Realist, not conformist analysis of the latest financial, business and political news

The Terrors Of Modern House Sizes

A typical English garden

As is usual Torsten Bell’s little look at statistics – Torsten is at the Resolution Foundation doncha know – manages to miss the actual point of what he’s looking at.

Gardens, they’re important. Sure are Torstie Boy. And richer people have larger gardens. Yep – an annoying reversal of what were the building standards of Homes fit for Heroes after WWI. When local councils would insist that the working man needed a good quarter acre of garden. To grow the veggies for his family and room enough still for a pig. The poor needed more land as they were going to do more of that self sufficiency thing.

And that’s not what happens today of course:

The Office for National Statistics has done some interesting digging on this front from Ordnance Survey maps. The headline result is that one in eight of us does not have access to a private or shared garden.

Regionally, London has the dubious honour of having by far the most gardenless households: one in five. Second place goes to Scotland, where one in eight (13%) of households do without. The gaps between ethnic groups are staggering. Black people are nearly four times more likely to have to do without outside space.

The good news? Access to parks is higher in the more deprived areas of the UK. There is less good news for those living in Clapham: 46,000 Londoners have Clapham Common as their nearest park. Good luck with social distancing there this weekend.

The reason so few of us have access to that private outside space is because of the government rules about how many houses must be placed upon a hectare of land. The cry is that we just can’t use land, d’ye see, because there isn’t any left. Despite England being an entire 3% housing.

This being usefully illustrated by those figures concerning Clapham Common. Imagine those 46,000 Londoners all went and made use of Clapham Common at the same time. At 89 hectares, 10,000 sq metres to the hectare, this gives us 20 square metres per person on the Common with all of them there at the same time. This is plenty of room to be doing that social distancing.

Now consider the average new build British house. Are garden sizes 20 metres square per inhabitant? Assuming that nuclear family – still the modal size – of four people that’s 80 sq m. Which is about the floor size – no, not the footprint, the floor size over two stories – of that average UK new build. So, new UK housing has gardens twice the size of the footprint of the house does it?

Does it ‘eck.

The inequality of access to outside space, enforced and policed by our planning system. Now that would be a good look at the statistics, wouldn’t it?

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4 years ago

Which might cast some light on the discrepancy between the effects of Covid on black and white people. Not only do black people need more sunlight, but they have less access.
It also shows up how class conscious the railing against people sunbathing in parks was.

4 years ago

Of course, the government restricts building, hamstrings builders and erects barriers of unbelievable bureaucratic complexity resulting in a lack of housing. Then, the very same government launches unsuccessful plans, schemes and initiatives to overcome the lack of housing.

4 years ago

I have noticed that they seem to be sub-dividing the old blocks in my area and putting spiffy new houses on them.

Of course the reason the old family home is on an extra large block is because Dad’s mate in War Service homes pointed out that this one was the best one to buy. I think he was in Dad’s old battalion.

4 years ago
Reply to  Boganboy

My Dad bought the house on his development that was on a bend in the road – resulting in an over-large garden. It was the house the builder had originally built for himself.

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