Upcycle Bungalow Land to build more homes


Bungalow Land (David Hunt [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

Britain and especially England needs more houses.

Yes there are a million empty homes  – some of which can be brought back into residential use easily (many cannot). But they aren’t all in the places where housing is needed.

There are certainly brownfield sites which can be developed into residential areas – though not all brownfield land should be developed – Lodge Hill was, after all, classed as brownfield land.

Greenfield developments are always attractive to planners and developers (and of course the owners of the greenfields) because they are easy to develop. But for many reasons (not necessarily wildlife) they are not always the best places to put houses either- unless you’re building an entire new town – or a  large urban extension, like Poundbury, here in Dorchester.

Nick Boles the housing minister has recently suggested he will take “state-owned land” and give it to young people to self-build.The question arises “what state-owned land”? It’s difficult to imagine self-builders wanting to live on a far-flung redundant air base. And who would bear the costs of remediating post-industrial land to make it safe for development. Perhaps Boles is thinking about selling off Local Authority -owned land – county farms, open spaces, municipal parks. He hasn’t provided any detail yet.

I have another proposal. Let’s upcycle bungalow-land. Bungalow-land is the consequence of lax planning leading to suburban sprawl. There are around 500000 bungalows in the UK27000 bungalows were built a year during the 1980s.

Bungalow land is defined by the very low density of its housing – between 5 and 15 per hectare. Bungalows are also very energy inefficient, as there is no upstairs to recycle the heat generated downstairs.

The Government should compulsory purchase (they are after all happy to do this for HS2, a far less socially essential development) vast swathes of it, and then sell it off to self-builders (as Boles suggests) and not for profit housing developers, like housing associations.

Such an approach could turn 100,000 bungalows into 500,000 self-build plots and housing- association shared equity homes (all highly energy efficient). High quality green infrastructure (including some “wild” greenspace) could also be incorporated into these developments, creating a much better environment for everyone.


About Miles King

UK conservation professional, writing about nature, politics, life. All views are my own and not my employers. I don't write on behalf of anybody else.
This entry was posted in bungalows, greenspace, housing, public land and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Upcycle Bungalow Land to build more homes

  1. Miles. You have missed a serious point here. There is actually something of a shortage of bungalows – for those with mobility issues! My wife is a wheelchair user and it took us ages to find the one we have now had for many years, which due to the adaptations we’ve made we couldn’t move easily. I agree that some of the ones from the 70’s & 80’s aren’t occupied by people with special needs, and most of them need adaption but many mobility impaired people find themselves in unsuitable accommodation and thus require further assistance. As it is my wife can live independently. Out ;loft and walls are fully insulated, we have a condensing boller etc etc but this is not a lifestyle choice, its a practical one.

    • Miles King says:

      Thanks for your comment Mick. I was not suggesting that all bungalows should be replaced, and I agree that there are people like your wife who benefit from accommodation all on one level.

      Those issues in themselves do not justify the area covered by low density sprawl, when so many are homeless or trapped in substandard rented accommodation.

      Replacing old bungalows in large estates which are totally dependent on car-use, with new higher density developments with much better alternatives to the car would help people with limited mobility who do not have cars, as well as providing environmental benefits such as reducing carbon footprints.

  2. Miles. Unfortunately in a society where the Market and consumerism rules, its the better off who get the bungalows with the gardens, whilst the mobility impaired lose out generally.

    A recent development in York claimed accessibility by having light switches & sockets at a metre off the ground, along with level entrance access whilst failing to provide lifts.

    I see where you are coming from, and sometimes envy the Dutch approach, but the governments of the last 30+ years have a lot to answer for in both creating unsustainable consumerism and markets to feed them, whilst destroying a managed transport & supply infrastructure.

  3. Miles King says:

    Thanks very much Mick. Isnt it up to Building Control to ensure that developers who claim to provide social benefits (often as a requirement of gaining planning permission) actually do provide them? This also has echoes of Section 106 agreements supposedly providing environmental actions, to compensate for losses resulting from developments. Nobody every checks to see whether the S106’s have actually delivered what they claimed to do.

  4. Pingback: Labour commits to building 200,000 new homes a year: but where? | a new nature blog

  5. Zachary Lee says:

    Great article, I don’t understand why more people aren’t clamoring for this.

    With regard to physically disabled people, there’s a solution – they can live in ground floor apartments in the new 3, 4 and 5 terraced buildings that ought to be built in the place of wasteful bungalows.

    • Miles King says:

      thanks Zac. As all new buildings needs to be compliant with disability access laws, people with physical disabilities need not be confined to the ground floors, nor should they be.

      • Zachary Lee says:

        Yes, but then you have a install lifts, don’t you? I would argue that lifts are unnecessary and wasteful in buildings, until you get to say five or six storeys. I live on the top floor of a four-floor building with no lift, and I think it’s a great arrangement. Not having a lift means the monthly maintenance charge is low too.

  6. A lift can be a necessity for a range of disabilities and needs. By not including lifts in buildings with more than one floor one is excluding a wide range of people. Going back to Dec 2015 – Building Control has in many cases been privatised and is lax and rarely ensures compliance. Post planning enforcement is also ery lax and developers frequently get away with ‘murder’ with no comeback.

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