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London housing-space standards set to go nationwide

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Ministers have floated proposals to allow local planning authorities across England to adopt the minimum housing-space standards that already apply in London

The move is contained in a package of measures just published by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), which aims to further streamline the construction process without reducing standards.

Under the proposals, local authorities would be able to incorporate the London internal space standards – which range from 37m2 for a studio flat to 138m2 for a six bedroom house - into their own housing policies.

Developers would then need to adhere to the guidance, or argue the case for rule relaxation because of viability concerns or other reasons.

Communities minister Stephen Williams said current rules had resulted in a ‘pick-and-mix’ approach that gave an unlimited number of permutations that created ‘cost, uncertainty, bureaucracy and duplication’ for housebuilders.

‘The current system of housing standards creates a labyrinth of bureaucratic rules for housebuilders to try and navigate, often of little benefit and significant cost,’ he said.

‘We are now slashing this mass of unnecessary rules down to just five core standards saving housebuilders and councils £114 million a year whilst making new homes safer, more accessible to older and disabled people and more sustainable.’

An impact assessment on savings expected from the proposals, produced by consultants EC Harris, said the wider adoption of national standards would allow for a process of ‘type approval’ that would avoid the need for new housing to be individually tested for internal space in respect of each new scheme.

It added: ‘Even where type approval is not adopted, costs will be considerably lower within the framework of a national space standard because assessing compliance will be consistent, and standard compliant designs will emerge which can be easily revised to meet bespoke needs, avoiding the need to re-design portfolios from scratch.’

EC Harris’ report did not clearly explain how much of DCLG’s suggested £114m annual savings would come from streamlined space standards.

Gavin Smart, the Chartered Institute of Housing’s director of policy and practice, applauded the government’s efforts to improve the delivery of new homes, but questioned the ‘opt-in’ nature of the space-standards proposals.

‘We are concerned that the government’s solution to set out voluntary standards for new-build houses doesn’t go far enough and we would look instead for these to become mandatory to make real progress,’ he said.

The national space standards technical consultation document can be read here.

The full Housing Standards Review consultation runs until November 7.

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