How much space do we need? And should Councils include a minimum spacial requirements in their policies?

I am currently thinking how much space do we all need in our home? Well I suppose this is all down to our lifestyle choices and family size, among many other factors. And it’s true us Northerners expect a lot more space for our money. But are we really getting this?

Is there such thing as a minimum house size? And how do the UK house builders determine how big is too big? And is it true that many of us feel that our new build homes are too small?

Well from my initial research I have found that up until recently there was no defined ‘case for space’ here in the UK. The National Planning Policy Framework has no guidance on the minimum size for rooms, or for overall dwellings. Nor do any of my Local Council planning policies or any Residential Development SPD’s. But London has set a bench mark by creating guidance within their planning policies for space standards, which is set around the minimum space we require for basic furnishing and activities.

The reason why this has not been policy earlier in the UK, is because we purchase our homes on the basis of how many rooms, not the overall floor area of the dwelling. This in turn has pushed house builders into building small 4 bedroom dwellings, over large three bedroom dwellings because they feel they will achieve a greater market value. It is also true that here in the UK we get a lot less house for our money than other European countries.

In 2011  the RIBA conducted ‘The Case for Space – The size of England’s new hones’ study which found that on average new homes where 8m2 smaller than the minimum size standard used in London. Conducting this report allowed the RIBA to push forward the national space standards, and in October 2015 the UK Government adopted this standard. These new standards allow Local Planning Authorities the option to set minimum space standards for new dwellings, through a policy set within the Local Plan. Following a stream of needs tests, viability assessments, public consultations and examination. Meaning implementing these standards is not quite that simple, and many Councils are yet to move forward with the matter.

The latest research conducted by the RIBA proves that still our homes are to small, with the average new build property outside of London being on average 4m2 smaller than the new standards.

One Council who is adopting the strategy in the North West is Manchester, having recently asked members of the public; How big should a new house be? How much outdoor space? How dense should apartments be? What design features have you seen that work well, or didn’t work well? Through completing a online consultation the residents of Manchester, can help the Council devise these standards, which will then be adopted into their Local Plan. It will be interesting to see what the public believe they ‘need’ in reality to the Government standards, and will this allow our homes to be more suitable to our forever changing living requirements.

So to answer the question… Yes there is a national standard, but to implement these into the new homes up and down the county is going to be costly, time consuming and complex.

RIBA ‘The Case for Space’ 2011

RIBA ‘Homewise Report’ 2015

Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard

 Manchester Confidential – How Big Should Your New House Be?




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