Minimum space standards under consultation

Minimum space standards could be reintroduced to England again under a government consultation launched today which also seeks to reduce drastically the number of housing standards local authorities can apply from over 100 to fewer than 10.

The government says the plans could also mean reducing the amount of guidance that applies to the house building industry from over 1,500 pages to fewer than 80.

The standards it is hoping to see removed include requirements for rainwater storage in areas that do not suffer from water shortages, requirements to build accessible flats on floors that cannot be reached by disabled people, and a formula contained within the Code for Sustainable Homes that effectively forces builders to account for dirt in calculating how big windows that let sufficient daylight in should be.

The government says it is safe to assume that home owners would have the common sense to clean them.

Communities minister Don Foster said: “At a time when we are working closely with British business to create jobs and build a stronger economy it’s essential the government plays its part by taking off the bureaucratic handbrake that holds back house building and adds unnecessary cost.”

Minimum housing standards have not been applied in England since the abolition of Parker Morris standards in the 1980s. The technical document associated with the new consultation includes a model minimum standard, although the government is still seeking views on whether such standards should be included at all.

It also wants views on, for example, whether standards on individual houses should include a minimum cycle storage provision, and whether standards on attracting enough sunlight should be included.

RIBA has been running a campaign highlighting what it claims is a decline in average house size. Chief executive Harry Rich said his organisation was “pleased to see the government consulting on space standards as our public research has repeatedly revealed that space in new homes is a major concern”.

He added: “This rationalisation of local housing standards is important to ensure quality for its consumers across the country and certainty for the industry.”

David Orr, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said he too wanted to see more consistency. He said: “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.”

The consultation closes on 22 October.

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