George Clarke thinks it’s time Britain’s big builders and planners upped their game to create more amazing spaces for future generations to enjoy.

The architect, writer and presenter of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces and Restoration Man series says many of our mass-built homes today are “noddy boxes”. He believes only Britain’s self-builders are truly pushing the boundaries to create tomorrow’s architectural gems.

“Last year, the biggest house builder in Britain was the self-builder,” George told me. “Together they built more than 15,000 houses, while building companies like Barratt and Persimmon probably built between nine to 12,000 houses each.

“And the nice thing about self builders, co-operatives and communities coming together and doing it for themselves, is that they have a greater respect for their designs, because they know it’s their life, it’s their community.”

Now George, who is an ambassador for Grand Designs Live at Earls Court from May 4-12, thinks councils, planners, land owners and the banks need to re-think their approach to house building and how our homes of the future are procured.

“I think the standard of many new-build houses in Britain is terrible,” said George. “A lot of them are noddy boxes that will not really stand the test of time... some of those houses will be lucky to be around in 30 or 40 years, not 150 years like the buildings we live in now.

“It sounds like a scary, hard comment but I think British housing is not in a good place at the moment. Everybody has a responsibility to create good homes that are going to last a long time, and I’m not very sure we are doing that at the minute.”

George campaigned for Britain’s 350,000 empty homes to be brought back into service through Channel 4’s Great British Property Scandal series. Following the campaign, the government established a £17million loan fund for people to refurbish empty homes.

In his Amazing Spaces series, George showcased many innovative projects where people – generally with very little money – created incredible living spaces out of old campervans, caravans, sheds, and even an underground toilet.

“The great thing about amazing spaces is that we are pushing the boundaries a little bit and doing something different in a really affordable way,” he explained.

“It’s easy to design houses with a huge budget. But to do something interesting, beautiful and amazing with very little money is a big challenge.”

George has two favourite Amazing Spaces: a forester’s timber hut in the Lake District and the underground toilet converted by Laura Clarke in Crystal Palace.

“I thought that was a really inventive and clever way of using a disused urban space and making it into something quite beautiful,” he said of Laura’s one-bed conversion.

As the Restoration Man, George admits he’d rather restore an old property than build a new one.

He believes old houses have a “character” and a story to tell. I wondered what was his own ‘amazing space’ in the house he shares with wife Catriona and their three children in Notting Hill?

“I believe the home is a very personal and unique space and it’s got to have your stamp on it,” said George.

“I think my study is my favourite room – it’s not very big but it’s a place I spend a lot of time when I am sketching and drawing or writing my columns, or a book.

“It’s a very calm space and it’s a little hideaway from the kids. It’s my little escape really.”

But he doesn’t believe in having a second home.

“I must admit I am not really a fan of second homes,” he confessed.

“Property is a good, strong, long-term investment. But when people buy lots of houses just for the sake of it or become property moguls, I think well... is that what it’s about?

“I love houses that push the boundaries creatively but at the same time I’m slightly torn as Restoration Man, [because] I love old buildings,” said George. “I really love our old housing stock, fantastic Victorian terraces, beautiful Edwardian buildings. “You buy into that history and it gives a great understanding of why a house is the way it is or a street is the way it is.”

George was excited that last month’s Ideal Home Show at Earls Court, brought back the Blue Ribbon Awards – which he hosted – to recognise good and innovative design across the lifestyle board. “We gave awards to good quality products that are sustainable and affordable – things that can really make a difference to a home and the way you live,” he explained.

Grand Designs Live is at London’s ExCeL Centre, from May 4-12. For further information visit