13 December 2013

More information about various changes to the planning system have emerged which should make it easier for self builders, following the Chancellors recent Autumn Statement.


This comes on top of the Chancellor’s proposals to remove affordable housing section 106 contributions from future self build projects.

The additional measures include:

  • Making it easier to change the use of some existing buildings – like agricultural and office buildings – to residential use. This could be good news for self builders keen to convert a barn or other redundant agricultural building. A formal Government Consultation on the proposals was completed in mid-October, and if the Government decides to finally go ahead, it is likely the changes will be implemented by April 2014.
  • Reducing red tape – a mountain of technical planning regulations are to be ditched. The changes will make it easier to understand the rules about permitted development and will scrap 38 redundant regulations that are no longer needed. A list of the regulations that will be streamlined or dropped is available on the GOV.UK website.
  • Reducing planning conditions – the Government says it is concerned about the number of ‘Conditions’ that are being attached to planning permissions and the time (and cost) involved for self builders in complying with them. The self build industry has been arguing for some time that Planning Conditions should be proportionate in scale, and that on most individual self builds there should be very few. New legislation is planned to force councils to really justify the number of Conditions they impose.
  • Reducing the number of formal statutory consultations on planning applications – as some self builders will know planning applications are often sent to a wide range of public bodies for their views and often the feedback that’s obtained is contradictory. The Government is keen to reduce the number of formal consultees and to find a way of dealing with the conflicting advice they sometimes provide.
  • Speeding up decision-making by slow planning departments – in the future the Government wants to give self builders the right to apply for planning permission directly to the Department for Communities and Local Government in situations where a local planning authority makes fewer than 40% of its decisions on time.
  • Investigating ‘land auctions’ – the Government has said it wants to publish a feasibility study into how these might operate. The idea is that a council would ask landowners to offer land for new housing using a ‘reverse auction’ – so the lowest cost land could be acquired. The Policy Exchange Think Tank is keen on a version of this that could result in councils being encouraged to use this process to acquire low cost land for self build plots. The study will be competed by the time of the 2014 Budget.
  • Forcing councils to prepare a Local Plan – at present some councils don’t have a Local Plan in place; in future the Government wants to make it a statutory requirement. This should help self builders active in areas that don’t have a Plan as they may be able to get land identified for future self for custom build projects in the new plan that they will have to prepare.
  • Holding back New Homes Bonus if councils needlessly object to new homes – at present councils get a New Homes Bonus (typically worth many thousands of pounds) for every new home that gets planning permission in their area. In future, if they have objected to a new home, but the self builder wins planning approval on appeal, they may not get the Bonus. This change is designed to stop councils spuriously objecting to new schemes. It should also help to remind them that they are required to consider planning applications on the basis of a presumption in favour of sustainable development.

The regulations to bring in the Community Infrastructure Levy exemption for self builders has now been laid before Parliament.

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