Understanding and Adhering to Minimum Space Standards in Property Development

4/30/20244 min read

brown brick building with blue window
brown brick building with blue window

Understanding Minimum Space Standards

When it comes to property development, it's important to take into account the minimum space standards set by the government. These standards dictate the minimum amount of space that should be provided in a property, ensuring that it meets the needs of its inhabitants. In this blog post, we will explore what these standards are and how they could impact your development scheme.

Why are Minimum Space Standards Important?

Nationally described space standards are in place to promote the well-being and quality of life for individuals living in properties. These standards ensure that properties have adequate space for occupants to live comfortably and carry out their daily activities. By adhering to these standards, property developers can contribute to creating a healthier and more sustainable living environment.

Recent changes mean that new flats and houses created through Permitted Development Rights need to adhere to the Government's minimum space standards. As such, if your proposal doesn't meet the space standards, it will not be approved.

Similarly, many Councils include space standards in their Local Plans, including the London space standards set out in the London Plan.

What are the Minimum Space Standards?

The government's minimum space standards cover various aspects of a property, including room sizes, ceiling heights, and storage space. Here are some key requirements:

1. Overall Gross Internal Floor Area

The standards set different size requirements depending on the number of bedrooms, people and storey's the house or flat contains. For example, a 1-bed studio flat for 1 person (a single bed) at least 37 sqm*, whereas a 3-bed house for 6 people (3 x double bedrooms) over three storeys is 108sqm.

It is important to remember that the space standards work on the basis of how many storeys, not whether the property is a house or a flat. This is particularly important for property developers who are looking to sub-divide a house into flats, and use either the loft or basement to provide additional accommodation to a flat. For example, by adding an additional storey to a one-bedroom flat, the minimum space requirements jump from 37sqm or 39sqm up to 58sqm.

The standards are clear that only the space within a building can contribute towards the space standards, and gardens and balconies are excluded. To find the full list of minimum spaces head to the Government's website here.

*37sqm only applies if a shower room is being used rather than a bathroom where the space required is 39sqm.

2. Room Sizes

Whilst the overall internal area is often the thing property developers focus on the most, you need to be aware that the standards also set a minimum space for bedrooms.

Single bedrooms need a floor area of at least 7.5m2 and are at least 2.15m wide.

Double bedrooms (or twin bedrooms) need a floor area of at least 11.5m2 and are at least 2.55m wide, with one double bedroom at least 2.75m wide.

These standards ensure that there is enough space for occupants to move around and place essential furniture.

3. Ceiling Heights

The minimum space standards also include requirements for ceiling heights, which are an important consideration.

For habitable rooms, the minimum ceiling height should be 2.3 meters for at least 75% of the Gross Internal Area. This ensures that there is sufficient headroom and a comfortable living environment.

On top of this, any area with a headroom of less than 1.5m is not counted towards the Gross Internal Area, unless it is used solely for storage. If it is used for storage space, then it needs to be at least 900mm in height to be counted.

3. Storage Space

Storage space is an essential consideration in any property. The minimum space standards specify the need for adequate storage provision, including built-in storage within bedrooms and sufficient kitchen storage. This ensures that occupants have enough space to store their belongings and maintain a clutter-free living area.

The amount of storage space required for a property depends on the number of bedrooms. A 1 bedroom property can have as little as 1m2 of built-in storage, up to 4m2 for 6 bedroom properties.

How Could Minimum Space Standards Impact Your Scheme?

Adhering to the government's minimum space standards can have several implications for your development scheme. Firstly, it may affect the overall layout and design of the property. You will need to allocate sufficient space for each room to meet the minimum requirements, which could impact the overall size and configuration of the property.

Additionally, meeting these standards may require careful planning and consideration of the available space. It may also impact the cost of the development, as additional space and storage provisions may be required.

Recent changes to Permitted Development Rights that allow the conversion of commercial properties (such as Class MA - read more here) mean that these schemes must meet the minimum space standards. This means that even if your property falls just short of the requirements it will be refused.

Similarly, many Councils set minimum space standards in their Local Plans. This means that the Council may refuse your application if it falls below these standards.

London Space Standards

The London Plan requires all developments to meet the governments minimum space standards, but it 'encourages' developers to take things further and provide extra space. It describes these as 'best practice internal space standards' which start at 41sqm for a 1-bed 1 person flat with a shower room (4sqm larger than the national space standards) to 152sqm for a 6 bed property over 3 floors. These standards are set out in the Housing Design Standards Guidance (here).

In Conclusion

The government's minimum space standards are crucial considerations for property developers. By understanding and adhering to these standards, you can ensure that your development provides comfortable and well-designed living spaces. While meeting these standards may require careful planning and consideration, the benefits of creating quality properties that meet the needs of occupants are well worth the effort.