In my weekend paper was yet another article on inventive ways for landlords to make money out of people on low incomes. This latest involves the conversion of an industrial building to residential units, which are minuscule – some a mere 18 sq. meters, or 14 sq. foot which is smaller than the cheapest holiday rooms, yet they include kitchen and living space. The legal minimum under planning laws is more than double this, at 37 sq. metres. Worse, the units will have heavy traffic passing by at all hours, i.e between 4am – 11 pm. They are also, of course, close to a busy road.
They sound horrific yet they do not require planning consent, so they could be built, though the local council is not keen as they would threaten the physical and mental health of tenants.
This is all terrible stuff, but what has this to do with history?
There’s an interesting quote in the article, regarding the fact that the proposed flats are worse than prison accommodation, as several have no windows. You would think that this would be a mandatory requirement, but it has never been included in law because until now nobody thought houses would be built without them. Every child that draws a house knows they include windows. They are important for natural light, and for ventilation. Now that this threatens to become a reality, the laws must change.
There is a lot of discussion as a result of our political chaos regarding a wide range of laws that are unfit for purpose, but at the time they were written, they were based on assumptions that made sense at the time. We re living in times of rapid change, and many people are suffering mental health issues because they cannot cope with the stress that these changes involve. The assumption is that laws were badly written, but they were generally written for a specific time and place. There is a long list of crimes that could result in a person being transported to the colonies – to North America, then after the War of Independence, the colony of New South Wales was founded because it was seen as an insult to the concept of English liberty for her citizens to be seen in chains. So, they were sent at great expense to found what is now Australia – out of sight, out of mind.