Wednesday, October 12, 2011

2011 Streak Day 265 (Sunday Sept 25th): New houses

2011 Streak Day 265 (Sunday Sept 25th): Walk 3 miles, Time 1hr, Weather lightly overcast

I have talked before about the housing development on the site of the old paper mill at Nash Mills, Just looking at the pictures I thought they looked a bit dull but it is unfair to make a judgement when it is still a building site. However some of the first phase has been completed and show homes are open so I thought it was time to have a nose around.
There are two developers Linden Homes and Crest Nicholson. Of the two Linden Homes had the right attitude: saying the houses are open, just look round. Crest Nicholson were far more arsey. The show homes could only be approached through their sales office and they would not let people look round unaccompanied; you had to have an appointment. Obviously they wanted to discourage time-wasters.
So if I was going to buy I would buy from Linden but I am not going to buy. 
The show homes looked very nice and cosy with many nice features but the rooms were small. As an empty show home it looked great but if you started to think how you would actually live and where you would put everything you realised things were not so rosy. No matter how much the developers might want to, it cannot be wished away - everybody has stuff and stuff takes up physical space. You need to be able to contain it. A small example: the master bedroom in one of the houses only had one place you could put a double bed (but not a king sized bed) but there was no room for a bedside table. Where would you put a light or your radio alarm, or glass of water? they are all common requirements.  
There is a new campaign that has been launched by RIBA called HomeWise. They have published a report 'The case for space' which argues that in our homes we need an appropriate amount of space to support our patterns of living.
There used to be a standard. The Parker Morris Committee reported in 1961 and after analysing the way people at the time lived laid down the minimum requirements for rooms. However the standard was removed in the 1980s when the government decided that market would provide what people wanted and it should not be hindered by pesky little things like space standards. The nearest thing we now have are some requirements recently introduced by the Greater London Authority.
The report contains a small survey of some new developments and found they do not meet these new space requirements. The floor area of the average new three bedroom home is only 92% of the recommended minimum size but the most common new 3 bedroom house is smaller still at 77% of the recommended size
You can read the report and find out how much our living space has shrunk and how important it is. it certainly chimes with what I thought as I came away from looking at these new houses.
They are not good "machines for living". I thought.
But I really don't know how the RIBA campaign gets traction (it has so far been only a passing news item). Currently the whole public attitude and every news item is dominated by the idea of how poor we now are. A plan to make our houses bigger is not an easy fit with the woeful mood.
Nevertheless it is important. Houses last a long time and we are storing up problems for ourselves

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