Borsetshire Issues and Options

Cliftonville DPD - Preferred Options Report

Issue 4 - Size of Flats

Public concern has been expressed at the number of small units being created, leading to over-development and an overcrowding of population in the area.  The policy to restrict one-bedroomed flats, bedsits and HMOs aims to help redress this issue.  However one potential consequence of this, identified in consultation, is that developers will try and develop smaller two-bed units.

The conversion of properties into flats has sometimes resulted in cramped living conditions where smaller flats have been created to achieve a higher density of dwelling units.  This has contributed significantly to the perception of over-development and over-crowding in the area.  The Council's current ‘Conversion to Flats' guidelines, and the recently adopted one-bedroom flat policy specify a minimum standard of 50 m sq for a two-bedroom flat.  However this standard may not be appropriate for Cliftonville taking into account the other issues which cumulatively result in the area's current problems.  This was raised under the Issues and Options consultations and suggestions were made ranging from 60 sq m and 80 sq m as more appropriate standards for room sizes.

Options - Size of Flats

Option 4.1
Continue using existing standards of 50m sq until resources are available to carry out a full and robust review of the guidelines

Option 4.2
Set an alternative minimum standard (e.g. between 60 and 80 m sq)

Option 4.3
Apply a standard based on 'habitable space' rather than specifying a minimum floor area

Preferred Options and Reasoned Justification
The current Conversions to Flats guidelines were adopted in 1987 and revised in 1988, and have subsequently been used as minimum requirements for the conversions of properties into flats. 

Whilst government advice has indicated that internal space standards should be agreed by developers and clients and not imposed by local authorities there is an emphasis toward providing a high quality standard of living accommodation. It is considered that this should be particularly applicable to Cliftonville considering the special circumstances of the area.

A minimum floorspace does not necessarily equate to the amount of space available to live in.  For example, some rooms may have pillars, sloping ceilings or be of an awkward shape meaning that the total amount of space that can actually be used is considerably less than the total floorspace.  A policy specifying a minimum habitable floor space as Option 4.3 suggests would help to ensure that converted properties contain rooms of a sensible size for everyday living requirements.  However, the term ‘habitable space' would need clear definition, and some research would need to be carried out to determine an appropriate size.   

Given their age it is considered that these guidelines should be revised in their entirety to provide a new, comprehensive set of guidelines, and that necessary research and public consultation should be carried out to form a sound basis for these guidelines.  If new guidelines are to be robust and carry weight at planning appeals a significant amount of background work and evidence gathering  will be required and this will need allocation of resources. Such a review would be the appropriate opportunity to consider the amount of usable space, rather than specifying a minimum size, and arrive at a suitable standard based on reasoned, credible justification. If option 4.1 is adopted ( and subject to Members agreement), this work will be built into the LDF work programme at the next appropriate review

In the meantime, it is considered appropriate to continue using the existing Conversion to Flats guidelines regarding room sizes, and this is already referred to as the appropriate standard in the single bed flat policy above. 

Actions

Accept Option 4.1 - Continue using existing standards of 50m sq until resources available to carry out a full and robust review of the guidelines are available

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