Monday, 02 March 2015

Minimum space standard proposal confirmed by Foster

The government has confirmed plans to introduce a national minimum space standard as part of a cull of more than 90 per cent of housing standards intended to slash red tape for house builders.

In a win for Liberal Democrats, which have been fighting for a space standard, communities minister Don Foster announced that the government would consult on introducing the new space standard as part of its building standards review.

The Communities and Local Government department said: ‘The government is however inviting views on minimum space and access standards that would allow councils to seek bigger homes to meet local needs, including those of older and disabled people.’

The standard could be enforced on all local authorities to reduce ‘a confusing plethora of different regulations’ as currently authorities can introduced their own space standards.

London is the only place in the UK with minimum space standards and the proposal caused splits in a 16-body, government-commissioned expert panel, which reported its recommendations to the CLG along with a four-person challenge panel at the end of April.

House builder bodies have opposed the introduction of a space standard on the grounds it will increase costs and red tape.

The wider proposals are to scrap more than 90 per cent of the standards – cutting them down from more than 100 to less than 10. It also plans to reduce 1,500 pages of guidance down to less than 80.

Mr Foster said: ‘I’m proposing to cut needless red tape to let house builders get on with the real job of building the high quality new homes that people need, especially families and first-time buyers.

‘The current mish-mash of housing standards means that from Allerdale in Cumbria to Zoar in Cornwall no same set of rules always applies – it’s confusing, bureaucratic and cannot be allowed to continue.’

Some of the policy areas that are being looked at is the requirements for rainwater harvesting in places that don’t suffer from water shortages, demands for solar and wind energy sources that can’t physically fit onto the roofs of apartment buildings, a stipulation for multiple phone lines in home offices, irrespective of need and in addition to broadband connection, requirements to build accessible flats on floors that can’t be reached by disabled people and rules on window sizes that include a ‘dirty window factor’. The full list is available here.

Planning rules and no changes are being made to regulations which deal with safety and energy efficiency, although the consultation considers whether some of the standards should go into the regulations.

Chief executive of the Royal Institute of British Architects, Harry Rich said: ‘This rationalisation of local housing standards is important to ensure quality for its consumers across the country and certainty for the industry. We are pleased to see the government consulting on space standards, our public research has repeatedly revealed that space in new homes is a major concern.’

David Orr, chief executive of National Housing Federation, who was involved in the review, said the organisation wants to see ‘greater consistency and clarity across standards of new housing’.

He added: ‘For truly sustainable new homes that will provide enough space for families to grow, have low fuel bills and reflect local character and conditions we need strong guidelines that ensure good homes are built, but without imposing needless or inappropriate requirements. Moving from 100 standards to 10 is a good start in reducing red tape while safeguarding good quality home building but we look forward to seeing further details of the review.’

However, the UK Green Building Council said the proposals ‘fail to present a vision for sustainable homes’.

Paul King, chief executive of UK GBC, said: ‘What we need is a vision for national housing standards that provides industry with the clarity and certainty it needs to build homes that are fit for the needs of people in the future. It therefore makes sense to rationalise a set of standards that has proliferated over time and, in some places, become confusing and counterproductive.

‘However, with the demise of the code for sustainable homes and big omissions around materials and ecology, we risk losing a momentum that has transformed the way homes have been built over the last seven years.’

The story so far

26 October 2012
Inside Housing reveals the government is to launch a review of building standards

31 October 2012
The government names expert and challenge panels to oversee the review

26 April 2013
Inside Housing reveals sector splits over how to overhaul building standards

April 2013
Panel submits report to the Communities and Local Government department

August 2013
Inside Housing breaks the story about the potential proposals


Readers' comments (10)

  • Joe Halewood

    So the coalition who stubbornly refuse to define a bedroom let alone a minimum size for one in the bedroom tax are now proposing SPACE standards....hahahahahahahahaahaha!!!

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  • I've yet to speak to anyone that disagrees with the old 'Parker Morris' standards. We may have made great technological leaps forward since 1961, but yet are gradually regressing back to homes akin to the old tenament blocks of the industrial age- rooms without windows, shared cooking and living space, no storage space ( inside or out) and single aspect homes with poor ventilation. Mimimum space standards need to be enshrined in law to ensure that the homes of today are not the slums of the future.

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  • Only 10 standards?

    1. Minimum space;
    2. Environmental standards;
    3. Utility provisions;
    4. Light and ventilation;
    5. Structural integrity;
    6. Hazardous materials - avoidance of;
    7. Minimum heights;
    8. Disability consideration;
    9. Not making the roadside look untidy (the Pickles standard for rubbish);
    10. - so what is the other one?

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  • yes but who is to say they will level UP. this govt is only ever interested in maximising private profit. the customer can go and hang. do they really think the builders and other Tory backers will forgo profit to build something other than a glorified shoe box when there is a housing SHORTAGE. Dream on!!

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  • BlokeWithAConscience

    I'm sure that housing associations will be able to oblige and meet the necessary minimum shoe box standard and no more. Regeneration is always a hoot - demolish the council estate, build about 2/3 the number of previous social homes at the back, invite some of the old residents back into the new shoe box housing but don't worry about the rest, then party time for the freed up ex-social housing land to build rows of houses for private sale on the prime site land at about half a million pounds a go. Finally tell the public that you have to do this to pay for the redevelopment. Job done! You've got to love housing associations.

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  • HMMM MBPB not sure where you are talking about here. where i live you dont get half million pound shoeboxes on mixed tenure estates. it would much more cost effective to build multi storey shoe boxes on affordable ( i know i know ) rent. you must be a southern luvvie i take it

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  • Most small scale developers after initial scepticism have found Code for Sustainable Homes Level 3 Nov 2010 very workable. There are a few areas that could be less rigid. The demise of the CODE has been dur to a two pronged attack:
    1: large developers wanting to ‘knock’ up houses at the cheapest possible price for maximum profit.
    2: the government’s failure to extend the scheme to every developer/builder from 1 house up.

    The CODE works well and I’d certainly prefer to buy a CODE house than a non-Code house.

    Planning and CODE are the fail guys for a building federation that has failed. They go on about how they could build more houses but the truth is they don’t want to! By keeping the supply of newly built houses to a minimum they can ask maximum prices plus get maximum profit.

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  • BlokeWithAConscience

    Try London

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  • MBPB you must be talking about London NW9 area. Prices £275K for a 1bed flat, £325k for a 2 bed flat, penthouse £1 to £1,5 . add as many zeroes for the prime site areas. More space and better material in a box of corn flakes, Blue Ribbon for the Bunny capital of the EU, Yes HAs, RSLs , and private developers as puppeteers , repeat a re -release of the hit "Puppet on a String"

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  • Hal-Luke Savas

    In my view minimum standards should only apply to exclusive bachelor and student type accommodations. As regards families the min size should depend on how many teenagers live with them ie a minimum room size for each teenager up to 18.. hopefully this would mean people can afford their homes by fitting their lifestyles to their pockets. One minimum size house for all will not work. If people can afford bigger homes than they have millions of other opportunities to crack. By the way, I'm for Japanese box hotels or bachelor/student box accom in the UK too..

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