A Coronation Street for every town

Forget the suburban semi in its leafy setting - the city-centre terraced house is the design for modern living, minister says
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The Independent Online
The terraced house, urban home to millions of families for 150 years, is one of the government solutions to the problem of how to meet the demand for 4.4 million new homes over the next 20 years.

Ministers want to see more terraced housing, fewer cars in town and city centres, and a cutback in the number of edge-of-town estates of semi-detached houses. The Government is being forced to face up to an impending planning crisis that is being generated by deep-seated social change.

Within 20 years, it is possible that only one-fifth of all households will contain married couples with dependent children. And it is estimated that 80 per cent of the 4.4 million new households will contain just one person.

Offering the terraced house as one solution to the problem, Robert Jones, Planning Minister at the Department of the Environment, says in the latest issue of Parliamentary Review that higher-density housing in the towns and cities could help to ease development pressure on the countryside.

"But what do we mean by higher density? To me it means that the future holds a major role for the terraced house.

"It does not mean tower blocks. High density does not have to mean high- rise. Terraced housing with a garden - the staple of London housing - is very versatile, especially if well-designed. Some of the properties can be left as family houses. Or they can be converted into one or two- bedroom flats with gardens, roof terraces, or, in some cases, perhaps with no outside space."

Mr Jones, who also urged greater use of vacant industrial or office space for housing in towns and cities, said one of the problems was that flat conversions would not necessarily have space for car parking.

But he added: "Car parking standards should not rule our lives nor preclude housing opportunities for those in housing need. Indeed, there may be circumstances, particularly new development in areas of high public transport accessibility and conversions in town centres, where 'car free' housing could be an option."

Mr Jones was adding his thoughts to a "Places for People" debate started by the Environment Secretary, John Gummer, in June, when he told the Royal Town Planning Institute's annual conference in Brighton that the country had to consider the implications of a projected increase in the number of households, from 19.2 million in 1991 to 23.6 million by 2016.

Increases of more than a quarter were projected for the East Midlands, the Eastern region, the South-east and South-west, with a projected increase of 22 per cent for London.

While population growth has slowed in recent years, the number of households has been growing faster than ever - because the size of the average household is getting smaller.

Mr Gummer said: "Of the 4.4 million new households, almost 80 per cent, 3.5million, is expected to come from one-person households." He added: "The potential environmental cost of hundreds of thousands of new homes spreading across the countryside to accommodate the cumulative effects of modern lifestyles has to be faced. We who live on a small island have nowhere to hide.

"The implications for us, in helping to build places for people, are enormous. So let's accept the need for real debate on the central issues of household formation and the impact on demand for new homes."

Identifying some of the main causes of household growth, he said that people were not only living longer, but they were also healthier and wealthier and therefore able to live longer in their own homes. The young, who generally wanted a "place of their own", were remaining single for longer - and there was the increase in family break-up.

On present trends, he said, family breakdown would result in less than a fifth of all households being married couples with dependent children over the next 20 years.