Should minimum space standards be re-introduced?

6th June 2013

A ministerial review of standards has sparked stark warnings from leading architects that homeowners will be forced to live without enough space or light.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) claim this review, which will look into building regulations, room sizes and energy efficiency, will condemn us to poor quality homes.  The government on the other hand says it will remove unnecessary redtape and allow developers to get on with building more homes.

Minimum space standards were abolished in the 1980 Local Government, Planning and Land Act, but social housing wasn’t included in that.  Now, social housing will form part of the review as currently there are a set of minimum standards imposed on building as part of its funding requirements.

With a shortage of affordable homes, both in the social and private sector, it is clear that the current system isn’t working.  We have to realise that something must be done to ease the shortfall, and that any relaxation of the rules and regulations designed to do that must be welcomed.

RIBA’s argument against this is that the average home here in the UK is smaller than in France, Spain, Ireland, Denmark, Australia and the US and we should be doing more to protect the amount of light and space our homes have.  In fact, they have gone further and suggested that there should actually be minimum space standards for all new homes, with minimum requirements for natural light.

In an ideal world this would be great. Afterall, we all want to live in a nice home, with a garden, and plenty of space to live our lives. But, we don’t live in an ideal world, we live in a world where space is at a premium, and where the amount of homes we are building does not meet with demand.

It is just not practical to introduce more redtape when we actually need less.  Introducing space standards will see us facing some uncomfortable truths about where we need to build, as well as seeing an increase in the associated land and building costs.  We need to make it easier for developers to build, not harder, and in my view, minimum space standards would be a step backwards, not forwards.

Greg Mulligan is a director of Mulbury Homes.

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