Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:27 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Beecham Lord Beecham Shadow Spokesperson (Housing), Shadow Spokesperson (Communities and Local Government), Shadow Spokesperson (Justice) 6:27 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I am short but tonight I shall be uncharacteristically brief in dealing with this amendment. We have heard already by implication tonight, and indeed on previous occasions, that we are concerned with not just the number of homes being built but what is being built. Earlier, we debated carbon compliance. This amendment deals with space.

I think it is generally recognised that the space standards of construction in this country are considerably less than those in Europe. Most of our counterparts there are building larger dwellings of all kinds, whether apartments or houses. In fairness, the Government produced some space standards last year, although it might be thought they are not particularly generous. For example, they provide that two-bedroom homes must have at least one double bedroom of 11.5 square metres, and that single bedrooms should have a minimum floor area of 7.5 square metres. Those are not exactly vast spaces. The standards also provide for a minimum floor to ceiling height of 2.3 metres, which is modest compared with that of dwellings which used to be built in this country. They also provide, helpfully, that any area with less than 1.5 metres of headroom,

“is not counted within the Gross Internal Area unless used solely for storage”.

This makes for pretty modest-sized accommodation.

In addition, an article in the Architects’ Journal, in explaining the provisions that came into force last year, pointed out:

“The government has also failed to make changes to a ‘loophole’ which would allow local councils to opt-out of the standards”.

The journal asserted:

“The requirements can only be applied where there is a local plan in place and where the viability of the development would not be compromised by adopting the standards”.

It was suggested that this may give rise to,

“concern that the changes would not be taken up”,

and implemented. Therefore, the purpose of this amendment is to ensure that all new dwellings will meet the minimum standards set out. Perhaps the Government will also consider when they will review these standards, and in particular whether they are satisfied that, compared with what applies in the rest of the European Union—whether we remain a part of it or not—they are adequate for the middle of the 21st century, which we are approaching. I beg to move.