Housing and Planning Bill - Report (5th Day)

Part of the debate – in the House of Lords at 6:30 pm on 25th April 2016.

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Photo of Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Lord Taylor of Goss Moor Liberal Democrat 6:30 pm, 25th April 2016

My Lords, I will speak briefly on this issue, which I feel very strongly about. We are in a terrible place: because people believe there is insufficient land in our island to build, we cram homes on to the smallest possible areas. Through not releasing enough land, its value is bid up and it goes to those who will squeeze the smallest possible boxes into the tiniest possible area with the least possible facilities. We should have more generous minimum space standards. After the war, we built council homes with very generous room sizes and with gardens with space to grow food. We could learn from this.

We need to understand that only some 9% of our country is built on; half of that is parks and gardens. To build the homes we need adds a fraction of 1% to the built area. Even the south-east would still be 87% green fields, even if we built all the homes we need on such land, in that area, which we do not need to do. The argument that we cannot afford decent sized homes does not add up. It comes out of making too little land available. I will give three facts to the House. First, we build the smallest homes anywhere in the European Union outside Romania and Italy. That is because they build almost entirely apartments. They have a tradition of apartment living which we do not have here. An Englishman’s garden used to be important, but people rarely get that now. Around 40% of all homes built are flats, yet only 2% of the population say they want to live in them. We have got something immensely wrong there.

Secondly, we actually build smaller houses than we did in the 1920s, even including the workmen’s cottages which were very small even by today’s standards. Thirdly, we build homes half the size of those the Danes build, on average. It is a myth that we cannot afford the space to give an Englishman a decent home and garden, and it is high time that we changed that view.