The flat-pack flats which could be the answer to Prescott's prayers

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Soon after Poland joins the European Union on 1 May, two lorries will head to Britain with an unusual export - a block of flats that can be assembled from a kit in just five days.

Soon after Poland joins the European Union on 1 May, two lorries will head to Britain with an unusual export - a block of flats that can be assembled from a kit in just five days.

The flat-pack flats from Krakow may help provide a solution to the shortage of housing in London and the South-east. Giving a new meaning to the label "mobile home", they can be taken apart with equal speed and moved to another brownfield site to be put up time and time again.

Four one-bedroom and four two-bedroom flats, believed to be the first "moveable" homes imported into Britain, will spring up on wasteland in Larkhall Lane, Stockwell, south-west London. The £700,000 project at Barling Court is the brainchild of The Hyde Group housing association.

After investigating the market for flat-pack homes in Britain, Hyde found that they were at least 12 per cent cheaper in Poland and sent a team to inspect flats built there. The eventual saving could be as high as 20 per cent.

Hyde plans similar schemes with 18 flats in Camberwell and 16 at a second site in Stockwell. It intends to set up a joint venture company with Buma, the Krakow-based company which patented the design, to develop "modular housing" throughout Britain. The three planned schemes will stack four flats on top of each other but future projects could be higher.

Each steel-framed flat will arrive in two parts ready to be bolted into place. One floor should be completed in three hours. No scaffolding is needed, and the buildings can be put up by four people.

The homes will have a 60-year life and so could be mortgageable. Hyde describes the Barling Court flats as "urban chic" and spacious, and says their large balconies come with sliding screens to provide shade and privacy. The flats will be rented fully-furnished to key workers including nurses, police and teachers at about £100 a week (one-bedroom) or £140 a week (two-bedroom).

Officially, the buildings are "prefabricated", although Hyde prefers the term "offsite manufactured" because prefabs bring back memories of the post-war rebuilding programme. A return to prefabs is being encouraged by John Prescott, the Deputy Prime Minister, as he struggles to find the land for the estimated one million new homes needed in England over the next 10 years.

Although the Stockwell project could have gone ahead without Poland joining the EU, Charlie Adams, Hyde's chief executive, said: "It is an example of how the economic landscape will change over the next decade or so. We are convinced there is both a temporary and permanent market for this type of housing."

Hyde began looking for such a solution after the Housing Corporation suggested a programme of "moveable housing" for under-used sites in London and the South-east.

Comments