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To Lansbury and beyond

Storing up problems

When one studies the house plans for GA Jellicoe's terraces at Grundy Street on the Lansbury Estate, one is immediately struck by the generous provision of cupboard and storage space. Such was the obvious need for built-in cupboards that they did not warrant a mention in the official guidebook to housing on the estate. However, it is a different story today, with storage at such a premium.

Estate agents and public-housing providers regularly boast about the luxury of 'fittd kit & lrge bdrm cpbds'.

Jellicoe's houses at Lansbury are 94m 2for a three-bed house. The ground floor plan is about 7.4m square, with a slightly larger first storey (oversailing the ground-floor access passage). This compares reasonably well with Parker Morris standards, but current Housing Corporation standards suggest that about 85m 2will suffice. It is no wonder that storage space has had to be sacrificed.

Cramming wheelchairs or prams into understairs areas in many standard housing association units to comply with Housing Corporation guidelines compares badly with the dedicated pram stores and built-in recesses of Lansbury's three-storey flats. Communal spaces may be struggling to make a comeback, but dedicated storage is usually sacrificed to satisfy pure 'accommodation space'.

It was the introduction of the Parker Morris standards in 1967, as a mandatory standard for public-sector housing, which focused on 'activity spaces' within the house rather than rooms. This allowed a certain freedom of design: 'The specification of standards of space by reference to individual rooms with specific labels - bedrooms, working and dining kitchens, and so on - tends to assume a conventional arrangement of the dwelling and the particular way in which a given room will be used. This inhibits flexibility both in the initial design and in the subsequent use of a dwelling.'

Parker Morris standards, which had drawn on the experience of places like Lansbury, ceased to apply in 1981. The book A Decade of British Housing 1963-1973 shows that private-sector housing provided meagre dimensions in lean times and was more generous when the market picked up. Morris' objectives were to circumvent these fluctuations in public provision, by means of state intervention. But by freeing up dimensional regulations, something has had to give.

A recent report by the Scottish Executive, examining the changes in space standards in dwellings in Scotland, concluded that 'in the public sector, space standards have been maintained. . . though these are more flexible than the pre-1987 Scottish Building Regulations. This flexibility has been used to redistribute the space within similar overall areas, increasing living, kitchen and some bedroom areas, but decreasing storage space.'

It continued: 'The private sector has used the removal of space standards. . . to decrease the size of some single bedrooms and reduce the amount of general storage. . . the space thus saved has been used to increase the size of living and kitchen areas and also to provide larger double bedrooms with en suite sanitary facilities.' In conclusion, it notes that there has been an increase in overall space provision in post-1987 housing.

REFERENCES Homes for Today and Tomorrow .Parker Morris, 1961 A Decade of British Housing 1963-1973 .Edited by David Crawford.Architectural Press, (London),1975

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