PLANS for hundreds of micro-flats in the city have been slammed by campaigners and councillors for resembling ‘broom cupboards.’
The bid to transform former tax-office, Wingfield House, on Commercial Road into new housing raised concerns as designs showed the majority of its flats would only cover 21.7 sq m each, with its smallest at 19 sq m.
This is significantly under the government regulation for new homes of 37 sq m. However, developers, PLC Architects, are within their rights to bypass this due to a loophole that means the rule does not apply to office block conversions.
But for local housing activist Cal Corkery this wasn’t good enough. He said: ‘I believe flats this small will have a real impact on people’s health.
‘There’s a serious problem with this loophole. Turning offices into homes seems to be becoming more of a thing in Portsmouth. Recently the offices at Hippodrome House on Guildhall Walk have been converted into homes, there are about 66 flats. I’m not sure how they managed to fit so many into that building.’
He added: ‘Also when converting offices developers also don’t need to make any of the homes affordable. I suppose here they will be privately rented. They might target the higher end of the market, working professionals but we need homes people in the city can afford.’
Developers have submitted two applications for ten-storey Wingfield House, one for 212 flats and the other for 310. Within the 212-flat application 113 of the homes will be much smaller than the 37 sq m recommended. But none of apartments in the other application will meet this size.
Portsmouth City Council’s housing boss, Cllr Darren Sanders, also believed the homes were unacceptable. ‘These flats are far too small,’ he said.
‘They’re below the space standards we allow for people in shared houses and other planning applications. I find it very difficult to see why they want people to live in these tiny flats.
‘They’re asking people to put their entire life in a space that is significantly below what we would normally allow. I hope the committee will reject the application. But then I hope they can work with the developers to create something more suitable.
‘We do need homes but we need homes that people want to live in rather than cramming them into something the size of a broom cupboard. It’s not on.’
The HMRC office closed in 2015 as part of a national review to create larger tax hubs in different regions.
Previously the site had been earmarked for student housing, with as many as 440 rooms, although the application never went to the planning committee.
PLC Architects were unavailable for comment.
The plans are not yet scheduled to come up at a future planning committee meeting.