The Secretary of State for Department for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has called upon house builders to stop building boxes and start building homes that reflect regional differences. He said “I don’t want little boxes looking the same in Aberdeen as, say, Portsmouth”. This got me thinking. A lot of people I know would expect to be able to pick out from a set of stereotypical photos of people, a French man and from a series of stereotypical photos of houses, his French house and similarly perhaps the Eskimo and his house, a Chinese person and their dwelling etc etc and given a series of stereotypical photos a matching game could be played with some success. One could construe each person has a house that has evolved to suit their needs, given their location.
That then are the fundamental needs that vary between Aberdeen and Portsmouth that would lead to significant differences in design of the respective areas housing that Mr Pickles alludes to. Sitting in a traffic jam in Kingston Upon Thames I noted my 1930’s Portsmouth property was replicated in a few roads, as it is in Havant and I dare say many other Towns and Cities across Britain in much the same way as a given builders ‘Royal Oaks Type’ property is likely to be built in Aberdeen and Portsmouth and every City in between. Given a field in which to build and a blank piece of paper on which to design a property, to a budget, would that house look the same in both locations? I dare say it might. In the past the ‘Granite City’ housing would make use of locally available materials thereby reducing costs but with better infrastructure enabling materials to be move freely around the UK those regional differences perhaps no longer exist. Is there or should there be such a thing as a Portsmouth property and if so what is it and how does it vary from that in other Towns and Cities. I am sure we could all design our own houses, dream houses and more practical houses which I suspect would incorporate all the usual facilities but would we draw something different to the Aberdonian undertaking the same exercise. Sadly I think not