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Architects slam Tory report calling for more bungalows

Racecourse Passivhaus Bungalows by Gentoo
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Housing architects have criticised a GLA report from the Conservatives, which suggests a ‘bungalow building boom’ could free-up family homes across the capital

The Smart Move report, by Tory London Assembly member Andrew Boff, claimed that 30 per cent of people consider a bungalow their ideal home, but that they only make up 2 per cent – around 2,000 annually – of new homes built.

Boff cited a 2011 report by the Intergenerational Foundation, which found in a study of one south London street that ’roughly’ 70 per cent of the homes were under-occupied, and that there were 20 empty bedrooms within 14 houses.

He also argued that – with ‘significant levels of overcrowding’ and a lack of downsizing options for elderly people – the delivery of new bungalows should be included in the review of the London Plan.

The report added that there was a financial advantage to people downsizing, stating that, in London, the average amount of equity released from moving to a smaller property is £71,262 per bedroom. 

However, architects specialising in the housing industry have criticised Boff’s suggestion that bungalows could provide a solution to the capital’s housing crisis.

‘Such poor land-take by bungalows would exacerbate the housing crisis in London, not help solve it,’ said Manisha Patel, a partner at PRP.

’Bungalows would do nothing to alleviate the shortage of affordable housing in the capital as they are relatively expensive to construct.’

The report acknowledged that bungalows would not be suitable in all areas of London, ‘particularly areas where higher densities are required’, but suggested they could be built in outer London and on smaller parcels of land where higher density development would not be possible. 

It also said that, although bungalows were ‘not considered an efficient form of land use’, a number of innovations had challenged this perception. It pointed to the use of ‘space-saving’ bungalows, developed by Papworth Trust, where it is claimed two bungalows can be built in an area of under 70m². 

Low-density housing not only leads to urban sprawl but introduces a disproportionate cost on public infrastructure

Alex Ely, Mae

But Alex Ely, principal at Mae, questioned the document’s calculations.

‘The space advocated doesn’t add up,’ he said. ‘A plot at 70m² accommodating two bungalows would mean each bungalow is 35m² gross. This would make an internal area of around 28m², significantly smaller than the government’s nationally described space standards for a one-person studio at 39m², let alone a more generously sized home you would need to meet Category 3 Part M regulation, as is likely to be demanded by downsizers.’

‘We need to create sustainable places, and having low-density housing not only leads to urban sprawl and therefore a reliance on the car but introduces a relatively disproportionate cost on public infrastructure.

‘At a time when public finances are tight, it seems wrong to support a form of development that demands the equivalent amount of infrastructure as a stack of apartments or a multi-occupancy home.’

The report also suggested developing ‘stacked’ bungalows – allowing two or more bungalows to be built on a single plot of land with a gentle slope. But Patel said this would be ‘prohibitively expensive’ even if the building regulations could be achieved.

The report argued that the low supply of bungalows was reflected in their sale price, which was on average 11.4 per cent higher than other forms of housing in London. It said a typical bungalow in Southgate had a sale price of £945,000. 

But Rory Bergin, a partner at HTA Design, suggested that bungalows also had a high sale price because of the construction cost. 

‘[Bungalows] are also the most energy hungry because they have the highest proportion of external area to floor space, and are expensive building types to build because of the high cost of site preparation compared with the low amount of actual floor space constructed,’ he said. 

We need to be using design teams to maximise the use of land, not minimise it


Rory Bergin, HTA

‘When we put together a team to design and build buildings, we need to be using those teams to maximise the use of land, not minimising it.’

Meanwhile, dRMM director Philip Marsh said that while there was a ‘compelling statistical argument’ for bungalows in the report, the ‘ultra low density solution seems to be at odds with the need for densification’.

He added: ‘The notion of a bungalow does not immediately invoke images of progressive architecture, rather a soulless cul de sac of repeated pitched roofs and car ports.’

Marsh went on to suggest that the solution to the housing shortage could lie in a new housing typology that ‘takes the benefits of bungalow living’ – such as private ‘pocket gardens’ – but where buildings are constructed on two-levels and interlock to result in an improved density.

The report concluded with five recommendations (see in full below) to London mayor Sadiq Khan, including specifying the role of bungalows in tackling overcrowding in the London Housing Strategy and assessing the value of building bungalows on small, vacant or disused sites.

Boff said he hoped Khan would ‘seriously consider’ them and encourage the building of bungalows.

‘There is a massive demand for attractive downsizing options that is simply not being addressed,’ he said. ‘The unseen consequence of this is a stagnation of the housing market as elderly people become reluctant to move …

’There is no single solution to solving London’s housing crisis but this is a practical and sensible idea to get the market moving in the right direction.’ 

Smart Move report: the five recommendations

1. The mayor should ensure that the next London Plan, as well as its supplementary planning guidance, provides the best possible support to the delivery of new bungalows. This should include, where appropriate, a more flexible approach to density requirements where a development will contribute to downsizing.

2. The mayor and London boroughs should review London-wide and local design guidance to promote innovative new ‘space saving’ bungalow designs.

3. The mayor, boroughs, housing associations, Transport for London and other public bodies should assess the value of building bungalows on small, vacant or disused sites.

4. The mayor should require London boroughs, especially those in outer London, to identify sites in their development plans that would be suitable for new bungalows.

5. At the next review of the London Housing Strategy, the mayor should specify the role of bungalows in tackling overcrowding in London.

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