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Aren’t we lucky?

Properties in Britain are shrinking with residents losing more than a quarter of their living room space in the last 50 years, according to a new study.

Newly-built houses have steadily reduced in size since the 1970s as developers have crammed more properties onto a dwindling number of plots. Experts blamed planning rules, which have remained untouched since the aftermath of the Second World War, for the country’s shrinking property sizes.

The average living room in a property built in 1950 was 237 sq ft in size and by 1970 had grown to 268 sq ft. But by 2020 a typical living room had shrunk by 27pc to 195 sq ft, according to analysis of 450,000 houses by property firm Spring and housing market analyst Propalt.

The average master bedroom shrank by 16pc from 169 sq ft to 142 sq ft in the last 50 years, the report added.

Meanwhile the average kitchen built in 2020 was 142 sq ft – almost a fifth smaller than the typical 171 sq ft kitchen built in 1960.

The 1947 Town and Country Planning Act and successors, of course. Blow it up, Kablooie.

Because absolutely none of the cunts who run the planning system themselves live in these hovels they insist upon for the proles, do they?

44 thoughts on “Aren’t we lucky?”

  1. I disagree. Plenty of the c*Mrs who insist on these rules actually do live in such houses. It’s a Stockholm syndrome: they’ve grown to love the planning laws which are holding them hostage. Also there must be a strong element of petty jealousy: I’m not going to grant you planning permission for a nicer house than mine.

  2. Tim, I’ll never understand why people buy new build. They’re usually tiny, with no storage room, and yet also a lot more expensive than buying a larger house built in the 70’s.

  3. I understand the discussion between Gary and Keir as to the size of their preferred living rooms ran late into the night. Gary suggested 36 sq ft for Keir to enable more houses to be built for the poor Albanians but Keir became rather testy when he learned of Gary’s 2,000 sq ft room.

    Gary’s explanation that he shared it with 12 Albanian families was ridiculed by Kier, who said MI5’s report suggested this was a porky.

    The BBC refused to comment on such trivia and said Keir would no longer be appearing on Match of the Day…

  4. JuliaM – Oi dunno about that.

    Most new builds I see are carbuncleous sidegrowths of existing villages and towns, so you can buy a nicer and cheaper house in the older parts or a more expensive new build in the outskirts.

    It’s like buying a new car, I suppose? I’d never buy a brand new car, but a lot of people enjoy the pleasure of being the first owner, and pay a premium for it.

  5. 42 couples in Band A houses gets the Council the same income (assuming everyone pays) as 14 Band H houses. Tax incentives are wrong.
    And all those people earning just under 100k to avoid the 68.5% income taxation band above that – what’s the point of earning more anyway if you can’t get a swanky new build house and the government takes 2/3rd anyway.
    Agree about lasering the 1947+ nationalised planning system. Back to the feudal system please – new stately homes with substantial servant quarters

  6. A lot of my early adult life was spent living in Victorian terraced houses. They basically came in 2 size, small and smaller. Small had living rooms 12′ square i.e. 144 sq ft, smaller was 10′ square i.e. 100 sq ft.

  7. The problem is not so much the planning act, its the amount of people in the country, and the fact ithat number is constantly increasing, and rapidly too. No type of development system can cope with that sort of population increase. If you have a highly regulated one all you get is what we have now, restricted numbers of increasingly small houses, and ever rising prices. If you have a free-for-all you’d get more larger and cheaper houses with a completely collapsing infrastructure system surrounding them, because there’s no incentive for any developer to build more infrastructure capacity, just to leach of the existing.

    If you remove 5m people from the country, the problem goes away.

  8. Jim

    Infrastructure is only tangential to planning. Developers leech off the current infrastructure already. The best – in terms of product – building boom this country ever saw was between the two wars: no T&CPA then. Builders building what people wanted, with the necessary infrastructure to boot.

  9. Martin Near The M25

    New builds seem to often be split across 3 floors, making the rooms even smaller. They’re cramming a couple into a garden near me. ~99 sqM space each.

  10. “Infrastructure is only tangential to planning. Developers leech off the current infrastructure already. ”

    No they don’t, they have to show that there is sufficient capacity in the various networks to service their development, and if there isn’t, get the utility companies to provide it (at the development company expense) before they can build a single house. They aren’t just allowed to plug into whatever is there and crash the network if it isn’t up to capacity. I have personal knowledge of all this – I own a piece of land that Thames Water need to put a massive new sewer through to service a new 8000 house urban extension. None of those houses can be built until that infrastructure goes in. Most of those 8000 houses have planning permissions that have been passed by the planners years ago, but not one house has been built yet because the infrastructure doesn’t exist yet.

    Tim keeps wittering on about ‘planning chitties’ when one of the biggest planning constraints in little old Britain is infrastructure capacity for new developments. You could issue all the planning permissions you liked but unless the infrastructure exists (or someone pays for it to be built) to service these houses then nothing will get built.

  11. Jim

    I’m in the same game: built over 100 new properties on four sites and I know all about the requirements. But I also can’t deny that I have been “leeching “ off what has already been put in place – I just put in the minimum extra required to satisfy TPTB. Without the planning act I doubt the results would be any different.

  12. Those numbers look wrong. I’ve just surveyed my Mum’s house prior to sale. It’s the biggest on its block by a fair amount. It’s a traditional end terrace built in 1895 and the rooms are bigger than my Dad’s 1930s semi. The living room is 16.1sqm, which is 173sqft – no way were houses in the 1950s built with *237*sqft living rooms. I’ve been in 1950s and 1970s houses, no way are their living rooms bigger than my Mum’s. And that “195sqft” in 2020 is still bigger than my Mum’s – no way.

  13. My house was built in 1930ish. It was tiny, twelve feet from front wall to back on a 1/3 acre plot. It has been substantially enlarged since, but it shows there were mean inadequate houses ever. Size was not always desirable in the days of coal fires and draughts. It’s the first house I’ve had that wasn’t a new or recent build when we got it.

    But the shit they’re building on the other side of the village, wow!

  14. Size could be improved if people were not obsessed with avoiding terraces and insisting on a garage they won’t put a car in.

  15. ” Without the planning act I doubt the results would be any different.”

    Well thats exactly my point. Tim acts as if the Town and Country Planning Act is the only choke point in the system of getting new houses out of the ground. Even if you passed a law saying you can build anything anywhere, the practical problems of providing the right infrastructure would restrict the number of houses built to pretty much the same as today. And if you allowed people to build houses without the right infrastructure then you’d be in 3rd world country territory with raw sewage being dumped into the nearest river and massive housing developments being accessed from roads only suitable for a few hundred cars a day.

  16. What’s a “living room”? Seriously, I’m not being affected.

    We eat round our kitchen table except when we have lots of guests when we use the dining room. That otherwise serves as my wife’s sewing room and, alas, as a store room. When we are older maybe it’ll become a downstairs bedroom for one of us.

    We also have a “sitting room” where we sit to read, or to watch sport and whodunnits on the telly, and where we sit and natter with guests unless we’re nattering around the kitchen table or the garden table or the dining table.

    Is any of these a “living room”?

  17. 42 couples in Band A houses gets the Council the same income (assuming everyone pays) as 14 Band H houses.

    As an American ignorant of British zoning laws, I can’t help but think the whole idea of having houses classified in “bands” seems like a major part of the problem.

  18. Surprising no-one’s mentioned the cultural aspect. Brits seem to have a fetish for individual houses. UK builds very few apartment blocks. And when it does, it doesn’t do it well. Most of them have rooms no bigger than its rabbit hutch houses. And rarely have any outside areas like balconies/terraces. Or any decent parking. Lifts seem to be some newfangled mystery so few go up further than four storeys.

    Building up would even solve the infrastructure problem. The cost & difficulty is not in the cross section but the distance.

    I haven’t lived in less than 2000 ft² since I moved here. Current abode’s 3000. With a terrace with more area than most UK flats.

  19. BoS


    If we did more Commonhold/Share of the freehold or, for USians, condominiums, we’d see more people interested in better quality flats.

  20. “…the average living room in a property built in 1950 was 237 sq ft in size and by 1970 had grown to 268 sq ft. ”

    “What’s a “living room”? ”

    A typical semi or terrace built say 1890–1960 had two ground floor rooms for ‘living’ plus kitchen. By now most of those properties only have one such room, the dividing wall having been knocked through. Or a ‘conservatory’/kitchen extension to make a ‘family room’

  21. There would probably be enough decent-sized properties already available if we didn’t import hundreds of thousands of people every year. Those elderly couples or widows rattling around in big semis, or substantial country properties; they don’t live for ever. That should make room for those who are getting wealthier and moving up the housing ladder from perfectly fine terraces or flats. But just allowing developers to build everywhere in the South is a recipe for disaster. When the countryside has gone, it’s gone for ever.

  22. “Those elderly couples or widows rattling around in big semis …”. When I die my wife expects to keep the house, their being room for her, a live-in carer (if it comes to that) and visiting family and other guests. Damned if I see why she should be turfed out to make room for bogus asylum seekers.

    “When the countryside has gone, it’s gone for ever.” Nah, the country is littered with greened-over abandoned villages, castles, forts, and towns. Nature always wins in the end.

  23. If we did more Commonhold/Share of the freehold … we’d see more people interested in better quality flats.
    Agreed. Don’t know why not. Most blocks here are. Community president & work on the building is decided on & paid for by the community. Also, to an extent, the community has a say in how apartments are used. So a remedy to the “bad neighbour” problem.
    I did live in a flat in the UK where the leaseholders bought out the freehold & ran it in that way. If I remember correctly the development was 42 flats.

  24. @ dearieme
    A “living room” is one for living in so sitting room, dining room, children’s playroom … not the entrance hall or bedroom, bathroom …
    If you eat in the kitchen, it depends whether it’s a “kitchen diner” or whether you’ve squeezed into a space beside the oven

  25. I think one of the reasons is that Brits don’t really do the “community” thing. Which is why they opt for the rabbit hutch with postage stamp gardens in the first place. So, inevitably, any “community” gets highjacked by individuals with their own agendas. See councils etc.

  26. Tim’s targeting of the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act is ideological anorakism akin to his carbon tax fetish. In the same way a carbon tax won’t get rid of all the nasty and stupid controlling interference of shit like “Net Zero”, abolition of TaCPA won’t magically lead to desirable dwellings placed where people want to live.

    The cunts will keep fucking us around because they want to and we let them. There are no simple panaceas where you legislatively click your fingers and the world is suddenly marvellous free markets of individuals maximising their utility.

    Speaking of roomy dwellings with open, natural vistas, check out today’s Bing picture. At least there’s somewhere handy to throw the fat controllers.

  27. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ I think one of the reasons is that Brits don’t really do the “community” thing.”

    Too true in so many ways. The state has crowded out community financially (high taxes), through regulations and psychologically, care from cradle to grave, to the point where if local or central government doesn’t do it (badly) it doesn’t get done.

    Where people want to do something there’s so many damned rules cf WI cake stalls and meals on wheels killed off by food health regulations that it’s just too much like hard work with high costs.

  28. Agree with BiND: when you walk round historic i.e. Victorian parts of town you’ll see buildings or monuments erected ‘by public subscription’.
    Chance of someone pulling off community funding today at the levels of back then is virtually nil.
    Modern exception is the Ahmadiyya when the built their mosque in Morden.

  29. “Recusant

    If we did more Commonhold/Share of the freehold”

    There cannot be more than four legal owners of property in the UK (s32(2) Law of Property Act 1925).

    If there are to be more than 4 co-owners, then it will be necessary to create a trust to reflect the owners of the Property. That is common in family situations with a single property but where you have multiple flats in a single building it’s usually a SPV company which owns the property and grants leases over the flats

    This is a common feature – not least in large houses which have been converted into flats. These tend to be owned by a company which is in turn owned by the shareholders who each own a share in the company and a lease over their flat. Such situations require accounts for the company (no big deal as the company generally does nothing except own the property) and income/expenditure statements for the ‘management’ side of the property – funding repairs and so on. These latter become a colossal pain if a retired accountant is one of the leaseholders as they query each pound spent on the common lighting area or whatever.

    As the accountancy firm I work for seems to have found a niche in dealing with the accounts (of the company) and the income/expenditure statements, I find myself frequently having to explain to residents and potential residents and their lawyers that, no, they are not buying a share of the freehold, they are buying a share in the company that owns the freehold (almost universally a requirement of becoming a leaseholder) and has a reversionary interest over the flat. I’ve even had situations where such transactions have been mangled by lawyers who think their client has bought a share in the freehold. Which if they had would mean the company had made a partial disposal of the freehold they own which would mean CGT.

    Even worse, many of these flat conversions were done in the 1950s, 60s and 70s and for some reason 125 year leases were the norm. People think they own a flat. They don’t. They own a lease and (usually but not always) a share in the company that owns the freehold. If lease extensions aren’t sorted out, their flat reverts back to the company at the end of the lease.

    Extending the lease is not straightforward either. Switching to a 999 year lease means the company has effectively disposed of the entire value of its reversionary interest in the flat which, once a lease has less than 80 years to run, rapidly increases in value. MV applies for tax purposes so even if no actual payment is made, the company can end up with a CGT liability. If payment is made and the company has a surplus after CGT, if it distributes that to its shareholders, that’s a taxable divided. Not only that, the leaseholder is treated as disposing of the old lease which, if the lease owner isn’t living there because they’re renting it out, is also a CGT event.

    HMRC know it’s a farcical area of tax but just shrug and say “them’s the rules”.

    The term “share of the freehold” is frequently used. In “multiple flats in a property” situations I’d say in 99% of cases that’s a misnomer. They don’t own a share in the freehold. They hold a share in the company which owns the freehold.

  30. ‘Share of Freehold’. I lived 30 years in such a place, just four flats. And I ran the Mgmt co all that time because nobody else wanted to do it. When someones flat is directly affected they are very keen for the problem to be ‘common parts’ and the mgmt co should pay. Not so keen when it means paying for ‘someone else’s’ repairs.

  31. dearieme said:
    What’s a “living room”? … dining room … sitting room”

    Arthur the cat said:
    “Victorian terraced houses … living rooms 12′ square”

    jgh said:
    “Those numbers look wrong … traditional end terrace built in 1895 …”

    I suspect the answer to all the above is that older houses had a separate sitting room and dining room (sometimes now knocked into one), but modern houses just have a single joint-purpose “living room”.

  32. It’s not just the reduced sizes of rooms, but the low quality of modern construction. Flimsy walls on which you’d be lucky to hang a picture, let alone a stair gate to protect small children (I know, I’ve had to do this in my daughter’s new-build horror), poorly installed plumbing, inadequate heating, etc. Also, insufficient ventilation, leading to black mould in winter months, with no fireplaces or chimneys – the list could go on and on.

  33. It’s not just the reduced sizes of rooms, but the low quality of modern construction.
    That generated some considerable amusement at this end, Ed P. You’ve obviously never tried to work on late Vicky/Edwardian build. As for ventilation, ventilation standards have been in building regs for over half a century. Most mould is the result of occupiers trying to defeat them. One being furniture layouts that produce stagnant areas.

  34. The reason you can’t get a good fix for your stair gate is no doubt because you’re trying to fix into plasterboard on a stud wall. You’d have the same problem going into lathe & plaster. There’s nothing solid there to fix to. Particularly not if you’re using ordinary wall plugs. They’re not suitable for anything other than a small picture. You need a proper board fixing device to spread the load. Ideally, drill your holes & put a can of building foam through them, then insert the correct plugs. Essentially you’re trying to install what amounts to a door without having a door frame to fix to. Not surprising it doesn’t work.

  35. @ Ed P
    When my sons were born, we lived in a modern (’70s or easrly ’80s) house. We had no problem installing a stairgate – which used the only method to allow passage to an adult but not our firstborn, to wit requiring a certain amount of weight to depress the catch, so required sturdy fixing.
    Poor quality is not simply a question of date, albeit there may be a perception thereof since periodic slum clearance gets rid of much of the poorest quality old housing.

  36. “you can choose to register as joint owners of the property. There isn’t a limit on the number of joint owners that can be registered” is true of part of the UK.

    Why the Law of England and Wales limits it to four in I have no idea. Anyone?

  37. “What happened with commonhold in the UK?”

    In practice it doesn’t offer anything different to a company limited by guarantee holding the freehold and 999 year leases. You still need to collect money for repairs and maintenance, produce accounts (occasionally deal with HMRC), get people to agree to get things done. There is a lot of case law doing things the old way so why risk confusing lawyers and estate agents not to mention homeowners with something new-fangled.

  38. Some bloke on't t'internet

    @BiS and Ed P
    Modern building regs require an airtight box (to reduce airflow, hence heat lost in that airflow, and hence improving thermal efficiency) which then means another building reg requires some form of ventilation to deal with the fact that an airtight box is … well not well ventilated. IIRC that’s not the only case where one rule requires something which another rules says you mustn’t have.
    But yeah, I’d be loath to buy anything build in the last couple of decades unless I knew it was built to a “higher than average” standard. One feature I’d be looking for would be a usable staircase – not these deathtrap “part of a spiral” staircases that go into the new builds I’ve seen because the house simply isn’t big enough for straight stairs (with a half landing if needed). And don’t get me started on the whole “design to be unmaintainable” fashion of having the floors done with large sheets glued to each other and to the joists so that it’s impossible to “lift a couple of boards” to access/alter the services.
    A few years I looked round a new build with a relative who was considering buying. The vendor was extolling the great features, and it was really really hard not to shout out that each of them was really down to the absolute minimum permitted by regs.
    I live in an ex council house built in the 40s. The rooms are big, the garden is big, and with a bit of work (a lot done by previous owners) it’s really not too bad in terms of heating costs. There’d be at least 3 houses, probably more, on the same plot if done to modern standards.

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