Analysis undertaken by the National and Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) shows that there is an at least 64% under-measuring of demand by the Right to Build registers.

The analysis, published in the industry-focused Custom and Self Build Report 2023/24, took a fresh look at the registers, which every local or planning authority in England must host, as set out by the Right to Build legislation (Self and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015).

Looking at a three year period (2019-2022), it found that 83,430 people were interested in pursuing an owner-commissioned home, in comparison to the 29,697 people who had signed up to a local authority register for the same three year period. This shows that the demand reflected by these registers is underestimated by at least two thirds.

For the purpose of the analysis NaCSBA reviewed the postcode data of people interested in custom and self building and compared this data against total numbers who had signed a register. It marked interest as those people who had invested roughly £40 on either a magazine subscription or in attending a self build show, with the associated costs for the entire day. For this it assessed anonymised data from three of NaCSBA’s Gold Partners, Build ItHomebuilding & Renovating and the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC).

Why are the registers important?

The Right to Build registers are the go-to source of demand data for local authorities that acts as evidence of those people who want to build locally. This is important evidence that has a positive input into the decision making process around whether a site gets planning – or not.

NaCSBA is aware that there are many frustrations for people around the registers, such as local connection test or a joining fee, which can discourage people from signing, but strongly advises anyone wanting to self build to sign their register.

This is because the registers are starting to feed into appeals that are leading to companies being awarded planning permission for self build sites, when they were originally turned down, as well as contributing to more supportive local policy to emerge to help meet this demand.

However, local authorities should also be considering secondary sources of data for evidencing demand, such as the multiple effect that the registers underestimate demand – as shown by this research. This helps create a fuller picture of local demand.

Find and sign your local register

 

Image credit: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Government published the latest iteration of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at the end of 2023, promising greater promotion of small sites which could be suitable for custom and self build housing.

Specifically, paragraph 70 (b) of the NPPF 2023 states:

“Small and medium sized sites can make an important contribution to meeting the housing requirement of an area, and are often built-out relatively quickly. To promote the development of a good mix of sites local planning authorities should: ….
b) seek opportunities, through policies and decisions, to support small sites to come forward for community-led development for housing and self-build and custom build housing;”

While this does not guarantee sites coming forward locally, it does strengthen the role of custom and self build on a local authority level, adding to the weight of their duties.

As well as hosting, and having regard to, registers of people wanting to custom of self build locally, the emphasis on small sites makes a key connection to the issue of finding land for multi-plot self build sites.

Wider impacts of NPPF 2023

More generally, the NPPF 2023 sets new expectations for local authorities on housing targets and delivery, with a commitment to reduce planning delays. In addition, it protects the Greenbelt by removing the requirement for local authorities to allocate land on the greenfield for housing, in order to meet local housing targets.

In his speech about the new NPPF, Secretary of State Michael Gove said the revised framework was shaped by five core principles for engaging people with new development: beauty, infrastructure, democracy, the environment and neighbourhood.

The revised NPPF will work in tandem with the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA), along with new guidance for local planning authorities. Among a host of other measures, the Act sets out the requirement for local authorities to prepare a design code for is area, setting out what it considers to be the components of good design.

The LURA also introduces a new Infrastructure Levy to replace the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), although self builds are exempt from CIL.

 

 

 

 

Government has announced a plan to scrap the stranglehold that nutrient neutrality has had on house building. This saw a complete ban on any new housing in wide areas across England. The announcement is great news for builders, not only self builders but for custom build developers who have been impacted.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced a major deregulation of the rules around Nutrient Neutrality which led to 74 councils setting up moratoriums for all new building, following requirements made by Natural England.

Gove commented that cutting the red tape will unblock up to 100,000 stalled homes, which is worth £18 million in activity for the economy.

In the announcement government squarely blames ‘defective’ EU laws for the problem of Nutrient Neutrality, although it was the government quango Natural England that made the requirements that halted building. Most councils enforced a ban in affected areas as not doing so would have left them open to legal challenge.

What is Nutrient Neutrality?

Nutrient Neutrality refers to run off of excessive nutrients from the land, which pollutes water courses and damages river habitats. But new housing is believed to cause minimal additional run off, with farming and out-of-date water treatment plants being the main forces contributing to pollution.

An amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will bring about the announced change, and building could commence immediately on many sites as a considerable number have planning permission in place.

Housebuilders welcomed the announcement, but environmentalists have criticised government for its stance.

However, government also announced new environmental measures to improve habitats and reduce pollution, including more funding for Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, which offsets any negative impact from house building.

Michael Gove MP said: “We are committed to building the homes this country needs and to enhancing our environment. The way EU rules have been applied has held us back. These changes will provide a multi-billion pound boost for the UK economy and see us build more than 100,000 new homes.

“Protecting the environment is paramount which is why the measures we’re announcing today will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways whilst still building the much-needed homes this country needs.

“We will work closely with environmental agencies and councils as we deliver these changes.”

 

Planning appeals are starting to be won on the basis of the self build registers, proving their worth at a macro level when many feel they fail to deliver for individuals.

While the National Custom and Self Build Association would like to see more positive outcomes for individuals as a result of signing, it welcomes the decisions where inspectors find in favour of a planning appeal because of a lack of action around the registers.

The background

As many self builders know, anyone in England has the right to sign up to their local council’s self build register, individually and as part of a group. Read about the situation in regards to Wales and N. Ireland and Scotland.

However, despite this many people remain unaware of their right. Last year our joint survey with the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) found that 21% of people surveyed were not aware of the ‘Right to Build’ legislation, and 51% had not joined a register. This is surprising, as the interviews were conducted with people in the NSBRC database, so had an active interest in self build.

Councils also have the right to put tests and/or charges in place which prevents or discourages some people from signing up – find out more about these in the FAQs on our Right to Build page.

The appeals

The registers are starting to prove important in planning applications and appeals as they represent a form of demand of people wanting to self build, that councils must have consideration for. The legislation does not require them to create plots, but they do have to consider applications, and any permissions granted, in light of this demand.

Tetlow King Planning has become something of a specialist in planning and applications and appeals for self build, and often refers to this demand where it is unmet, in its argument for the application.

And the results show that this can be very effective. For example, in some cases it has resulted in a positive outcome for the applicant.

Tetlow King recently helped Lone Star Group, a land promoter, secure planning for 10 custom build plots in Wellesbourne in Stratford Upon Avon.

It did this on the basis that the authority was falling short in meeting the demand on the register with sufficient permissions. The inspector gave “significant weight” and and passed the application. (Weight refers to how important one or another principle is in the overall argument over whether or not development is acceptable.)

Tetlow King also won an appeal for four custom build homes in the Greenbelt, with the argument that the council had failed to meet self build demand being instrumental in the final granting of permission.

This led the inspector to find that there were “very special circumstances” that justified the edge of village plots.

These cases are important for the wider self build world, as they emphasise the importance that inspectors can place on demand and a lack of activity from local authorities.

This also means that would be self builders should always sign up to the their local self build register, even if they feel that it won’t benefit them personally by securing a plot where they want to build.

Find and sign your register

The National Self Build and Renovation Centre Show returns on Friday 12 to Saturday 13 May, bringing with it its usual offering of insight and inspiration for anyone planning a self build, custom build or other major home project.

A new offering for this show is the introduction of VIP tickets, which includes a range of benefits. Most useful is the ability to engage 1-2-1 as VIP ticket holders have preferential access. This includes the opportunity to pre-book consultation appointments with experts, as well as an exclusive Q&A with one of the NSBRC’s own specialists.

Tickets for the show are free, while the VIP tickets cost £40 per couple (or £25 per person) – book here for Friday and here for Saturday.

The VIP ticket includes:

• Guaranteed parking space in front car park
• Exclusive Q&A with an NSBRC experts
• Pre-booked consultation appointments with experts
• Free tea and coffee
• VIP Lounge 
• Complimentary buffet lunch (served between 12 and 1pm)

What’s on at the NSBRC Show

There’s plenty on at the show for whatever stage you’re at, whether you are trying to get an overview of the entire build process or drill-down detail.

Repeated on both days in the Build It Theatre is a six part overview of the stages of entire build process, including: Finance & Funding; Finding Land; Planning Permission; Design Principles; Building Control; and VAT Reclaim.

In addition Friday has Natural Environment Surgeries, including: bat conservation and ecological surveys; landscape design; wildlife-friendly borders; and, wildlife habitats, while Saturday has a focus on Energy and Cost Saving Technology, including: draught exclusion; performance assured insulation; water conditioning and sustainable window shading.

The Sustainability Theatre is also returning with over 20 talks, led by companies well-established in their fields, from MVHR to insulation. This will inform would-be self builders with practical measures and plans to enable them to create a sustainable and energy efficient build.

Find out more about the NSBRC Show

In a new article on his website, NaCSBA member and architect Oliver Murray of ProtaHomes explains what ‘weight’ is in planning and why it can be a good thing for self and custom builders going to appeal following a rejected planning permission.

Self Build Portal users will know that they have the Right to Build – and will have used our search tool to find their local authority’s register.

But did you know that more and more planning appeals are now granting greater emphasis on the local authority’s custom and self build activity? This is in the context of where it can be proven that the council is not meeting the demand on its register.

Oliver came across the appeals while in pursuit of planning for his own self build home. Like many others, he had signed up to the Right to Build – the informal name for the legislation that requires councils to host a register, and consider this in its work.

But like many others Oliver found that his local authority was falling short on ‘permissioning’ custom and self build applications for those wanting to build. NaCSBA knows that this is a fault in the legislation, which has very little carrot or stick to address poor practice.

Researching the matter further, Oliver came across an appeal where the inspector ruled in favour of the applicant, with a contributing factor being that it had not met its duty under the legislation.

Since then there have been a series of wins where applicants have had more ‘weight’, that is importance, attached to their application because it is for custom and self build, and the authority is underperforming. And in some cases this has helped tip the balance in favour of granting permission.

Anyone who has been through the planning process will know it is never straightforward or easy, but these appeals may offer a route for moving forwards should an applicant chose to challenge a negative decision.

Be aware though that going to appeal offers no guarantee of certainty and will require additional costs, so needs careful consideration. While we would love to see more self build homes being permissioned, each application must satisfy wider local plan ambitions about what is acceptable development before the issue and custom and self build comes into play.

If you are considering an application make sure you are aware of what council’s local plan says about the area where you want to build, and consider using a planning consultant with self build experience.

Find a planning consultant

 

Find and sign your local authority register

 

Want to hear more? Join Oliver Murray and Andy Moger of planning consultancy Tetlow King on stage at Grand Designs Live 1 May for How to Claim your Right to Build.
Grand Designs Live is on at Excel London 29 April – 7 May.

DLUHC’s latest data for custom and self build in England shows that while the number of individuals and groups on the register has grown modestly, the number of permissions fell.

In addition, the number of planning permissions granted for plots for custom and self build was 6,374, a reduction of 23% on the previous year.

In total, there are 63,662 individuals who have signed their local self build register, as well as 807 groups. But the numbers for the last 12 months until 30 October 2022 were overall down on previous figures. This showed a 34% decline in individuals and a 37% fall in the number of groups signing up.

The data is published annually by the Department of Levelling-Up, Communities and Housing, and is based on council returns for 2021-2022, running annually from 31 October to the next 30 October.

Why are the numbers down?

There are numerous reasons why the numbers are down, but logically a significant factor is the current economic environment. With inflation and prices skyrocketing, all housebuilding and planning applications across the board have slumped over the last 12 months, to their lowest figures in 16 years, as reported by the Department of Levelling-Up, Communities and Housing.

Repeated government commitments to overhaul planning have created uncertainty, with many local authorities freezing their local plan making process until a clearer picture emerges. This means that many fewer policies supportive of custom and self build have emerged as a result.

This has got so problematic that the Home Builders Federation (HBF) has forecast that housebuilding will fall to its lowest levels since the Second World War unless the planning system starts to support housebuilding in England.

Tests on registers

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) is also aware that more councils than ever have applied tests to limit people signing up to the local self build registers, which act as a deterrent.

However, the register remain a vital tool for the sector, and must be used by the public to raise their profile. Research in 2022 found that 21% of people were unaware of the Right to Build legislation, meaning that many more people want to self build. In addition, a lack of activity in terms of permissioning enough plots to reflect demand for people wanting to custom and self build is now starting to gain more weight in planning appeals.

NaCSBA urges anyone interested in building to sign up to their local register because of this. If your authority places charges or tests that you deem unfair it has provided template letters of complaint that you can fill in.

These have a two-fold effect – they should act as secondary evidence beyond the register that you want to build locally, and highlight where you, as a resident, feel that your local planning authority’s rules are prejudicial to you in your ambition in regard to housing.

You can find and sign your local register via the Self Build Portal, access the template letter or get answers from our FAQs about what the Right to Build does – and doesn’t – deliver on this website.

Visit the Right to Build page

 

Peter Johns, CEO of NaCSBA said, “The latest data is disappointing and reflects the obstacles put in place to registering by many local authorities (be it registration fees, local connection or financial tests).

“NaCSBA continues to challenge authorities where they are putting road blocks in the way, but also supporting authorities through the work of its Right to Build Task Force. We know that the numbers underestimate the level of demand by some margin – NaCSBA is currently undertaking research and analysis to demonstrate this and expects to report on it later in 2023.”

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Policy Director, NaCSBA said, “The drop in numbers joining the registers is a disappointment and we are in the process of undertaking a deep dive into the data. We do not believe the fall off is as a result of any reduction in the underlying desire of people to have a home built to their design and specification.

“We continue to see challenges from a proportion of planning authorities, that are contrary to the spirit and letter of the legislation – legislation that is being tightened to address some of the poor practice that have been identified. Factors such as covid, inflation and cost of living challenges may also have had an impact.

“We continue to strongly believe that low public support for new homes is closely linked to the lack of desire for the homes that are currently being delivered and that greater customer choice is the key to more and better homes.”

South Gloucestershire Council has announced the availability of six self build plots within the Charfield Gardens development, close to the market town of Wotton-under-Edge (Planning reference PT16/6924/O). The six self build plots have been launched as part of a ‘percentage policy’ scheme that requires developers to sell at least 5% of plots on residential and mixed-use sites to self and custom builders (applied on sites over 100 homes).

The size of each plot at Charfield Gardens ranges from 220m² to 254m² and are priced from £125,000. The plots are on the larger Barratt Homes development in Charfield Village, which includes permission for 121 residences and a retail unit, as well as public open space, play areas, allotments, and an orchard.

The six self build plots come with utilities, including foul and surface water drainage, water, gas, electric and telecom. Purchasers must submit a full planning application, outlining the appearance of the build, as well as outline proposals for landscaping, scale and layout.

Planning applications must be aligned with the wider design of the site, as well as the individual Plot Passport, which is a simple and succinct summary of the design parameters for a given plot.

This welcome move makes sets the council apart as a great example of a local authority working to support those people on its self build register.

View the six self build plot details

Image by Mastersenaiper from Pixabay

 

 

NaCSBA has called out Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council for its “shameful actions” in amending the conditions for joining its Right to Build register to make it almost impossible for most people to sign up.

Solihull council chose to announce its new restrictions during the week of the innovative Grand Designs Live show, which was ironically held at the National Exhibition Centre in Solihull.

The new restrictions mean that anyone wanting to create a self-commissioned home in the borough could well struggle to join the register – an essential demand tool for the council and one that is set out in legislation.

Restrictions are allowed under the legislation, which can entail a local connection test, a financial viability test and the right to charge people, both to join and remain on the registers.

For anyone keen on building locally, Solihull Council now requires people to demonstrate a local connection to qualify for joining Part 1 – the element they must consider when considering their wider housing duties. Those without this link will join Part 2, which has no impact on council activity.

It also places a financial test on anyone wishing to join, which NaCSBA considers the worst of the tests imposed by the council. This states:

There will also be an assessment of financial resources. The Council will require relevant evidence of sufficient resources as follows:

NaCSBA reports that the tests are impossible to pass.

  1. A person can only obtain a mortgage offer when they have access to land with permission to build. In this instance they would have no need to join the local self build register, and
  2. It is not typical for qualified financial advisers to provide financial statements for individuals when they are joining a register but not yet able to consider proceeding with a mortgage.

In addition, the council’s guidance references the Council of Mortgage Lenders – an organisation that ceased to exist five years ago.

Kevin McCloud designer and presenter of Grand Designs stated: “At a time when we need a greater focus on sustainability and more affordable homes, it is beyond belief that any Council is making it impossible for such homes to be delivered.”

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell CEO of the National Custom & Self Build Association stated: “I have no doubt that these changes being introduced by the Council are contrary to the letter and spirit of laws aimed at helping people to build or commission their own home, known as the Right to Build. The Council needs to reverse these changes and understand how it got into such a mess in the first place.”

Background to the Right to Build

The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 as amended by the Housing & Planning Act 2016 is primary legislation. It states: “This is intended to make it much easier for people to find land to build or commission their own home, diversifying housing supply and revitalising smaller builders who have not experienced the same level of recovery as the large housebuilders since the financial crisis.”

The legislation requires all local authorities in England to establish a Register of all those who wish to self-build and to then ensure that sufficient plots come forward to meet the demand.

The legislation allows for three restrictions to be imposed on joining the Registers, but there are tests that need to be met for this to happen. As was intended, very few Councils (7% at 30 October 2021) impose all of these tests. Approaching 6 years after the legislation was introduced, Solihull is choosing to introduce all 3 restrictions. Furthermore, the way it is imposing some of these restrictions makes it impossible for anyone to meet the tests and so benefit from the legislation.

The reason for introducing these restrictions is clear. The Council is seeking an easy way of getting out of the duty that the legislation places on it. As at 30 October 2021 (the last date for which data is available), the Council had a shortfall in delivery of 247 plots, and this number was continuing to increase.

NaCSBA is highly critical of the policy, which it links to other ill-conceived examples of discredited polices, such as Epping Forest District Council.

The action by the Council is directly contrary to the message from central Government that continues to support the growth of the sector. Just this year the Government responded positively to the independent review on growing the sector (The Bacon Review) and launched Help to Build enabling access to the market to those with a 5% deposit. As stated in commissioning the review: “We know that self and custom builders deliver high quality, well designed homes that are energy efficient, accessible affordable and welcomed by their communities.”

Find your local self build register 

Image: On stage at Grand Designs debating the Right to Build – (L-R) NaCSBA CEO Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, Richard Bacon MP, Kevin McCloud, Kunle Barker, TV personality and Mario Wolf of Custom Build Homes.

Harpenden in Hertfordshire could benefit from a new site for custom and self builders for up to 30 homes, on a 6.7hectare site at Cross Lane Fields. The project is the vision of Lansdown, a NaCSBA member specialising in strategic land promotion and development.

In conjunction with Imagine Places, Lansdown is holding a public engagement event on the 10 September, to give neighbours, would be builders and other stakeholders a say in shaping the development from a design perspective. This will be followed by a post-event online debrief for interested parties.

Those looking to build in the area are also encouraged to complete the Cross Lane Fields survey, to help Lansdown gauge local appetite for the model.

About Cross Lane Fields

Cross Lane Fields is a piece of visually contained Green Belt land that Lansdown will seek outline planning permission for to create a pioneering development of self and custom build homes. These will be exemplars in energy standards, design and sustainability, bringing much needed homes to the area.

Currently the model involves self builders designing their homes, in line with design codes that create a set of ‘rules’ for the site, to support a cohesive scheme. The planned homes will include a mix of sizes, with homes either self built or self-commissioned to Passivhaus Standards. It is hoped that 40% will be affordable homes with a discount of 30% on the land at point of purchase.

In addition, parts of scheme will be rewilded, with a new orchard and pond to create habitats and mitigate damage to wildlife and from flooding.

Senior Planner at Lansdown Ethan Davies said, “The Cross Lane Fields scheme will provide people with a unique opportunity to build exceptionally fine, energy efficient homes surrounded by beautiful and biodiverse open spaces within a community of like-minded self-builders”.

Interested in building at Cross Lane Fields? Fill out the survey

Sign up to Harpenden’s Self Build Register 

Image credit: ImaginePlaces