Housing

The Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) is calling for a new, ground-breaking piece of legislation to transform the quality of new homes in England.

The proposals would force ministers to make sure that all new housing meets ten quality, safety and placemaking ‘principles’, attributes the organisation claims collectively constitute a ‘decent’ home.

Principles put forward in the organisation’s draft ‘Healthy Homes Bill’ include a requirement that new housing is built to be safe from the risk of fire, includes adequate living space and is located within a short walk of children’s play spaces.

The call for this new legislation is a response to research the TCPA undertook with University College London (UCL), which in one case study found that, using permitted development rights, a developer had increased the number of flats in a building by 33% upon what was declared within their ‘prior approval’ application, potentially leading to overcrowding and preventing the local authority from planning to meet the needs of residents. In another example, researchers discovered a two-bed flat, again built using permitted development, having only one small window.

This announcement coincides with the centenary of the Housing and Town Planning Act 1919, a key piece of legislation which helped transform the quality and delivery of council housing, giving ordinary people a decent home.

Fiona Howie, chief executive of the TCPA, said “There is a need for more homes but it is essential that they are of a high quality. Too often that is not the case. The very worst examples we have seen have come through the deregulated conversion of old office blocks and storage facilities into housing units. The creation of these cramped and substandard housing units is even more scandalous given what we know about the impact of housing conditions on people’s health and well-being. Poor quality, badly designed housing damages people’s life chances.

“In the rush to build more homes quality and safety is being overlooked. Surely everyone should agree that is unacceptable? We have gone backwards over the last 100 years. The Healthy Homes Act will help make sure that new homes built today leave a positive legacy. We know there is cross party political support for new homes and we hope there will be cross party support for this vital piece of new legislation to help transform the kinds of homes and places we are creating now and for future generations.”

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