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Cheap Chinese homes plan

John Rowan says it can halve John Prescott's target by importing ready-made buildings from China

A LONDON construction specialist believes it can cut the cost of Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott's £60,000 homes plan in half by importing ready-made houses from China.

John Rowan, a construction consultancy based in Ealing, west London, is hoping that the Chinese labour market will reduce the cost of homes in the UK.

The firm is one of several that has claimed it can beat the £60,000 house target set by the Deputy Prime Minister - but no other has come in so low.

Tim Young, a partner at John Rowan, said: 'We would use modular housing systems, which are basically housing pods.They have been imported from Canada and Poland, where the cost of manufacturing is lower than the UK.

'Even greater savings could be made by importing from China.To employ a decent production worker in the UK costs $25 an hour and $5 in Poland. If production were moved to China the cost would be reduced to around 50 cents.

'Of course, to achieve those savings there would need to be high volumes of pods being shipped into the UK for sale, but those high volumes are something which we do anticipate.'

Issues surrounding the use of pods include the amount of living space that would be provided and how to transport such large units safely.

Mr Young said: 'We are discussing many of these issues, such as how large the units could be if they are to be carried on British roads.

'We are also building our relations in China, with a view to setting up a production facility.These things are still to be finalised.

'We expect to see the first pods coming into the country in 2006. Initially, we would possibly import only bathrooms, like those that have been used in student accommodation.Then we would progress to whole houses.'

The £30,000 construction cost meets all the requirements of the Government's £60,000 house competition, but John Rowan has yet to decide whether it will enter.