Developer Meadow Residential plans to convert an 11-storey building in the town into 254 flats. However, the proposal has attracted criticism as the proposed studio flats are significantly smaller than the government’s required minimum size for a property.
The national minimum space standard is currently 37 square metres. However almost all of the proposed flats fall below this level, with some as small as just 16 square metres.
Developers are able to get round this requirement if they make use of permitted development rights. This is where developers convert commercial space into residential properties, and so do not need to submit a planning application. As a result, they also don’t need to comply with the minimum space standard.
The plans have provoked uproar from local residents. Comments on the public consultation on the application on the council’s websites include describing the proposed flats as a “disgrace”, “not fit for human habitation” and “rabbit hutches”.
Council leader Richard Cornelius has been quoted as saying: “The sizes of some of the flats would not be what we think are appropriate living spaces for our residents and we do not support the scheme in its current form.”
However, he admitted the council had “no control” over whether the development takes place.
Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, has previously called for changes to permitted development rules, which would limit the number of offices in the capital being converted for residential use.
However, recent figures suggest the number of permitted developments taking place in London has fallen sharply already. In 2014, developers began work on 873,000 square feet of permitted development conversions according to Colliers International, a property agency. But by last year that figure was just 178,000 square feet.
A spokesman for the Home Builders Federation said that the capital is enduring an “acute housing crisis” and developers are looking at providing a range of different types of property in order to solve it.
He continued: “Buyers will balance issues such as proximity to work, infrastructure or transport links against what size of home they can get for their budget in a particular area. Providing a range of options for homebuyers is key.”
The government’s housing white paper, published in February, suggests that more high rise properties may be one solution to the housing shortage, looking at improving the number of ‘high density’ properties and reviewing space standards.
Meadow Residential was approached for comment but did not reply by the time this article went to press.