If you had the choice, would you want a flat or a house?

CROYDON COMMENTARY: As the Labour-run council and its planning department continues its unrelenting drive for overdevelopment, one resident from the south of the borough, LUCIA BRIAULT, asks whether what is being built is what the public actually wants

Let me introduce you to Councillor Paul Scott, the vice-chair of Croydon Council’s planning committee and the man behind the Croydon Local Plan which sets out at length (530 pages plus another 72 in supplementary Suburban Design Guide) how new homes will respect the existing character of the different places in the borough.

My favourite paragraph is 4.62:

“The need to deliver 32,890 homes does not outweigh the need to respect the local character and amenity and to protect biodiversity.”

Paul Scott: an architect who has his own agenda

So if you’re objecting to yet another block of flats, watch this video and choose your wording carefully.

Despite what the Local Plan says about “the right mix of homes in the right location”, Councillor Scott has decided that flats are appropriate on every road in the borough.

I don’t hate flats per se.

I hate the fact that blocks of flats are being squeezed into small sites that formerly contained a single home with a nice garden.

I hate the fact that overdevelopment of garden land is endangering our wildlife and compromising the borough’s biodiversity.

I hate the fact that blocks of flats quickly alter the population density and the infrastructure and amenity is not being expanded to cope.

I hate the fact that we are not building enough two- and three-bedroom houses with private gardens because the council believes that families are happy to live in flats.

Croydon’s target for new homes is not broken down by property type. I think this is wrong.

Are people actively choosing to live in the hundreds of flats that are being built around the borough – or would most prefer to rent or own a house with a garden?

According to the 2017-2018 English Housing Survey, there were 18.4million houses and 4.7million flats, of which 3.3million were in blocks of three storeys or less. That equates to an 80/20 split.

But of the 213,860 permanent new homes built in 2018-2019, a whopping 87 per cent were flats and only 13 per cent were houses.

In 2016 the profile of Croydon homes was as follows:

  • Flats: 38%
  • Terraced houses: 30%
  • Semi-detached: 20%
  • Detached: 9%
  • Bungalows & other: 3%

Can’t wait to find out what the breakdown is now.

I’d be interested to hear from people who live in flats…

– Did you choose to live in a flat and why?

– Did you want a new-build rather than an older property (probably in need of work) so your only option was a flat?

– Did you only buy a flat to get on the property ladder? Do you intend to buy a house when you can?

– Are you renting a flat while you save for a house?

– If you have kids, are you happy living in a flat or would you rather have a house with a private garden?

Looking through the properties that are currently for sale in my area, a (new-build) flat is no longer a cheaper option than a similarly-sized (older) house. But I appreciate that not everyone has the skills or funds to do up a house.

I genuinely want to hear from you, as I think I might have a skewed view. I’ve only ever lived in a flat as a necessity for a short time while waiting for my divorce to get sorted.

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6 Responses to If you had the choice, would you want a flat or a house?

  1. Lewis White says:

    Flats or houses?. A very good question.
    There must be an answer, or maybe, answers.
    Apart from the obvious one about the relative proportion of flats to houses, another question is …. what is the “house” ? a small one, of one or two bedrooms , a middle sized one, of 3, or a bigger one of 4 –or more? A bungalow or something like almshouses– a terrace of a number of one storey dwellings.

    What really does society need? And does the “need” change throughout life ?
    I would certainly say that it is great for children to have their own garden.
    I would say that at present, I like living in a house with my own garden. I am a landscape architect, and home gardener, and love gardening for visual effect and wildlife, but many people don’t want a garden. In some years, it might be better for society as a whole for me and my wife to move on , making way for a family with children who would play in the garden. If we did , would it be a flat or a smaller house? For us, it would be vital to have access to a garden and be surrounded by green. Not all people feel that need, but I suspect that most of us do want a green environment.

    Many people are singletons, or in later years find themselves a singleton– spouse dead, and any children grown up and living in their own accommodation. Would many older people in this position actually have a better quality of life in a smaller house or a flat, with a small garden of their own, or communal grounds looked after by a management company ?

    My own contribution to the debate is that we need a mix, of flats and houses.
    Some high rise flats , some in blocks of flats of 5 or so storeys. Thousands of such lower-rise blocks were built in Sutton, Wallington and other areas in the 1960s through to the present, on sites of huge Vicrtorian houses that were ugly, badly insulated, and run down.. Hundreds of thousands of people have led happy lives in these blocks.

    Houses? Yes, and not just in existing houses but in new ones of varying sizes, including well designed infill, backland development (eg. in Banstead’s sought-after Nork area, to name but one)
    and I hope in some new village style mixed developments with a real mix of sizes of both houses and flats.

    Good design, use of traditional materials and good insulation, and solar panels –and a green environment for all. That should be the aim.

    Please can people think seriously about the the undoubted need for new affordable homes, walkable neighbourhoods with play grounds, and good public transport links.

    It is essential that we don’t just care about our own area of Croydon, and wish on others a substandard environment of “living units” units crammed in some other place, such as central Croydon and Purley Way. My fear is not that societyt will repeat the deep mistakes of the post war period , with high rise developments like the human-negating Glasgow “schemes” of flats stuck on the edge of town.

    It is that we end up with too many tall blocks in central Croydon, plus ill-conceived developments in Purley way which attempt to combine new flats with retail warehouses, without gardens and trees. By the way, roof gardens are very expensive prospects, requiring extra special waterproofing, structures strong enough to support soil trees plants and lawns, and perimeyer fencing to ensure safety. In other words, luxury development landscaping, not likely to be built into anything in the Purley Way.

    I would rather see specific industrial areas taken out of that use, ripped out, and rebuilt with houses and flats with a landscape setting, – but not stuck next to the main road.

    We need in my view to thank the many local developers who are gradually renewing areas of the borough, identifying big houses on big plots, and replacing these with closes of new houses and flats WITH greenery I am not talking of town cramming, I am talking of town planning.

    Finally, there are run down areas of Croydon which are worn out, with poor environments. There sutrely is a real case now for complusory purchase by the council, and creation of decent homes–houses and flats, in well designed layouts.

    We do need change, the right change. Renewal is good. Good design vital.

  2. davidmogo says:

    Flats offer far, far greater profits per square foot of land.
    Don’t ever let developers even attempt to dream up other excuses as to why they prefer to build flats as opposed to family houses.
    End. Of. Story.

  3. sebastiantillinger7694 says:

    Scott has a dangerous streak of stubbornness. He knows he’s wrong on key planning guidance but chooses to stick his head in the sand whilst residents pick up the pieces from repeated flawed consents. The mayor doesn’t want his policies, residents don’t, planning officers don’t – the only people who do is property developers. Says it all.

  4. Anthony Mills says:

    Lewis White has a most thoughtful, informed, nuanced and reasonable view, compard to many ”campaigning” commentators on Croydon’s housng development. I live in a small development of low-rise flats built by a Housing Association [HA] in the 1970’s, somehow permitted in the middle of an area of very wealthy detached houses, on the site of what was formerly one of the largest houses in the area. Exactly what many complain is happening now in their leafy suburbs. They are homes for social rent. But since 2016, from the ”Shared Ownership and Affordable Homes Program” funding for HA’s provided by central government, less than 4% of homes built were for social rent [ = council level rent, approximately half commercial rents] Most [52%] were for so-called ”affordable rent” [= 80% of market rent] and shared ownership [44%]. In this, BBB are no different to any other social housing builder. But the lack of the grant funding which previously allowed much higher levels of building for social rent means that those who are in most need of housing are NOT being provided for. This is not locally determined, it is central government, idealogically driven dogma, which completely ignores actual housing need, and the practicalities of financing the building for that need. As a working conservationist I have a fierce defensive attitude to green space, so some of Croydon’s developments are totally objectionable. But I am afraid I have no time for the nimbys because, as a tenant, towards the bottom end of the social and economic heap [36% of households are rented, not owned] and as a former HA Board member, I have a very good idea of how desperate that housing need actually is, and how rapidly it is increasing from the dramatic erosion of social rented homes from right to buy, and the complete failure to replace them, as a matter of clear, deliberate and cynical policy. Because homeowners tend to vote conservative as the malicious maggie twigged.. We – and that includes all of us, because the homeless become a drain on our resources, not contributors to them, through no fault of their own – must build more homes for social rent, and if that is at the price of high rise blocks in the middle of Purley, developments along the Purley Way, infill in New Addington, or in those characterful Edwardian detatched housing suburbs, then so be it, provided they conform, as Lewis White advocates, to good design, local character [which can be done], zero carbon technology and the necessary infrastructure. Such housing though has never been provided by the market, has always needed either central, local, or private charitable [eg Peabody,Guiness Trusts of the Victorian age] subsidy. Better that than mad bridges across the Irish sea, or 100+ ancient woodlands destroyed to save 20 minutes….

  5. Chris Flynn says:

    Is the question whether for the same price we’d like something big or something small?

  6. Liz Elsey says:

    For me a garden / house is a must . Homswapper is such a waste of time if you live on a top floor maisonette like I do without a garden . People only take flats on because they are frightened in what Croydon council say to them eg you have to take or we terminate your tenancy agreement and nothing else is offered to them …… I’ve always lived in a house and first time in a maisonette it’s ok but lacking in a private garden / flats I hate being on one level and safety springs to mind too . They only want to build flats as it’s easier to make profits than a house. More people living in square meter = more money

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