SPACE – THE Final Frontier – Two Years On and Still Weird

In 2014 i wrote this brief article:

“In the 1960’s Britain had national building standards, known as the Parker Morris Standards, which laid down standards for all public housing, both in terms of sizes and the facilities. These invariably were picked up by private house builders.

In the 1980s, bowing to pressure by the housing industry, Maggie Thatcher’s Government removed the standards as part of her claims to cut red-tape, arguing that the market would determine appropriate house sizes.

Increasing costs and a desire for greater profits by squeezing more properties on sites has resulted in the inevitable fact that we now have in the United Kingdom some of the smallest houses in Europe
To counter this various local authorities have introduced their own standards, resulting in a plethora of different minimum sizes of properties across the country. Rather than cut red tape as iniitaly intended we now have, and more complex, red tape than ever before.

Responding to the concerns of professionals and buyers about the small size of properties and to the concerns of the house building industry of the need to clarify the situation, the Government is consulting on re-introducing minimum sizes for different types of properties. (DCLG – Draft nationally described internal space standards – September 2014)
These provide a minimum size of a studio flat (with shower) at 37 sq m, to 138 sq m for a 3-storey, 6 bedroom house.

The consultation closes in November 2014 but the results are unlikely to be available prior to the General Election, when a new Government may decide not to introduce them.

Should you therefore pay any attention to them? Well in our opinion the answer is yes you should.

Now the figures are in the public domain expect local planning authorities to start using them to judge your proposals. If you don’t get near the minimum sizes expect a refusal based on inadequate size of rooms.
Even if local authorities don’t pick up on it, buyers and lenders may making it more difficult to finance or sell such properties.

The days of buying a property and dividing it into very small flats looks like it is coming to an end.”

So where are we today?

Well the confusion did not end in 2014. The adopted standards which, if i’m honest, are either adopted..or guidance…or ignored by council’s are still vague and poorly implemented. Useful terms such as ‘studio’ have been ignored and any property type that does not conform to the Governments idea of middle England suburbia has no standard at all. You can’t have a three storey two bedroom townhouse for example.

I am dealing with two separate appeals in one authority for a studio flat that is greater than 40sqm but was refused because there is no wall between bedroom and living space and three 3-storey two bedroomed townhouses which exceed the 2 storey standard and the 3 storey standard and were refused inter-alia because the Council could not measure them. Even though its a retrospective application…and they can walk inside with a measuring tape!

But it gets weirder. In Gosport (Hampshire) I am dealing with an appeal for a dwellinghouse that conforms completely to the bungalow standards and has been refused on cramped and inadequate living accommodation where the Council have no standard of their own!

It would appear that like everything else the Council’s are waiting for PINS (The Inspectorate) to do their work for them.

We can only wait and see.