passed me by this old chestnut
New British homes the smallest in Europe
Robert Booth - The Guardian, Thursday 11 September 2008
The UK is building the most cramped housing in Europe in a phenomenon dubbed "rabbit hutch" Britain, with every country in western Europe, from Ireland to Italy, providing bigger new homes.
"The cause is simple and shocking," said Ellis Woodman, the curator behind the British pavilion at the Venice Architecture Biennale, opening today, which examines why the quality of British housing has fallen behind the rest of Europe. "England and Wales are the only parts of Europe where house-building is unregulated by legally binding minimum space standards," he said. "That oversight is all too indicative of the failure of successive British governments to ensure that we are well housed."
Robert Booth audio: 'The most cramped houses in Europe'http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/audio/2008/sep/11/housing.britain.biennale
Homes in the UK have the smallest rooms west of Poland and old dwellings are not much bigger, with the average floor space almost a quarter smaller than in Denmark, which boasts western Europe's most spacious living accommodation.
Among the smallest homes on the market are Barratt Homes' "Manhattan pods" in Harlow, Essex, which have just 34 square metres of space and a living room measuring three metres by 3.6 metres.
A survey by the housing charity Shelter of 500 families living in overcrowded conditions revealed that 86% felt someone in their family was suffering from depression, anxiety or stress and 71% said overcrowding had a negative impact on their health.
"I haven't got any room for anything," said Sonia Donovan, a 23-year-old pregnant single mother who lives in a one- bedroom council flat in Plymouth. "In my bedroom I've got my bed, my son's bed, cupboards and baby's cot. It causes a lot of stress in a small property, especially with my small son and another one on the way. I'm depressed and I feel homeless."
In November, London mayor Boris Johnson will propose the reintroduction of minimum space standards on all publicly-funded housing in the capital, with one-bedroom flats having to be no smaller than 50 square metres and three-bedroom homes a minimum 74 square metres. Johnson said in the summer that it was "shameful that new buildings in London have some of the smallest rooms in Europe".
In a separate move aimed at freeing up more space in Britain's homes, the government said yesterday that it would waive planning procedures for loft conversions of fewer than 50 cubic metres and single-storey extensions no more than 3 metres deep.
Housebuilders have warned that space standards could increase costs and slow down housebuilding, which is already falling short of government targets. "We can't increase the footprint of a home without increasing the land we need to buy and develop," said Steve Turner, a spokesman for the Home Builders' Federation.
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