UK housing stock makes deliveries more difficult

By Chris Dawson January 15, 2017 - 6:38 pm

The Royal Mail has released an interesting report revealing that the UK’s housing stock profile is changing with more flats being built than ever before.

Flats now make up nearly a quarter (23%) of all housing in the UK. The number of flats has increased 4.2% over the last four years, compared to total growth of 2.5% for all UK housing in the same period.

The figure was revealed after Royal Mail’s Address Management Unit partnered with the Centre for Economics and Business Research on a study to investigate the growth of flats across the country. The study was commissioned after Royal Mail noticed that the number of flats, known as multiple residencies, added to the Postcode Address File (PAF) surged by 18% from April to December in 2016 compared to the same period in 2015. The total number of multiple residencies added to PAF between July 2016 and December 2016 was 33,220.

54% of all housing in the London is flats, the highest percentage anywhere in the country, as well having the highest total number of flats (1.89 million). London has also seen the greatest increase in the number of flats; 5.8% over the last four years.

Scotland has the second greatest number of flats – 971,678 – equating to 38% of housing in the area, followed by the South East (824,290 and 22% share of housing). East of England has seen the fastest growth in the number of flats, after London, with an increase of 5.3% for the same period.

Delivery difficulties

Flats by definition are multiple occupancy residences and this automatically makes deliveries more difficult. Firstly there’s an external door to get though and often post will be left in mail boxes at the entrance. That’s fine for letters but with the growth of ecommerce parcels, unlike a house where there could be a plethora of safe places to leave a parcel, flats aren’t as convenient.

Parcels will end up being left in entrance halls or potentially in hallways outside flat doors. At the very least, even if the occupant is at home, a courier might have to climb staircases or ascend in a lift to make a delivery and that takes time.

Terrace HousesIt’s potentially even worse in the Victorian properties which have been split up into multiple residency buildings. Here there’s probably a tiny letter box and a table in the hallway where everyone’s post ends up. When everyone is out at work there’s just no where for a courier to leave a parcel bar the doorstep in plain view of everyone passing by. Probably only the basement flat will have it’s own front door.

The growth in flats as the accommodation of choice (or perhaps circumstance) goes some way to explain the growth in click and collect, locker solutions, parcel shops in stations and deliveries to work. It’s not just the fear of having your parcel go missing, it’s the convenience of knowing where your delivery is and how quickly you can collect it. Often a quick stop on the way home is faster than knocking on neighbour’s doors hoping they’ve not gone out for the evening (and that they’re people you don’t mind talking to in the first place).

We need more innovative solutions in the UK for flats, perhaps a requirement that a communal locker solution be built in for every new block of flats constructed. In the mean time for ecommerce merchants the change in the UK’s housing profile is the clearest indication yet that we should be offering a choice of delivery options. Flat dwellers may well appreciate very different delivery options to those living in a semi-detached house in the country.

  • Stuart
    5 years ago

    Most ‘missing’ parcels for us are either a flat address or a business address. Probably because they are left somewhere and other people pick them up, or RM leave cards that never get to the correct person.

  • Thomas
    5 years ago

    I live in an apartment building and regularly see parcels left in the foyer or in the hall way. The amount of times I’ve helped posties get access to the building is countless. Royal Mail should keep a record of addresses which are in apartments and instead of even attempting to deliver, simply issue a note through the letterbox to come and collect your parcel. That’s how other european countries where apartments are more common do it, so why can’t we?


  • james
    5 years ago

    thats some ridiculously paper-thin excuses by RM.

    if it werent for flats, they’d be complaining about the petrol costs per-door.
    yes it’s a shared building, you get to deliver all 6 families’ mail in one building. this makes life harder for the postman?
    would somewhere like Rwanda be better? where they have few flats and fewer mailboxes?
    perhaps rural Australia would be more convenient for the posties? zero flats, 200 miles between doors?
    the posh part of town where every house has a 300 metre driveway?

    flats aren’t the problem, and thats a shoddy excuse for abandoning parcels wherever they feel like.

    and why do they feel the need to compare apples with oranges? is London a country or is Scotland a city? London has the highest percentage of flats at 54% whereas Glasgow only has 73% flats? forgive me but i thought that 73 was a higher number than 54?

    • 5 years ago

      Royal Mail weren’t complaining about delivery difficulties, that part was all me, but valid for all carriers me thinks?

    • james
      5 years ago

      valid for other carriers more than RM i’d think; RM deliver to (more or less) every door every day, so having 6 doors in one building should make things easier, rather than harder.

      the likes of DPD who only do parcels, not mail, may only have 1 person per close per day, making it a bit harder; but considering they charge extra for low-density areas (like the highlands) it must still easier for them to work high-density areas, e.g flats.
      shanks’ pony is still cheaper than a transit.

      (while i’m here, the site seems to have some security certificate issues going on…. its okay if i click a news topic on the homescreen, but if i click to go straight to a comment from the homepage, i get a certificate error and firefox backs me out of the page.)

    • JD
      5 years ago

      Me too – I am getting the same on firefox.
      ‘The owner of has configured their web site improperly. To protect your information from being stolen, Firefox has not connected to this web site.’

    • 5 years ago

      Thanks for the heads up, we’re aware of it and it looks like it’s due to some dev work currently been done. All to be revealed in the very near future 🙂

    • Sam O'levski
      5 years ago

      I have lived in tenement blocks where only one door has a number, and that was incorrect, with the flat owner refusing to alter it, and other owners not wanting to spoil their doors by attaching numbers ! The regular postie knew who was who, but when he was off sick or on holiday, the relief ended up posting mail through all the wrong doors.
      In other cases, if the block is deemed ‘safe’, and it’s in a quiet area, parcels can be safely left outside the front door of any particular flat…….. until a bad neighbour moves in, or a friend of a friend uses the service button to gain entry when everyone is at work.
      From these and other experiences, I can state that I quite see where this article is coming from, but of course that doesn’t mean it applies equally everywhere.

    • james
      5 years ago

      I’ve worked door-to-door in the past (not as a postman), at least with a close, you’re likely to know what number you’re in, and the flat positions are pretty much constant. if you’re looking for flat 0/1 it’s the bottom left.

      i’ve been on streets a mile long with not a number to be seen, worse if there literally are no numbers because this street has exclusively house names which i’m unfamiliar with.

      the only time flats are harder for delivery or doorstep service, is when you only have 1 person per flat, and they’re all on the top floor, then it’s a pain. any other time it’s significantly faster and easier to work flats, the net benefit of being an actual 3 steps from the next drop cannot be overstated.

      again, the flat is not the problem, someone incorrectly deeming it as “safe” is the problem.
      if you have a front-door home, and i leave your parcel at the front door in full view of the street, then it may get stolen. it’s my fault for deciding that is “safe”. same for leaving a parcel sat in a multiple occupancy close, it’s not safe, couriers know its not safe, just stop claiming that was a safe place for you to half-ass your job.

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