New 'immoral' London flats will be 40% smaller than Travelodge rooms

Barnet council opposes the plans but says its hands are tied by national government policy

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The Independent Online

A developer wants to build more than 250 flats in north London that will nearly all be smaller than the average room in a Travelodge hotel.

Barnet House, an 11-storey office building, could be converted into 254 studio flats, if an application by building leaseholder Meadow Residential is approved by the council. 

Around 95 per cent of them would be smaller than the national minimum space standards of 37sqm, with the smallest being around 16sqm. 

That is around 40 per cent smaller than the 28sqm average Travelodge room.

Preliminary designs by HKR Architects show the studio flats will typically consist of one room, with an adjoining toilet and shower room, along with a 180cm-by-60cm kitchenette.

One nearby resident called the flats “immoral” on the online change of use application, while another compared them to "dog kennels". 

The designs show one single corridor and as many as 37 flats on one floor.

Conservative-controlled Barnet council, which actually uses the building as office space, is opposed to the development but says its hands are tied by national government policy.

Its leader Richard Cornelius, said: “It is always difficult for a local authority when something is happening in its area over which it has no control. The government has given developers power to convert businesses premises into residential premises under permitted development.

He added: “The sizes of some of the flats would not be what we think are appropriate living spaces for our residents and we do not support the scheme in its current form.”

A recently introduced government measure allows developers to convert office buildings into homes, without their application being scrutinised and vetoed by publicly-elected councillors.

It was introduced to address the country’s housing shortfall.

A Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) spokesman said the 37sqm guideline is not mandatory.

Studio flats of a similar scale in the surrounding area sell for around £18,000 and rent for about £800 per month.

Resident Leona Simons, of nearby Holden Road, said: “Creating dog kennel size accommodation to make 254 homes in an area that is already unaffordable for young people who need accommodation the most, is not only immoral, but will attract the wrong sort of people and exacerbate the overcrowding problem.”

Nick Gendler, of Dollis Park in Finchley, said: “This is no way to treat human beings.”

Julia Park, an architect and housing design expert, said the size of the rooms will “take its toll” on people and cause “tension” in relationships.

The Labour Party's shadow Secretary of State for Housing, John Healey, said: “To fix the country’s housing crisis we need to build homes that people and families want to live in. 

“Conservative ministers are making this much harder by giving developers a free hand to bypass proper planning process, sidestep affordable housing requirements and build rabbit hutch homes that aren’t fit for purpose.

“Short-sighted new developments are no shortcut to building the homes the country needs.  Ministers should back Labour’s plans to make sure that all new schemes get proper planning scrutiny.”

A joint statement from Meadow Residential and HKR Architects said: “Of the 254 apartments submitted, only one unit on each floor is 16sqm in area. The application will hopefully be superseded in due course by a detailed planning application for a comprehensive redevelopment of the Barnet House site to create a more attractive residential-led setting. 

“The detailed application is being designed to meet nationally prescribed standards for all apartment types and is being prepared through a collaborative dialogue with Barnet council through the regular planning process.”

A DCLG spokesman said: “Ultimately it’s for local authorities to decide whether they give the go ahead for such developments. We’re clear that developers should be building the homes that local people want.

"The changes we’ve made simply cut unnecessary planning bureaucracy so that offices can be converted into much-needed homes.”

Healey Development Solutions Ltd is the developer, but until The Independent raised this with the council, its details were hidden from the public on its application.

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