December 11 2013 Latest news:
Friday, October 11, 2013
Housing developers have been told they must build bigger homes to improve the living standards of families in north Essex.
Councillors in Tendring have set minimum space requirements for new-build properties after research has shown some families in the area are struggling to spend quality time together because of their cramped conditions. They say in some circumstances homes don’t have space for a dining table, meaning families are unable to eat meals together and children have no writing space to tackle homework.
However, the move has led representatives of the house building industry to warn developers might be put off from taking on projects if they are forced to build bigger houses.
The new guidelines, which fall in line with the Essex Local Design Guide, have been devised for inclusion in the council’s revised Local Plan, which is being brought up to date following a major consultation exercise which took in the views of over 800 members of the public, developers and councils.
Whereas the old plan had no space requirements for housing, the new document says a one bedroom house for two people must have a minimum internal space of 50sqms while at the other end of the scale it is recommended a four bedroom home for six people should give inhabitants at least 107sqms. There are also stipulations about the need for gardens in houses and communal spaces in flat developments.
The leader of Tendring District Council, Peter Halliday described the move as “bold policy” and one designed to improve people’s quality of life.
He said: “We want to move away from the rabbit hutch developments built by John Prescott in the late 1990s and 2000s. The UK has the smallest housing stock, in terms of space, in the European Union and we want to address that.
“Providing larger living conditions also has benefits for the educational development of children. Feedback has shown us that some families don’t have space for a dining table so the family can’t sit together and engage with each other. Without a dining table many children don’t have a proper place to do their homework.
Mr Halliday, who said the new plan envisaged around 5,000 new homes would be built in Tendring over the next 15 years, denied the guidelines would frighten away commercial developers and said they had been adjusted to take on board some of their concerns.
He added: “ We’ve had a good response from some developers and not so warm from some others but the spacing requirements are our starting point and we intend to try and stick to them.”
But a spokesman for the Home Builders Federation, which represents the house building industry, urged the council to be “realistic” with the type of houses it wants developers to build.
He said: “Developers usually build a variety of different types of homes to reflect the different circumstances of buyers. If a local authority wants all the houses to be big then it risks ruling some people out.
“It shouldn’t be down to councils to decide the size of homes. It needs to be market driven and for people to make decisions based on their own circumstances. Some people choose to have a smaller home and live nearer a rail station for work or close to shops for convenience. Other will live further out so they can afford a larger house.
“Developers will assess the market and decide whether the conditions set for a site are viable. If they are told they can only build houses over a certain size there is a danger it won’t be viable.”