Parklife could offer answer to affordable, sustainable housing

As architects and planners struggle to design affordable housing for the Government's future plans, many claim to have already found it in the holiday-park resorts of the UK.

They say the resorts offer cheaper, more energy efficient housing than most bricks and mortar housing, and in greener, safer environmental communities too.

There are currently approximately 200,000 people now living in residential park homes – formerly called mobile homes – in the UK. And, if the National Park Homes Council gets its way, there could be many more in the future.

“The government has recognised the potential for Park Homes to deliver on affordable homes,” Louise Wood, spokesperson for the NPHC told edie. “We’ve got an ongoing dialogue with the government and we’re lobbying the ODPM to encourage planners to see park homes as a pleasant and affordable way to provide housing.”

Ms Wood said most of the homes start at around £30,000. Even the construction cost of the ODPM’s recent affordable home design competition was double this, at £60,000.

The argument in the park homes favour seems fairly strong. Most park homes look exactly like traditional detached bungalows, have their own gardens and often a private car parking area. They are fitted with bedrooms, living rooms, kitchens, bathrooms and hallways.

They are timber-framed with weather-proof exteriors, and also designed to be extremely low maintenance and well-insulated, often offering considerable energy savings compared to brick built housing, while the park environment itself is designed specifically for the residents, with well lit walkways and community meeting centres.

In fact the environmental quality of the communities has been so high that it has attracted the attention of conservationist Professor David Bellamy who said he was “absolutely amazed” at the efforts to enhance wildlife on the sites.

Mostly, they have been built in rural areas, but, Wood says, this could change, and their pre-fabricated nature means they could be quickly and easily installed on brownfield sites.

So far, the majority of the park-homes have been sold to pensioners for retirement homes. However, this could change as the NPHC is now looking to encourage their potential for key worker and starter homes and are lobbying for relaxation of planning rules to allow more of the sites around the country.

“At the moment, many parks put age restrictions on applying, but we are looking at ways to change that,” Wood said. In addition, they are seeking to place more sites in urban and suburban areas.

The reaction from the government so far has been quite encouraging. Housing Minister Yvette Cooper told the British Holiday and Home Park Association’s annual conference this year that park homes could provide an opportunity to promote diversity in housing choice, while her predecessor Keith Hill described them as a great source of affordable housing.

Indeed, an ODPM roadshow is currently touring the country explaining the changes in law for park home owners and will continue throughout September.

Regardless of the government position, sales are booming for these pre-fab dwellings, rising by 20% in 2003, and over 30% for the first half of 2004.

And it could mean that in the future, far more of us will opt for living the high (de hi) life.

David Hopkins

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