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Economics decide space standards in housing

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In the review of Alison Ravetz's book (AJ 6.9.01), Colin Ward takes justifiable pride in Sir Peter Shepheard's 1951 semi detached houses on the Lansbury Estate, describing them, despite criticism at the time, as the most envied and sought after in the whole area.

However, one must surely doubt this overwhelming preference for a 50-year-old architectural style, per se. More likely is appreciation of the spacious accommodation and large gardens, deriving from the liberal examples of the 1949 Housing Manual.

Ward's support for Ravetz's criticism of later local authority housing fails to acknowledge the economic pressures of the Housing Cost Yardstick, which squeezed living spaces and site areas and then imposed system building.

Such constraints encouraged experimental designs and use of technology, making semidetached houses virtually unthinkable.

It is not that the expertise of Sir Peter and his generation has become a lost art, reactionary or not, but that the economics of cost and land use simply took over in order to house the masses, many of whom might otherwise never have the chance of any form of housing.

Russ Randall, Essex

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