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Intensity, not density

There are many surplus sites lying vacant in every city. Taking advantage of them doesn't necessarily mean urban cramming

According to deputy prime minister John Prescott, the £60,000 house is just round the corner. That is, if they can afford corners. But, as it happens, the new Prescott Pod is more than likely going to be a bog-standard straight-line terrace, sharing walls and cutting down on costs.

And given that this is being proposed as the answer to the housing crisis, it is worth remembering that, even now, in the North East you could spend that much money and still have change for a pint? and another house.

Yet the North East still has the lowest levels of first-time buyers in the UK. Admittedly, at 26.2 per cent, the North East has shown the highest house-price inflation, but cheap housing is still prevalent - it is just that, in respect of some of it, newlyweds, aspiring young things or anyone with discernment, just don't want to buy.

Maybe it was this realisation that informed the ODPM to reveal that it was talking about build costs, not the sale price. That would be another matter all together.

So, unless charity or corporate social responsibility kicks into the construction sector in a big way, the decent cheap house is as far away as ever.

With land values figuring highly in the out-turn price equation, the answer at the moment seems to be trying to limit the footprint of the building and using less desirable sites. The Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE) has called for at least 75 per cent of all new housing and 85 per cent of new commercial development to be on brownfield sites. Pouring your building into a tight site will be a useful skill if this target is to be achieved.

As urban infill becomes increasingly popular, necessary and mandated, so more imaginative designs are beginning to match the imaginative use of site parameters.

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