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Bring Back Bungalows

Snobs hate them, no one builds them anymore. Yet one in three of us, think they are the best homes of all.

The British in their modest, understated way, would prefer to live in a bungalow more than any other type of building. Survey after survey shows that the bungalow always comes out on top. ‘The Bungalow’ remains the third most popular name for our home, after ‘The Cottage’ and ‘Rose Cottage’.

Older people are particularly keen on them, they are much easier to clean, more convenient for security measures, easier to get in and out and of course without all those stairs to negotiate.

Yet no one seems to be catering for the bungalow lovers. In 2009, only 300 bungalows were built out of 100,000 new properties in the UK and many more were demolished. Just 2% of our housing stock in taken up with bungalows, even though 30% are longing to live in one.

Part of the issue is Planning policy. The coalition, which is desperate to expand the number of homes being built, insists new development needs to be at least 30 houses per hectare. Bungalows spreading horizontally, eat up all the space.

Our taste for the bungalow began in the 17th century, when British expats in India fell for the local one – storey thatched houses, built in the Bengali style – thus the name bungalow, derived from the Hindi word ‘bangla’, meaning Bengali. These banglas also had verandahs, itself another Hindi word, meaning balustrade or balcony.

The first British bungalows were built at Westgate-on-Sea and Birchington, both on the Kent coast in 1869. They soon became a popular form of seaside architecture all around the coast, not least because they are less likely to block a sea view but less likely to block the neighbours light.

Though the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the fashion for bungalows took off. In 1922 house buyers were snapping up The Daily Mail Bungalow book, a collection of the very best designs from that years Architects competition.

The very popularity of the bungalow in the 1940s gave rise to the snobbish dislike for them. As is so often the case in our class obsessed country, things that were popular among the lower-middle class were attacked by their supposed social superiors. That snobbery lives on in the current opposition and planning policy by the government towards bungalows. The new Policy Exchange report suggested that people should live now they would like to live, by removing planning powers from local councils and instead letting local homeowners vote on new developments. Would they vote for more tower blocks packed with tiny flats or their favourite sort of building instead … The bungalow.

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Posted: 23rd June 2013

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