Slums of the Future: Croydon has capital’s smallest micro-flat

Thousands of Croydon families are finding themselves in “cramped, substandard, and unaffordable homes” due to “flawed” government planning regulations, research published today claims.

Green Dragon House on the High Street is an example of an office block which has been converted to flats under the permitted development policies of the Conservatives

The report by London Assembly Member Tom Copley highlights Croydon has having more permitted development flats than any other area of the capital, as well as some of the smallest flats – or “fuck hutches” as they have been disparagingly described by a top architect. The smallest flat found in the survey was in Croydon and offers living space of just 10sq m.

Across London, almost 16,000 homes have been built since 2013 under relaxed permitted development rules, allowing the conversion of offices and other business buildings into flats. Yet less than 1per cent of these PD flats are “affordable”, according to analysis from Copley, Labour’s housing spokesperson at the London Assembly.

Despite the council blocking permitted development conversions in the town centre since 2014, there are at least 2,700 PD flats in the borough, where some of the “micro-flats” are marketed to Chinese investors, with one-bed apartments fetching £280,000.

For the title of his report, Copley has used a phrase first aired by Croydon Labour councillor, Sean Fitzsimons. The report is called Slums of the Future – Permitted Development Conversions in London.

Copley’s research found that more than half of the capital’s PD homes flout minimum space standards. Copley has urged the government to scrap permitted development, and said current proposals to extend it would result in “condemning tens of thousands more Londoners to living in miserable conditions” and place the high street in “serious jeopardy”.

Permitted development rules allow developers to convert certain office and industrial buildings to residential use without going through the full planning process, in an aim to speed up the delivery of new homes. London requires 65,000 new homes a year, according to the New London Plan, with 65 per cent of these needing to be affordable.

Yet analysis of London Development Database figures reveals that of 15,929 homes built through these types of conversions since 2013, only 71 flats were “affordable” – accounting for just 0.4 per cent. With the Mayor of London’s current minimum target set at 35 per cent on privately owned land, this means the capital has missed out on 5,504 affordable homes.

Copley has also discovered that 1,837 London PD flats are smaller than the legal minimum standards, and that 240 were less than half this lowest threshold.

In a statement issued from Copley’s City Hall office they said, “Some of the worst examples are seen in Croydon where 80 per cent of properties identified failed to meet minimum space standards, including one development where the smallest flat was just 10 square metres.”

That flat is in Urban House on Cavendish Road in West Croydon.

The notorious 10sq m flat in Croydon, as featured in Copley’s report

Such profit-hungry development has another impact on London’s, and Croydon’s, economy. As of February 2018, permitted development has resulted in the loss of 1.6million sq m of office space across London – the equivalent of 224 Wembley football pitches.

Last autumn, the Conservative government consulted on proposals to extend permitted development to allow a wider range of high street uses to be converted to homes without planning permission. The government also proposes to give permitted development rights to the full demolition of commercial buildings to be rebuilt as residential properties.

Copley’s report calls on the Mayor of London to add to the pressure on the government to scrap permitted development. If the government refuses, Copley says they must then commit to ensuring permitted development properties meet space standards and contribute to London’s affordable housing need. He also calls for better support for local authorities in using what are known as “Article 4 directions”, as has been used in Croydon to restrict the use of permitted development.

“This cannot carry on. We need to solve the national housing crisis, but subjecting London families to cramped, substandard and unaffordable homes is not the way to do it,” Copley said.

‘This must stop’: Tom Copley wants to end permitted development

“Permitted development is an unnecessary and deeply flawed policy. If this continues unchecked, we will be condemning tens of thousands more Londoners to living in miserable conditions.

“Some may call them ‘rabbit hutches’ or others ‘micro-homes’, but we must be clear about what we are building when we allow masses of permitted development conversions: the slums of the future.

“We’re already seeing vast swathes of office space wiped out at an unnerving rate. If the Government moves ahead with plans to extend these rules further, they will be willfully putting our high streets and local businesses in serious jeopardy.

“It’s baffling that they are so blind to the dangers posed by their desire to let developers ride roughshod over planning standards. They should be condemning this policy to the scrap heap.”

About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email
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13 Responses to Slums of the Future: Croydon has capital’s smallest micro-flat

  1. The International Committee of the Red Cross recommends that cells be at least 5.4 m² in size. Prison cells vary in size internationally from 2 m² in Guinea to 12 m² in Switzerland.

  2. It’s so depressing that we keep coming back to the housing issue, with people’s real needs not being resolved. What deals does Negrini make in Cannes when she swans off each winter? Does it involve Chinese and other speculators buying up office blocks to put desperate families into tiny, poorly insulated, sub-standard housing? Why do we see more and more people in sleeping bags in many shop doorways on the road down from East Croydon into town? Why are almost all the new buildings we see soaring into the Croydon sky only affordable by the very rich?

    We have to wake up and vote each time for politicians who will see a real end to austerity, a proper re-distribution of wealth and opportunity, a real concern about pollution and a commitment to reinstate the cut backs in social and health care. Too few politicians who believe in these things exist at present, at both a local and national level.

  3. Pingback: “Slums Croydon: ” Political pygmies” and their rabbit hutch flats | East Devon Watch

  4. derekthrower says:

    You have to ask yourself who in their right mind would buy these properties? Still see many developments in Croydon with large numbers of unused units within them despite being completed for many years. So are they being bought and left vacant as investment properties. Doesn’t seem to be a very good idea since all I hear are that local prices are falling. Who are the type of people to buy properties in foreign countries on spec without any due diligence?
    Further it is not just the permitted development properties which are going to create future housing market and provision problems. Have you seen the quality of the modular build in Addiscombe Grove which is apparently going to be used to provide social housing? I have never seen so much hardboard used in an apparently modern high rise development. It is not just the dreadful space standards and over development of sites that cause concern. The complete deregulation of building control over the current period will always place a concern about if the appropriate safety requirements have been applied to all this development. When we look back at this as it unravels remember the Housing Minister who championed it. Lord Barwell. I have very little doubt he will be looking to relocate to a country residence far away from Croydon in the near future.

  5. Jake Brown says:

    Before me and my partner bought a flat in Green Dragon House we had managed to save 40k in 4 years we were earning a very small income 40k combined at the time. Our parents did not give us any money and we didn’t fall in to any inheritance, it was 4 years of shared living in a 2 bed house with another couple and saving like hell. (no avocado on toast here)

    I don’t know what background others have come from but I just don’t think people realize what it’s like for people in their 20’s or 30’s, if you rent your looking at £1000 a month for a 1 bed flat in croydon. If you buy your looking at £1000 a month in service charge and repaying your loan, but at least your repaying £400-£500 a month off that loan, in the end you should be better off. (fingers crossed)

    The next point being we shared a house with 4 people living in it, it was around 60-65 sqm that’s 16sqm per person of space. The flat we bought is 42sqm so that’s 21sqm per person so actually we have more space per person than we did sharing. Sharing is now a very common method of being able to afford to live in London and your personal space is not much more than your bedroom in these circumstances. But unfortunately this is still very expensive and its dead money renting as we all know.

    Personally I think the older generation are in a bit of bubble, they don’t really understand the problems with the houseing market and so they don’t understand why people buy these so called micro flats. I would also note that the building we live in has been built to a pretty good standard, it has its troubles but overall it’s pretty good.

    Anyway personaly I would rather live in a smaller flat then share or rent, it’s my space and my monthly payments are going towards something every month. Hopefully once we are earning a little more we can take those repayments and buy a bigger family home in Croydon obviously only if our wages can catch up the ever increasing house prices in croydon.

  6. Nick Davies says:

    The idea that the older generation are in a bit of a bubble has some truth in it but is, I think, overstated.

    We bought our first one-bed flat in South Norwood in 1989 having shared throughout our twenties. Interest rates were 12% at the time and one entire salary went on mortgage repayments – the equivalent of maybe £2k a month in today’s money for someone on average pay. We’d only intended to stay there for three years or so, but the collapse in house prices thanks to the ERM crisis meant that negative equity kept us there for 12. It’s not a period I look back on fondly.

    Jake I understand perfectly how hard it is now but it will get better and I wish you the best of luck.

  7. hulk247365 says:

    That’s what you get with a LABOUR controlled town council. Who steam roller ALL planning applications through despite protests outside from the people who live in Croydon…

    • You clearly don’t know what you’re talking about.
      Permitted Development is a Tory government policy.
      One of the first things that the Labour council did on being elected in 2014 was to block all future PDs in Croydon town centre.

      Come back when you are better informed and not hiding behind an anonymous troll email account.

  8. You can certainly say that there are several Councillors at the top of the Council, who happen to call themselves Labour politicians, where nepotism seems the name of the game, along with arrogance, a totally misplaced devotion to property speculators and an inability to listen to anyone’s views but their own. However, all local authorities, including Croydon, have carried a great deal of the burden of 9 years of austerity and budget cuts. That is why there is a lack of investment in good standard housing for even those on ordinary incomes, let alone the lower paid. Look to the individuals for the way the poor resources are either managed or mismanaged but don’t politicise things in a local level. If my memory serves me right, previous administrations had more than their share of folly and cronyism!

  9. spope551 says:

    I would like to second the comments of the young couple who managed to save so diligently over 4 years to put down a deposit. I agree that many of us oldies don’t really grasp just how hard it is to get on the housing ladder today.

    Inside Croydon is correct in saying that Labour in Croydon has (while perhaps not having an agreed consensus on resolving the issues of housing policy) been strong on the issue of preventing any more development in Croydon.

    Hulk may want to think twice before promulgating fake news in future.

  10. Jake Brown says:

    Fair point! I will the first to say I don’t have all the answers, we all had our own struggles and different routes to home ownership.

    I will be honest the banks will not lend you much anymore your talking 40k combined wage, then times that by 4.5 that’s £180,000 that the bank will lend you. So the question for many young people is where can I afford to buy/ what can afford to buy. Hence why these smaller flats are being built and in “up and coming areas like croydon” they are simply more affordable.

    Looking out my window I can see larger flats 47-50sqm selling for £350,000+ for a 1 bed flat, the development at Queens square studios are listed for £380,000. For us to be able to afford that we would need a £38,000 deposit + 5k legal and fees we would then have to be earning 76k combined that from my undestanding is in the top 20% of what people in their 20’s are earning. That’s a tall order!

    I personally think the help 2 buy equity loan scheme is a ticking time bomb, it’s inflated the market and allowing people who do not earn 76k a year to buy these places, problem is they are taking out a 40% loan on the property that they will never be able to repay. But then us the tax player now has a 40% stake in a property that’s simply not worth what that person bought it for, so when they sell up at a loss the government also makes a loss. This happened to a friend of ours who bought a flat for £330,000 sold at £290,000 government lost 16k because they had a 40% stake in the property, so who won out of that the property developer.

    Anyway all interesting stuff and personaly I think we will be here for at least 5 years in total, maybe longer just like you Nick.

    Thanks for the different perspective.

  11. Ian Marvin says:

    I think that Vistec House at 185 London Road is rather worse than the example given here. The developer had registered PD rights before the deadline (which was imposed by the government to give speculators a chance to, well, speculate, somebody put in an application for Lunar House for example) and used this as leverage to get approval for a super HMO with 90 or more units. The units on the lower ground floor look particularly depressing.

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