Last edited 15 Mar 2021

Technical housing standards - nationally described space standard

The ‘Housing Standards Review’ (HSR) was launched by the government in October 2012, following the housing and construction 'Red Tape Challenge', which began earlier in the year.

This was followed by a housing standards review consultation in 2013 which stated:

‘Aside from the Code for Sustainable Homes and the Housing Quality Indicators, which the government own, standards are all drawn from documents produced by non-Governmental groups who perceive that current national guidance, policy or regulation is deficient in some respect, and needs to be supplemented. They are rarely subject to cost benefit analysis when they are developed, unlike government guidance or regulation. Some examples of the most commonly imposed standards are Lifetime Homes, Secured by Design, the Merton Rule, the London Housing Design Guide, and local space standards.’

The government argued that this can lead to duplication and even contradiction and Communities Minister Stephen Williams stated an intention to reduce housing standards from 100 to fewer than 10, and confirmed that the government would develop a national space standard to be available to councils ‘where there was a need and where this would not stop development’.

In March 2015, the government launched a new approach to housing standards and published a new set of streamlined national technical standards. This included publication of Technical housing standards – nationally described space standard.

This 'space standard' can only be applied where there is a local plan policy based on evidenced local need (e.g. retirement homes, sheltered homes or care homes), and where the viability of development is not compromised. The space standard will replace existing space standards used by local authorities. It is part of the planning system and is not a building regulation.

The standard deals with internal space within new dwellings and is suitable for application across all tenures. It sets out requirements for the gross internal floor area of new dwellings at a defined level of occupancy as well as floor areas and dimensions for key parts of homes.

The standard requires that:

Table 1 - Minimum gross internal floor areas and storage (sq. m)

National space standard table 1.jpg

[2] Where a one person flat has a shower room rather than a bathroom, the floor area may be reduced from 39 sq. m to 37 sq. m.

In May 2016, during consideration of the Housing and Planning Bill in the Lords, Department for Communities and Local Government minister Baroness Williams confirmed that the standard would be reviewed, saying, “Now that the national space standard has been in place for more than a year, we agree that the time is right to assess how it is being used by local authorities. We therefore propose to undertake a review to see how the space standard is operating in practice. This will be completed by next spring and we will be happy to report back to the House on its findings and recommendations.”

In December 2017, the government announced they were putting rogue landlords 'on notice', with the introduction of new measures to crack down on bad practices, stamp out overcrowding and improve standards for those renting in the private sector. This includes new rules setting minimum size requirements for bedrooms in houses of multiple occupation:

  • Room used for sleeping by 1 adult: No smaller than 6.51 sq. m.
  • Room used for sleeping by 2 adults: No smaller than 10.22 sq. m.
  • Room used for sleeping by children of 10 years and younger: No smaller than 4.64 sq. m.

For more information, see Tackling rogue landlords.

On 30 September 2020 Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick announced that new homes delivered through permitted development rights would have to meet the Nationally Described Space Standard. This begins at 37m² of floorspace for a new one bed flat with a shower room. Ref

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