We’re following the story of Anne, who is building a home for her family and one for her parents on the same site. Crucially, they used the Right to Build to help them realise their dream. We pick up from Anne’s decision to investigate the possibility of building her own home.
Part 2: Deciding to self build – the turning point
David Burrowes, my local MP at the time, knew little about the Right to Build legislation but said he would try to find out how it could be effective. He believed the local Council unlikely to want to help and any Council land would want to be sold at the highest price for maximum profit. However he gave me the contact details of Enfield Council’s Head of Development Management so that I could make some headway with the council.
Meanwhile, we started our own detective work searching for local land in the area, with Google maps proving a great tool. It was interesting to look at maps with a different eye, spotting little pockets of land that just might be plots, which we checked against the Land Registry. One plot that was of interest turned out to be part-private and part-Council owned. We also looked up land owned by Enfield Council and in a tiny entry amongst playgrounds, schools and car parks we found a couple of corner plots, so it was time to talk to the council.
Getting to speak to Enfield’s Head of Development Management was no easy task. I left several messages and emails. No response. I took encouragement from listening to how Jamie Oliver got his breakthrough into the River Cafe. He rang every day trying to speak to Ruth Rogers leaving messages until one day he got through and was invited to an interview.
It became part of my routine. Every day I rang and left a message until one day he happened to pick up the phone. He was friendly enough and gave me an appointment for the next week.
The meeting however was rather disappointing as he was unaware of the Right to Build legislation and the Registers. However he did mention that our timing was good, as the council had to work out its approach to the legislation and how to incorporate it into the local plan.
During the meeting we tried to establish if he was the right contact for the Right to Build, but he didn’t know at that point. On a positive note, he looked at the plots of land we had identified and thought they had potential for planning but we would need to speak to the property department about the possibility of purchasing them.
When we left I started to worry, knowing that the process was not going to be an easy one!
Meanwhile, my father in law had taken interest in our project and had subscribed to Homebuilding and Renovating Magazine. One of the Homebuilding & Renovating shows was coming up and he asked me along. A train journey spent planning and we had a full day mapped out, starting with ‘A Beginner’s guide to building your own home’ by expert self builder David Snell.
His practical overview dealt with finding plots, budgeting and finance, which was crucial as up to that point I had believed it was financially difficult, but he gave us hope and inspiration. When we met in in the Experts area he congratulated us on our entrepreneurial work in searching for plots!
We also visited Buildstore’s self build mortgage stand, where they confirmed that our self build was viable from a financial perspective, with a mortgage financing the building in stages, including the purchase of land. Things were looking up!
Our last lecture was with Michael Holmes of Homebuilding & Renovating about the Right to Build, who was also on the board at the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA). He had been at the forefront of the new legislation emerging, encouraging local authorities to release council land for self builders. He stressed how the Right to Build Act offers hope for residents wanting to build and live in an area where they have grown up in. The lecture was dynamic, inspiring, but did the legislation really have the teeth to force the local authorities to help self builders?
While chatting to Michael afterwards he advised us to push the local authority as much as we could. This is because they have to grant permission for the number of plots reflected by the numbers who have signed up to the register (in one base period) within 3 years. However, he also explained that this would not necessarily be to us. Our challenge would be to see if we could get them to release land to us, as we were pioneers!