30 Mar 2017Planning application 17/0203/RES
Sidford Branch Surgery, Church Street, Sidford

In response to my enquiry about the footprint of the proposed houses at the above address, the officer advised me that the footprint was as follows:

The end units are 8.4 x 4.5m = 37.8m
And the central units are 8.4 x 4.3m = 36.1m

This compares with 150 and 152 Sidford Road at 8m x 5.3m = 42.4m

I feel these houses are too small and cramped. Reports in Architecture (2015) and the Guardian (2012) sum up the impact of this short-sighted approach to development and the consequences for home owners:

'More than half of the new homes being built today are not big enough to meet the needs of the people who buy them, according to new research published today (Wednesday 2 December) by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). This squeeze on the size of our houses is depriving thousands of families of the space needed for them to live comfortably and cohesively, to eat and socialise together, to accommodate a growing family or ageing relatives, or even to store possessions including everyday necessities such as a vacuum cleaner.'


'A report this week by Riba and Ipsos Mori found "long- and short-term storage space" - for everyday functional items such as ironing boards and bed linen, as well as seasonal or nostalgic possessions such as Christmas trees or a wedding dress - was one of the features people most wanted in their home.

The Way We Live Now: What People Need and Expect From Their Homes also found we want a dedicated space for tasks such as ironing and recycling; larger rooms and higher ceilings; and the possibility of "private space" for individual family members".

The common theme could be summed up in two words: more space. That, though, is what many British homes - especially modern ones - lack. We build the smallest new homes in Europe, significantly smaller than 100 years ago. This is not because of pressure on land: a 2007 Riba survey found the average floor space of a new dwelling in England and Wales was 76 sq m, against 81.5 sq m in Italy, 92 sq m in Japan and 115 sq m in Holland, all as densely populated. It's because builders make more money that way - and, perhaps, because we are the only EU country not to have minimum-space standards for the homes we live in.

Source: https://www.theguardian.com/global/shortcuts/2012/may/16/architecture-housing

I, therefore, agree with the recommendation by Sidmouth Town Council that the houses are too small. It would be preferable to have four houses on the site with parking per dwelling.

Cllr Marianne Rixson

Back in the 1960s, a commission was set up to provide some sort of standards for housing:

The Parker Morris Committee drew up an influential 1961 report on housing space standards in public housing in the United Kingdom titled Homes for Today and Tomorrow. The committee was led by Sir Parker Morris. Its report concluded that the quality of social housing needed to be improved to match the rise in living standards, and made a number of recommendations. The Committee took a functional approach to determining space standards in the home by considering what furniture was needed in rooms, the space needed to use the furniture and move around it, and the space needed for normal, household activities.

Out of the report came the Parker Morris Standards. In 1963 these were set out in the Ministry of Housing's "Design Bulletin 6 – Space in the Home". The report provided typical dimensions for the typical items of furniture for which the dwelling designer should allow space, and provided anthropometric data about the space needed to use and move about furniture. The bulletin also laid out sample room plans for a terraced house.[1]

In 1967 these space standards became mandatory for all housing built in new towns; this was extended to all council housing in 1969, although they had already been adopted by many local councils by then.

The mandatory nature of the standards was ended by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, when the incoming Conservative government sought to reduce the cost of housing and, generally, public spending.

Parker Morris Committee - Wikipedia

London still has such standards in place:
Table 3.3 Minimum space standards for new dwellings

As one commentator has noted: 

"This is a fundamental land use issue, as the footprint. curtilage and service infrastructure for properties determine the areas.
This indeed is why the space allocation tables were drawn up in the first place."

This is an area which a neighbourhood plan can take on board to create local land-use policies.
For example:
Chapel Parish Neighbourhood Plan | Housing

Meanwhile, this is theme which the media keep coming back to:
Welcome to rabbit-hutch Britain, land of the ever-shrinking home | Money | The Guardian

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