The last week has seen considerable debate on the size of new built properties in the UK. RIBA itself has coined the phrase, ‘shoebox living’, which has been widely publicised in the media. Further research was undertaken on other countries in Europe, summarising that Ireland homes were typically 15% bigger, the Netherlands 53% and Denmark 80% larger than the average newly built UK home. What isn’t mentioned is that land prices are much higher in the UK, particularly in the south east, and that the majority of mainland Europe lives in apartment buildings.
In terms of this statistic, it is not surprising as density levels have been increased and there is pressure for developers and planners to redevelop brownfield land. The article raises some questions in terms of providing adequate spaces for people to live, while balancing the protection of the open countryside. This is particularly political at this moment in time, with the planning reviews pending and with the government indicating that there is a presumption in favour of ‘sustainable’ development, which could be used to develop greenfield sites.
The only way to regulate this would be to create rigid space requirements through national planning policy, which may in turn stifle the design and creativity of architects. As a Planning Consultancy, in terms of internal requirements, we are ultimately led by the developer and the current market. We have seen a recent change in the types of houses the main builders are looking to develop, which would actually be more in line with RIBAs suggestions. Some areas in the south east and within the M25 command such a high premium that maximising the space is, understandably, the developer’s priority. So where does it go from here? The only way to create more space would be to legislate, which is unlikely as the current government are seeking to reduce legislation. No one is denying more space would be better; however it is yet unclear what effect, if any, RIBAs comments will have upon the industry.