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 It, Homebuilding & Renovating and the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC).
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.”
Community-driven individual and collective self-build developer Steenvlinder has acquired a 20% equity stake in Custom Build Homes (CBH), to create a partnership to grow more opportunities to bring sites forward nationally.
Both companies have a track record in delivering multi-plot sites, with Steenvlinder bringing in its experience of self build in The Netherlands.
The investment creates a strategic partnership that demonstrates the two companies’ commitment to diversifying the UK’s growing custom and self-build housing sector, while making the process more accessible to more people.
Founded in The Netherlands in 2015, Steenvlinder expanded into the UK in 2021, with the new partnership a reflection of its desire to see more opportunities emerge. It currently working on two sites in Kent and another in Birmingham.
Based in Edinburgh, Custom Build Homes works to delivery mult-plot custom build sites across the UK, with sites either live or in development in Hertfordshire, East Sussex, Edinburgh, Oxfordshire, York and Kent. Custom Build Homes also manages UK’s national customer demand database, The Right to Build Register.
Find out which CBH sites are live on its projects page.
Hans Sparreboom, Steenvlinder Founder & CEO and Custom Build Homes Board Member, said, “While the ambition to increase the number of homes is important, the social ambition to make custom and self build more accessible will diversify the UK’s housing market with the development of better designed homes for happier homeowners and more vibrant communities.
“I am excited we are partnering with Custom Build Homes. Our experience, model, and openness towards self-building in The Netherlands will complement CBH’s knowledge and pragmatism towards navigating the UK market. I look forward to seeing what we can achieve by working together.”
Tom Connor, Founder & CEO at CBH, added, “We are pleased and excited to have such an experienced, forward-thinking, and socially driven developer like Steenvlinder as a shareholder and board member.
“Their continental approach to development and placemaking through custom and self build has enabled them to grow quickly in The Netherlands, and their openness to share and coach means we are sure to find plenty of opportunities to collaborate in the UK going forward.”
Image: the Custom Build Homes and Steenvlinder teams
The National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) runs a calendar of invaluable training events, both live from its Swindon base, and online, meaning that anyone can join. NaCSBA is delighted to be teaming up with the NSBRC for a brand new online surgery – Grants, Legislation and Latest News on 23 June, 19:00-20:00.
The online surgery sessions are part of the NSBRC’s 15 year celebrations, and this session provides would-be builders with a focused update on the political and legislative factors affecting self-builders today. Right now, there’s never been more high-level support for custom and self builders, creating a favourable climate for anyone wanting to build.
During the event, NaCSBA CEO, Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, will be offering updates on the following areas:
The surgery also includes a Q&A slot where you can raise your own issues.
NaCSBA’s aim is to make custom and self build a mainstream choice for all those seeking a home of their own, and shares the NSBRC’s own vision of helping people enjoy better homes.
The NSBRC has a host of other training courses and sessions, essential guidance for anyone setting out on a project of their own. Other events for summer include a Planning Surgery, Virtual Renovation Course and Ask An Architect appointments.
Government has continued to back people that hope to build their own home, with a raft of measures to boost custom and self build activity. These announcements are important for the sector and local government, and will, in time, result in more opportunities for members of the public who want to self build.
Starting with the announcement of a Help to Build back in December, since then there have been a series of policies and proposals that namecheck the sector. Together these add weight to the argument for scaling up custom and self build.
The Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP, who announced the news about the Brownfield Land Release Fund said “We are backing people who want to design and build their own home, and today I have launched a review to ensure councils provide enough land and take proper consideration for these homes when making planning decisions in their area.”
NaCSBA hopes that these measures will be embraced by local government in the spirit in which they are intended.
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, CEO of NaCSBA commented, saying: “We thoroughly welcome this news for anyone wanting to build their own home. This is investment that will help bring forward more sites for self and custom builders, and we hope this will lead to more sites coming forwards across England.
In the recently published Planning for the Future White Paper, Government sent out a radical proposal for planning in England to change. NaCSBA welcomed the potential changes, saying that the ideas should improve the outlook for custom and self build.
The reforms put forward are based around a distinct change in how we deliver planning in England, relying on a simplified idea of zoning for land, combined with design codes that will frame what can be built, where.
If they go ahead, the reforms would be the biggest shake up of planning nationally since the 1940s, when the present system was created.
NaCSBA welcomes the proposals, saying that change is needed, and will result in more custom build and self build homes being built.
Under the proposals put forward by Planning for the Future, custom build and self build will be supported by:
In addition, there would remain a commitment to the Right to Build, although NaCSBA maintains that this needs to be strengthened to make it more robust and give more people access to self build. This would build on the successes made so far.
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO, said: “For too long our planning system and our housing market has been stuck in a rut.
“Consumer choice is the key to more and better homes that more people aspire to live in and that communities are happier to see built. There is huge potential to be unlocked. With choice comes responsibility and the local design codes will help ensure that these cherished new homes are fitting additions to their surroundings.
The message to the public is clear, the choice that you expect with every other product is now coming to the housing market – prepare to be excited and inspired.”
Planning for the Future is in a consultation stage, and is inviting people to respond to its recommendations.
The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has released its final analysis of the practice around local authorities and their activity. The data follows its initial announcement of the early data, released in January, that revealed that councils were restricting people from signing the Right to Build registers with a series of “dirty tricks”.
The final analysis reflects the most complete set of data NaCSBA has had access to to date, which represents a 97% response, based on responses from 317 of the 327 planning authorities in England. The overall number of authorities has decreased by 9 than 2018, due to merged authorities.
Extrapolating this data to reflect the situation across England, NaCSBA estimates that the number of new individual entries on registers to be 11,420.
This is 5% more than the 10,878, with individual entries up by 8%, while group entries are down. This is the first year-on-year increase we have seen since the registers were launched and a welcome increase against 2018. This is especially so in light of the increasing barriers to joining registers, which are suppressing demand.
NaCSBA also estimates that the overall numbers on the registers is now at 45,655. This is up by 8,499 from the 37,156 last year but is considerably less than the 11,420 new additions.
This will be largely due to the removal of existing entries from registers – a practice that NaCSBA does not accept. The cumulative impact of these changes has been to remove over 9,000 entries from registers. Without such actions it estimates the totals on registers would be over 55,000 by now
In addition the data demonstrated that:
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO commented, “The wider picture that is emerging of local authority activity with regards the Right to Build suggests that the 30 October 2019 deadline appears to be driving activity by some local authorities to manage registers down rather than manage delivery up.
“However, outside the registers the picture does appear more positive, as self and custom build becomes referenced in more local plans, but there is much still to do”.
NaCSBA is calling on Government to act before bad practice becomes too embedded. This is especially important because the multi-year process means that there is already a large amount of manipulated information within the system already. This needs to be addressed, or allowed to work its way through.
Right to Build legislation requires all planning authorities in England (including National Parks) to maintain a register of individuals and groups seeking to acquire land on which to build their home.
Entries onto the register are recorded in annual base periods ending 30 October each year. Local authorities have 3 years after the end of the base period to provide sufficient suitable development permissions.
The first (shortened) base period ran from 1 April 2016 to 30 October 2016 meaning the obligation must have been met by permissions granted between 31 October 2016 and 30 October 2019.
NaCSBA urges anyone wanting to build, including groups, to sign up to use the registers, as they remain a crucial route of evidencing demand to local authorities.
The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has released new findings showing that, while the number of self builders signing up to the Right to Build has grown, some local authorities are using “dirty tricks” to make it harder for people to sign up to the Custom and Self Build registers.
The research show that 1,400 new registrations signed the registers in the last year, bringing the total number of people who have signed up to Right to Build to 55,000. However, that total number on the registers is actually lower, due to people being removed for the wrong reasons.
NaCSBA estimates that over 13,000 people build an owner-commissioned home annually, a number which is growing slowly, but which it feels is far below actual demand. According to the Building Society Association over half of us (53%) would like to self build one day.
On Right to Build Day, NaCSBA conducted a Freedom of Interest request to all English councils about the registers to see how many plots had been permissioned, against the numbers that signed up in the first year of the registers (a part year running from April to October 2016).
The results showed patterns of behaviour that are very concerning, and which NaCSBA will be sharing with Government.
While local authorities are required to promote their registers, NaCSBA believes that both a lack of marketing and a range of “dirty tricks” by a growing minority of local authorities is making it much harder for individuals and groups to sign up to, and remain on, the custom and self build registers.
The research showed three significant areas of questionable activity by some local planning authorities, with more and more councils repeating these as a way to get around managing their duties.
This restricts the opportunity for people to self-build, acting as a restrictor in the market that limits activity to those with enough money or equity to commission their own home – the very people who didn’t need the support of the legislation in the first place.
Constraints: Local authorities are imposing unreasonable constraints to signing the registers. This includes the charging of excessive fees to sign up to, and stay on, the registers. It also could be a local connection test that denies those living outside an authority the chance to build a home there – despite no such restrictions being in place in the wider market.
Miscounting: Local authorities must demonstrate how many self build plots they have granted permission for, to compare to people on the registers each year. Many councils are counting plots intended for building on by housing developers as potential self-build plots – even though they have were never marketed as such.
Removals: Some councils have removed many people from their registers for the wrong reasons, thereby reducing the number of plots that they must permission. Examples include restarting registers with new conditions, removing people as part of GDPR data protection exercises and so on.
The 30 October 2019 was the first date ever when local authorities had to demonstrate that they had ‘permissioned’ enough plots to reflect the demand evidenced by the registers, for those that signed up in the first year of the registers. Permissioned means the act of granting a self or custom build permission, and each year councils will have to match ‘permissions’ with the number of people that signed up. It doesn’t mean that the council has to create plots itself, nor does it have to contact people on the registers.
Despite permissioning sufficient plots being a requirement of the law, 8% of all authorities said they had not met their duties under the legislation and 37% failed to provide any response at all.
Of all the councils, only 45% claimed that they had met their legal duties, but this figure includes those councils that achieved this by using some, or all, of the limiting factors set out above.
NaCSBA is calling on local authorities to act within the letter and the spirit of the law and do better in future, especially as it estimates that at least 8,000 people have been wrongfully removed from registers.
Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA’s CEO said, “For the first time, local authorities have had to meet a statutory duty to help self builders access the plots that are needed. It is clear that overall they have come up short. In some cases, this is despite the hard work and best efforts of the authority, and we recognise those that have worked hard in this area.
“In too many cases however local authorities have spent scarce time and effort not on delivering plots but rather on seeking to avoid their obligations. This cannot continue, not least if we are to deliver homes in the volume and of the quality that this country needs.”
England has the lowest known rate of owner-commissioned homes among developed economies, and NaCSBA plans to work with government to improve this, giving more people the chance to live in a home designed to suit their needs.
NaCSBA still urges anyone wanting to build, including community-led groups, to sign up to the Right to Build as the registers remain a vital element in demonstrating to authorities how many people want to self build.
Image: Marmalade Lane Cohousing by TOWN.
New tech platform MyPlot has launched in the Self Build market, aiming to make the process of building as simple as possible by bringing together a range of services to assist novice builders on a single platform.
While self-build is on the ‘bucket list’ for many, it has yet to become a mainstream housing solution in the UK. For some would-be self builders, the process can appear complex especially for those with a full-time job and family obligations, or without any construction know-how.
While finding a plot remains a significant barrier for some, for others navigating the complex planning system, sourcing trusted contractors or securing finance for the project can be key challenges. For those without a property background these obstacles can feel insurmountable, and many will return to the established homes market, which leaves their self-build ambitions unfulfilled.
To help remedy this, MyPlot has been created to assist aspirational self-builders with the process. Users can find their ideal plot, and source contractors from the directory on the platform to interview and appoint the entire team to take their home from concept to reality.
From planning consultants, architects, building contractors and mortgage advisors, the experts listed, are all experienced in delivering self-build projects, and are carefully selected by MyPlot to give novice self-builders the confidence in their choices.
The company aims to grow the number of self-build homes in the UK from under 10% of new housing in the UK, which currently creates around 12,000 homes per year. In contrast, The Self Build Housing Market Report Analysis 2016-2020 revealed self-build rates in Austria, Belgium, Italy and Sweden are as high as 70 per cent.
MyPlot Director, Paul Smith, said: “In Europe, it’s much more straightforward to source a plot of land, and the planning system is less onerous – there’s also more support for those embarking on the process.
“With MyPlot, we’ve looked at the issues and offered a solution, filling the gaps and removing the complexity by providing a directory of self-build experts on a single platform.
“The government has been very supportive of self-build, particularly in recent years, introducing policies to oil the wheels and make it more attractive financially, but it’s often the practical considerations that put people off, such as financing the project and living arrangements during the build.
“What’s more, the assumption that self-build is something only wealthy people do has to be challenged – we hope that MyPlot helps to encourage people to at least be open to the idea, rather than dismiss it out-of-hand.”
Credit: Flo Pappert on Unsplash
Exmoor National Park Authority (ENPA) recently led a tour for young people of six self-build homes, supporting young people interested in self building their own home in the National Park.
Organised by the local planning authority and charity Exmoor Young Voices, the visit shared a number of properties in Wheddon Cross, Cutcombe, Hoe Farm and Exton for young adults living and working on Exmoor, illustrating a variety of routes and construction models to a self-built home.
With over 320,000 people living in National Parks, and over 22,500 businesses, housing, and especially affordable housing, is a crucial topic for managing local housing need, ensuring the parks remain living communities for all local people. Self build, especially when connected to registers with local connections, can be a paced and viable route to additional homes that is far more appropriate than large-scale housing development.
During the trip the group received advice from Dean Kinsella, Exmoor National Park Authority Head of Planning and Sustainable Development, and Tessa Saunders, Senior Planning Officer, about planning and potential opportunities for self-build within Exmoor communities.
Mr Kinsella said: “With the generally higher cost of housing in National Parks, it can be difficult for people to find homes that are both affordable and close to work and family. Our Local Plan aims to help local people get on the housing ladder by enabling self-build homes where suitable homes aren’t available on the open market.
“Through our work with Exmoor Young Voices we aim to guide young people through the planning process to help them decide early on whether a self-build is a realistic opportunity to provide them with the home they need.”
ENPA reported that over 200 local people have benefitted from new locally-tied affordable homes built in the National Park since the introduction of specialist affordable housing policies in 2005. Some of these have been delivered via self-build, as well as by private developers and housing associations.
Earlier this year, National Parks England called on the Government to increase the total stock of affordable housing for families and young people in National Parks through additional financial support, restrictions on holiday and second homes and greater support to empower communities.