At one time, new houses in Britain were the smallest in Europe, and the reason? The lack of building regulations regarding living space at that time, according to experts. In Denmark, homes built to regulation had twice the floor space as the small houses that were built here.
In Essex a company had built flats so small that they had only a 34 square metre floor area with a living room measuring three metres by 3.6 metres. In comparison, the average new home in France was 112 square metres.
In 1961 the chairman of the Central Housing Advisory Committee, Sir Parker Morris recommended minimum standards for space and design in British housing. The Committee recommended that a semi-detached house for 4 people should have a floor area of 72 square metres minimum. In 2011, some very powerful people, among them the Mayor of London, Boris Johnson and award-winning architecture critic Ellis Woodman, were astonished at the way that builders were bending the rules and producing homes of such a tiny area that they were being termed, 'rabbit hutch houses.'
Smallest house in Britain
The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba), brought out a report in 2011 recommending minimum sizes for accommodation. The report states that , 'Although minimum space standards for England do not currently exist, new minimum space requirements based on daily activities and the space needed for them have recently been introduced by the Greater London Authority (GLA).'
The standards set a minimum internal floor area for the number of bedrooms and the number of people the home is designed to accommodate comfortably. But even these standards are very small areas. A 1 person 1 bedroom flat is recommended at 37 square metres, while a four person three bedroomed flat is recommended at 74 square metres.
Sisters Susan and Dorothy bought their new three-bedroom house on a private estate in Devon in 2007. Soon after moving in they regretted it and are trying to sell.
One sister said, 'We made a big mistake when we bought it. They call it a three-bedroom house - but really it's only big enough for two.' The largest "double bedroom" is just 3.4m (11ft 2in) by 2.5m (8ft 2in), with barely enough room for a double bed. The other two bedrooms are even smaller. The ground floor is just as tiny, with a small kitchen and a lounge-diner.
Change of mind
Some years ago my wife and I were thinking of moving house as both our daughters were moving out and we would be rattling around in a large house on our own. We went to see some of the new builds that were just finished in the area. After viewing some of them, we came away vowing never to buy a new house. The ground floor area of one small house, from front door to back door was smaller than the area of the living room in our existing house. Now, twenty years later our grandaughter's friend lives in one of the small houses that we saw, and they had to take the bedroom doors off and lose them as they couldn't be opened with a bed in the room. Their upstairs is open plan.
It's about time the regulations were changed.