BLOG: self building for a family that can’t afford to buy!

Anne Fennel Family

We’re following the story of Anne, mother of six boys who is building a home for her family and one for the grandparents on the same site. They used the Right to Build to help them escape the private rental sector, acting as pioneers for the legislation, which even the council was unsure about at the time.

Anne's family

Part 4: A small matter of access

A quick recap: 
We had found two plots of land, adjacent to one another, one owned by the Council and the other by the Diocese of London. We’d made contact with both of these public service mission landowners, but had we come any nearer to getting a plot for our family home?

Having tracked down the Disposals and Acquisitions Manager (see Part 3) at Enfield Council, I gave him a call. I am not sure what I was expecting, but to my surprise he was an accessible man, warm, friendly and straight talking.

I explained the Right to Build and our desire to remain in the local area, which he deemed reasonable enough. I mentioned that we had identified a couple of council plots and shared my fears that we could not compete with well-resourced Property Developers but he was encouraging. In fact, he reckoned would-be owner-occupiers should be able to outbid developers who have to make profits over-and-above the costs.

However, this was simply a nice way to say that the council was obliged to get full market price on the open market!

I explained that our challenge was that we just wanted to build a family home, whereas a developer might build a lot of flats and outbid us that way! Or just sit on the land waiting for it to increase in value.

I pointed out that this was a growing trend in our area; numerous ‘luxury’ small apartments sold as investments or ‘easy commute from Eurostar and Heathrow’. These commuters would not be building communities or committing to the area long term.

The Disposals Manager got the point and said he would look at the site. He vaguely remembered talking with the church but the site was small, he was understaffed and it was landlocked. He promised to get back to me.

A plot with no access

A plot with no access – or is there?

Landlocked!

This was interesting; there was a little cul-de-sac and both the church plot and council plot seemed to have access off it. However, the one catch was that it was a ‘private road’.

I had not heard of such a thing or imagined it. It is a fact of life that a house needs a drive or an access to get to the front door. It may be just a strip of pavers but if one stops to reflect for a moment it is a big deal!

That connection to one unremarkable road is a connection to all roads, all houses, all shops – and in this case no development could take place without the access. How had it come about? Was all the land free and then some bits got turned into private houses and gardens? Or was it all private and some bits carved out and given to Her Majesty on our behalf?

The church plot was the unused end of a 170ft long garden. Similar garden plots of the neighbours were developed in 1990 into 3 red brick family houses and the cul-de-sac. After they sold the houses many developers would have got this road ‘adopted’.

This means that it is taken into the public road network, with the developers or owners no longer responsible for the maintenance. But that had not been done in this case, meaning that both plots were landlocked.

Who owned the road? Would they refuse access? Could they demand a Queen’s Ransom?

Perhaps this was our opportunity? It was too small a site for the Council to be much bothered with. But for us it was worth our while trying to unlock it, both for the Church and for the council, and perhaps creating an opportunity to use part of the site for a house for ourselves. Naive? Almost certainly, but hope springs eternal!

My husband had an idea that if the owners of the close wanted an excessive fee, then there might be an alternative solution for access through the vicarage plot – not that the church would want that but it could be a bargaining point. It was a glimmer of an idea.

I spent the next few weeks and months chasing the Disposals Manager and his assistant and looking for the owner of the close. I tried the Land Registry and Highways department but no luck. It turns out that it is far more difficult to get information from the land registry for a piece of land, like a road, that has no specific house address.

Subsequently I found that you can do a detailed map search to identify land but at the time the closest I came was to find out who the developers were of the houses on the close and get their accountant’s details from Companies House. I left a message and emailed asking if I could get into contact with the Developers. The council had not fared any better finding out who owned the road.

First Right to Build Expo

It was at this time that I saw an advert for the first ever ‘Right to Build Expo: Unlocking the Potential of Custom & Self Build Housing’. I immediately purchased a ticket and rather amused myself by signing as ‘Director, Fennell and Sons’ – true in a practical sense although it would make for interesting discussion if asked what my company did!

On the day I sat at the front and asked the first question. ‘The Right to Build has given hope to families like ourselves but public bodies such as the Council or Diocese have a duty to get Best Price for their land. How can we compete with a better resourced developer for these plots?’

It was the Chair of the Conference and of National Custom and Self Build Association, Michael Holmes, who gave me the answer: ‘It was not ‘Best Price’ that public bodies such as the Council or Diocese had to get but ‘Best Value’.

This was a significant difference. Best Value was not limited to solely monetary considerations – it should take into account wider benefits to the community and longer term cost benefits beyond the initial receipt for disposal of land. The real obligation would be to deliver value in terms of the public service mission that is their reason for being.

Could we and other families prove ‘best value’ in our desire to build up communities and commit long term? – This was our next challenge.

Find your self and custom build register on the Right to Build Portal.

Read the other parts of the Self Build Family Build Blog.

Part One: Deciding to Self Build, the Turning Point

Part Two: Looking for Land in London

Part Three: The Land Value Idea

Photo: printed with permission of Fiona Hanson 2020©

Homebuilding & Renovating launches virtual summer show

Homebuilding & Renovating virtual show

The team behind Homebuilding & Renovating has launched a Virtual Summer Event on the 24 to 25 July, bringing you the best bits from a self build and homes show, but from the safety of your home.

Just because live events and shows are currently on hold due to the Coronavirus crisis, it doesn’t mean that you have to put your project on hold. With the Homebuilding & Renovating Virtual Summer Show everything you need for your home project is just a click away.

Homebuilding and Renovating has taken the decision to transfer everything that people know and love about its Homebuilding and Renovating Shows and transfer it to the digital world.

Secure your place today – for FREE

What does a virtual event look like?

The team has worked to ensure the online event isn’t just a website. Instead, the Virtual Summer Event offers you all the things you would see at a live Homebuilding & Renovating Show.

Visitors can click through and virtually browse what’s available in the auditorium, then select a category of interest to be transported into the virtual exhibition hall, containing all the exhibitor stands within your chosen category.

From there you can take a look around, watch demonstration videos, download brochures, live chat and do all the things you would at a live event, but from the comfort of your own home.

One of the features our visitors love about our events are the informative seminars and masterclasses, they’re always jam packed with people like you finding out information delivered by our expert panel of Builders, Architects, Planners and experienced developers.

The virtual event is no exception, you will be able to attend sessions about planning advice, kitchen and bathroom design, how to find land and much more. We will be bringing you a varied timetable across 4 theatres, where you can join as many sessions as you want, and even dip in and out over the 2 days, plus the content will be available for 4 weeks after the event.

Keep your project on track by attending the virtual event, for free, over 2 days on the 24th and 25th July.

The live show runs for two days, and the platform will stay live with videos and other content for four weeks afterwards, too.

Showrooms start to reopen doors – with safe practices in place

Kloeber Funky Front Doors

The news that many showrooms and show houses are starting to open up is welcomed, following the closure of so offices and many businesses during the Coronavirus stay-at-home measures.
Across the country a new normal is developing of businesses and sales rooms that are opening, but with new practices to ensure that both staff and visitors stay safe.
We’ve brought you information about some of the first businesses to return to a new normal – but please do let us know if your business is reopening to public visits. Email us on media@nacsba.org.uk

National Self Build & Renovation Centre

The doors at the NSBRC are set to reopen on the 17 June – along with new measures to ensure visits are safe as well as informative. Plus, following a successful run of online training events, the NSBRC is busy creating a new series of virtual events including training, Ask an Architect consultations, Facebook Live Guided Tours and more.
Visit the website for more information

Kloeber Showrooms

Bespoke glazing experts Kloeber is reopening all four of its showrooms in Cambridgeshire, West London, Buckinghamshire and West Sussex, with strict procedures in place including additional signage and gel stations. Nothing beats seeing products first hand when it comes to specifying items for your build, and award-winning Kloeber has a wide selection of products in engineered timber, low maintenance aluminium and alu-clad, all offering low U-values, high security and an extensive range of finishes and glass types, including the Funky Front door range (top picture).

Visit the website for details or book an appointment on call 01487 740044.

Potton Show Village

Potton’s five home show village is now officially open once again, on the basis that it is by appointment only on a one-to-one basis, so you will be the only visitors at the time of your appointment. This means you can experience the company’s homes and get ideas for your own project while staying safe. Plus Potton is hosting Facebook Live events: 2nd June ’24 Things to do Before you Start Onsite’ and 9th June 7:30pm, ‘How to Build on a Budget’
Visit the website for details

Graven Hill Digital Walkthroughs

Although the show house is still not open, Graven Hill has created online walkthroughs of its custom build homes products, including the 2-bed Avon, 4-bed Dorn and the newly launched 3-bed Tove. Check out the walkthroughs here. The Graven Hill site is now officially open for appointments to view houses and plots, by appointment only.

Visit the website for details

Undertaking work on site? Follow NaCSBA’s guidance for safe practice!

Working-Safely-Covid

NaCSBA has curated guidance for working safely on site for anyone involved with their own project. Whether you are returning to your site or scaling up the work that has been ongoing throughout, NaCSBA’s guidance for custom and self builders is invaluable.

Whether you are acting as project manager or commissioning a company to build your home, it is worth taking note of the guidance or sharing it with your contractors.

In the undertaking building work guide:

National guidance for large sites

Managing risk
Who must NOT work?
Clarity around contracts
Scheduling work
Materials
Insurance
Finance
Health and safety
Safety on site
Online security
Reporting illness
Getting tested
Working in a home with owners

FAQs: Planning and national differences

Are local planning authorities still operating?
What is Scotland doing?
What is Wales doing?
What is Northern Ireland doing?
What is the Republic of Ireland doing?
Moving home

Digital working

Jobs self builders can do remotely

 

Introduction

As England begins to ease off of the stay-at-home restrictions, the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has put together the following guidance to assist both individual self builders and companies when undertaking building work.

Government guidance in England never called for building sites to be closed, as Secretary of State for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy Alok Sharma pointed out in his 31 March letter to the construction industry. However, he acknowledged the need for safe working practices to underpin all decisions with regards to working on site.

In spite of this, many companies and individuals ceased working, either through a desire to stay safe or through an inability to operate during the crisis.

This guide is intended to support self builders and businesses about what practices they should be following to ensure they are operating safely. It is intended as a signposting document to support businesses and individuals in their decisions about how they return to work, and draws extensively on a range of industry knowledge. But ultimately, each site is the responsibility of the owners and/or main contractors.

The priority on any building site is people’s safety, which should be the first principle for all activity, and every decision should be weighed against this.

However, NaCSBA believes that with good practice building activity can and should continue, as it represents a valuable flow of work for the local and wider economy. Custom and self build have a core role in helping the country to return to economic health, supporting Government objectives and providing a crucial supply of new homes.

The rules in Scotland are completely different, and practices in Wales and Northern Ireland may vary so check the sections below and follow national advice.

NaCSBA has published information around planning, and below you will find more information about undertaking work.

In addition, NaCSBA has been providing weekly updates on the sector to Government, reporting barriers for the sector during the crisis. If you have a specific question or would like to share your experiences please email us.

The Government has producing a new set of COVID-19 Secure Guidance for work, that sets out parameters for work, as well as advice for assessing risk, to work out if an activity can be conducted safely.

Get the Government guide, here.

Download a PDF of NaCSBA’s Undertaking Work Guidance.

Returning to work

There is plenty of guidance from Government and major industry bodies to advise larger development sites, much of which can be applied to smaller sites as well.

The first point of call for professional support is the Construction Leadership Council which is on Version 3 of its Site Operating Procedures (14 April).

Based on Public Health England advice, this has detailed guidance about keeping workers safe on site, and you can expect it to be regularly updated to reflect the latest Government stance, so check back regularly. This is the leading document for safe on site work.

Government has been working with the House Builders Federation, which has produced a Charter for Safe Working Practice, including a downloadable poster for your site.

BuildUK, a representation organisation for over 40% of the UK construction industry, is also a useful source of information and guidance, with regular updates on the Coronavirus situation.

Small sites are arguably easier to manage than larger sites, purely on the basis that there are fewer people on site, so meeting the 2m safety requirement may be more manageable. Jobs that require teams or several people must be carefully considered to ensure the comply with the Site Operating Procedures guidance.

The Federation of Mater Builders (FMB) has excellent advice, designed for members, but which acts as a useful guide for all practitioners.

Establishing what is safe in terms of work is balancing act, and as an employer you are responsible for the safety of workers and anyone else visiting your site. It is essential that you assess the risk of the work on site, to identify sensible measures to minimise risk. The Health and Safety Executive have interactive tools to help you do this.

Government guidance also includes a series of useful steps:

  • Consider who is working on site
  • Planning to keep this to a minimum
  • Monitoring wellbeing of people working on site and from home
  • Keeping in touch with off-site workers
  • Providing a safe working environment for home workers

Advice is clear that you must not be on site if you have any symptoms whatsoever or are, or live with, a vulnerable person, which could be to do with age, pregnancy or an underlying health or clinical condition.

Equally, if you are living with someone who is self isolating you should not be on site. While this means some people will not be able to be on site, it supports the wider working population to operate in a safer environment.

If you are responsible for a site then you must ensure that these rules are followed by all who come onto the site at any time.

If you think you have symptoms, follow NHS advice on Coronavirus.

The Federation of Mater Builders (FMB) has excellent advice around contracts. The situation is unprecedented, and consequently few contracts will have information for dealing with current work scenarios.

The FMB recommends the following:

  • Assess whether you can meet your contractual requirements
  • Agree any necessary contract changes
  • Establish understanding about the uncertainty of the current climate
  • Plan for future restrictions

Check out its guide for detailed information on each of these elements.

The Construction Leadership Council has produced a statement on payment and contracts, which deals with risk around invoking contractual clauses to the detriment of other firms. Construction businesses should still pay according to the original terms.

It is important to acknowledge chains within building projects. Any point in the chain could cause a delay that may mean you are unable meet what you have contractually agreed, whether due to labour or supply chain interruptions.

The situation may impact price, types of materials, deadlines for work, so communication must be open and candid to keep work on track. Ensure any changes are agreed, carefully documented and signed by both parties.

The stay-at-home crisis has changed the way many people work, so check if you can sign digitally for contracts, but always ensure you do your own checks that this is acceptable. Government confirmed that in most cases electronic signatures are acceptable, but the situation gets blurry if a document needs witnessing, so seek legal advice.

As with contracts, you will need to review your scheduling of work and deliveries, to reflect the inevitable interruptions that will typify working for the rest of the year. This is crucial on a self build, where jobs are often sequential, and there aren’t other properties that trades can work on.

This applies to the hire or purchase of equipment, so be certain you have the tools you need to do the job well in advance of them being needed. Users of any plant or equipment should wash their hands properly before and after using any tools, as per Government guidance.

Another crucial component for scheduling, materials are typically ordered to correspond with jobs, but this may not be practical due to gaps in the delivery and supply chain. Planning permissions may stipulate materials, so alternatives can not necessarily be swapped in – check the conditions attached to your project.

Materials are a commodity that attract theft and may be damaged, so if you are ordering ahead ensure you have a secure space for storage, and check the situation with your insurance around storing on site.

The National Business Crime Centre has helpful advice for securing professional sites, and many of the principles also apply to smaller sites.

The Construction Products Association (CPA) has advice for anyone operating in manufacturing, some of which is of relevance for the construction industry.

Most manufacturers have detailed websites showcasing their products, as well as case studies illustrating the use of materials. Equally, if you call companies when choosing materials they may be able to post out samples or direct you to other online examples of their materials, such as Instagram or magazine features.

If you stopped work you should have notified your liability insurers, and equally with returning to site it is imperative that you speak to your liability and professional indemnity insurers to check that cover is in place and appropriate.

When onsite inspections resume, ensure that any changed timelines that might affect appointments are shared.

Whether development finance or mortgage finance, check in with your lender to see if the financial circumstance in relation to you or your build have changed.

Mortgage lending has carried on throughout the crisis to date, but circumstances such as valuations and furloughed salaries may have an impact on some new lending agreements. Always check with your lender, broker or financial specialist, and ensure they have experience of custom and self build. The unwillingness of some parties to do site visits during the crisis has acted as a limiting factor on some activity, but NaCSBA believes such visits can be undertaken within best practice guidance or alternative remote approaches adopted.

The inability to do site visits during the crisis acted as a limiting factor on some activity, but with a return to work the backlog should start to get processed.

Small companies may also be eligible from the new 100% Government-backed scheme that offers ‘bounce back’ loans, of between £2,000 to £50,000 to get companies operating again.

You should update your work practices and update your processes for Health and Safety to follow the latest Health and Safety Executive and Site Operating Procedures (always check this is the latest version).

A clean and tidy site will reduce the risk of accidents, as hospital visits following an accident are a risk in themselves. However, if an accident does occur hospitals should not be avoided because of the risk if the injury is serious enough to warrant a visit.

You should conduct your own risk assessment and be sure that you are meeting the expectations for safe operation. If you are the site owner or as the main contractor the responsibility will sit with you for the safety of anyone on site, whether employees, visitors or family members. Limit all but necessary visits to site, too.

Safe distancing: Advice remains that workers (who are not from the same household) should maintain a two-metre distance, and where possible PPE should be worn. Any jobs that make this impossible, such as awkward lifting, should be carefully planned to minimise time for close working, and workers should be wearing PPE as a precaution. Safe distancing around deliveries should also be practised as standard.

PPE: The FMB has raised the issue around the lack of PPE for onsite work, and without it some jobs may not be able to be completed. Again, risk assessments for such jobs should be undertaken and the work delayed if it cannot be carried out safely without PPE.

Travel: Teams of workers should not be sharing transport (unless they are in the same household), with workers arriving independently and avoiding public transport where possible. The latest guide for returning to work, Our Plan to Rebuild, released 11 May, sets out the requirement to wear face coverings on public transport.

Staggered timings: Given the longer days, measures that can support safe working include staggered start times, lunches and breaks, with – where practical, multiple kitchen and toilet facilities. There should ideally be several washing points fully supplied with appropriate cleaning and sanitisers.

Government also announced that builders could agree more flexible site working hours with the local council to support the staggering of workers on site.

Set expectations: You should establish with your workforce in advance how this will work in practice on your site. The FMB recommends daily briefings (that reflect safe distance measures) with expectations around new work processes and practices. It may help to share this PDF guide.

A zero tolerance approach to lax behaviour should be practised, with a process put in place for notification of breaches and also for any workers starting to develop symptoms, with record keeping in place.

Cleaning: Hotspots should be regularly disinfected, with a person appointed to do this job and a log of cleaning. These include entry points, handles, equipment handles and controls, ladders, taps and toilets. Tools should not be shared and should be sanitised after use.

Clothing: clothing should be washed after use, ideally loaded directly into the washing machine by the user, if possible.

Shared equipment: tablets, devices, plans and anything that is shared represents a transmission risk and should be avoided.

The Coronavirus is a rich opportunity for scammers operating cyber crime and phishing scams, with worried people clicking on links to ensure they get the correct information.

As with all cyber crime, think before opening emails or attachments from unusual sources or addresses that don’t quite look right. If it is from your bank or another professional organisation and looks suspicious check its safe – by looking on the relevant website rather than following links.

The National Cyber Security Centre has advice on avoiding Phishing and other email scams and also on malware and ransomware attacks.
Other good sources of advice are the National Crime Agency and police forces, such as the Metropolitan Police.

If anyone develops symptoms you must follow protocol and ensure that work is stopped, safely, and secured. You must report anyone that develops symptoms at work to the HSE under RIDDOR, using the online guidance. A risk assessment should then be completed about the situation on site, and any workers isolating should follow guidelines.

Keep a log of all activity, including securely handled tracing information, and ensure that any consequences of delaying or halting work are relayed along the chain to all involved.

The Government in England has a 5-pillar strategy for coronavirus testing, that includes testing people who have coronavirus-like symptoms to assess whether or not they currently have the virus (so not an antibody test to see if they have had it). Construction workers are now included among the groups eligible for testing, to support the return to work.

In most cases with a self build or custom build, the owner and their family will not be in residence on site. However, if this not the case the Government has detailed guidance for precautions you should take for carrying out work inside people’s homes.

This is most likely to apply if homeowners in temporary accommodation on site look to move into a property before all work is completed, but all insurances should be checked before owners consider this as an option, and current Government advice remains for people not to move house if they can avoid it.


FAQs: Planning and national differences

Yes, most are still operating planning services, but individual arrangements are in place for contact, either by phone, email or email for a call back. New legislation in England temporarily allows councils to hold committee meetings remotely, with the public able to access them remotely. Check the situation with regards to your authority’s attitude to site visits for planning and building control.

Check the latest status, but Scotland passed emergency legislation Scottish Parliament, with the Coronavirus (Scotland) Bill. At the 6 May, all construction work apart from that deemed essential remains halted in Scotland, meaning there are no measures at time of writing for a phased return.

Planning, and many other areas, is devolved and Scotland is taking measures that echo those in the rest of the UK, but which are different. With regards to planning, Scotland’s Chief Planner published a Covid-19 update letter at the start of April and Scottish Government also has guidance for the construction industry. This differs from England as all non-essential construction work has ceased.

RTPI Scotland welcomed the legislation, especially as it means that planning permissions due to lapse in the emergency period will be extended.

Scottish Government has also announced an emergency loan fund for SME housebuilders of up to £1million to support them through Coronavirus crisis.

Wales has also issued guidance to planning authorities for the crisis, as well as guidance for housing and emergency permitted development rights.
In addition, it has released advice about maintaining physical distancing measures in the workplace as a core element in safe working, which can be enforced through fines. It also has an SME business support fund.

Northern Ireland’s Chief Planner also issued a letter with guidance, and PACWAC, the Planning Appeals Commission reopened its office with effect from the 11 May. The Health & Safety Executive for Northern Ireland (HSENI) has a useful blank risk assessment template that can be used to support decisions about returning to work.

The Irish Department of Housing, Planning and Local Government has created its own series of guidance and information for work practice during the crisis.

 

Government announced on 13 May that people could, once again, move house, provided they followed guidance on keeping safe. The announcement means that limited viewings can once again be conducted, although virtual sales are to be encouraged. Guidance includes advice for the various professions working in and servicing homes sales.

Importantly, the guidance also states: “It also applies to custom and self builders looking to acquire a plot or a property to renovate or to demolish.” Specifically, it also confirms that surveyors can visit plots to undertake valuations to support the release of stage payment mortgages, and also that inspectors can carry out warranty assessments, including for custom and self builds.


Digital working

Many companies have retained some elements of their work online, so check with a company you are planning to work with. Services such as architects and package companies are often able to do online consultations, and may be able to do work on planning your project, design and pricing work without a face to face or site visit.

Disclaimer

NaCSBA is providing this information as general guidance only, and in no way is it a definitive or legally binding. Official advice is routinely updated and any decision makers must be confident that the decisions they make about returning to work are robust and reflect the latest Government and industry guidance. Therefore, it is also recommended that any plans  include regular reviews for safe work practices.

NSBRC offers virtual courses

NSBRC course banner

The National Self Build and Renovation Centre has responded to the stay-at-home measures proactively by offering a suite of online courses, ensuring that Covid-19 doesn’t halt prospective self-builders’ ambitions to hone their skills and knowledge. The new programme of online content will help anyone with a project to keep their homebuilding project on track.

Katy Hardwick, NSBRC Course Coordinator said, “I am delighted to announce that we will be adding to our online offerings by launching the first of our Virtual Courses in May. We feel this is a great step forward and are pleased to help you research and plan for your projects whilst at home.”


The NSBRC Guide to Project Management

This course is essential for anyone considering their first self build, home improvement, loft conversion or renovation project. Covering everything from budgeting, insurance and site management through to health & safety, snagging and VAT reclaim.

Delivered on Zoom, over three 2 hour modules, this online course is delivered by experienced Project Manager, Charlie Laing. Charlie has presented NSBRC courses for several years and is Director at CLPM Ltd, a specialist project management business.

Course cost: £59pp

Date: starts Wednesday 13th May.

BOOK NOW

 


The NSBRC Guide to Renovation Projects

Our Renovation Course is delivered by NSBRC Helpdesk Expert, David Hilton. David is an authority in sustainable building and energy efficiency, with extensive knowledge in building fabrics and heating systems.

As part of the course, David will also guide you through the NSBRC’s own fantastic Renovation House where you can watch the theory come to life.

Delivered on Zoom, over three 2 hour modules, this online course is delivered by experienced expert, David Hilton. David has been involved at the NSBRC for many years and also presents our Eco Workshops and the NSBRC Guide to Heating Your Home.

Course cost: £59pp

Date: starts Thursday 14th May

BOOK NOW

 


The NSBRC Guide to Heating Your Home

This Course has been designed specifically for Self Builders and Home Renovators and explores the latest options in heat and energy sources, both renewable and conventional systems.

Our Heating Your Home Course is delivered by NSBRC Helpdesk Expert, David Hilton. David is an authority in sustainable building and energy efficiency, with extensive knowledge in building fabrics and heating systems.

As part of the course, David will also guide you through the NSBRC’s ‘Plant Room’ within our fantastic Renovation House where you can watch the theory come to life.

Delivered on Zoom, over three 2 hour modules, this online course is delivered by experienced expert, David Hilton. David has been involved at the NSBRC for many years and also presents our Eco Workshops and the NSBRC Guide to Renovation Projects.

Course cost: £59pp

Date: starts Friday 22nd May.

BOOK NOW

 


Ask an Architect: Free online consultations

  • Frustrated with the existing layout of your home?
  • Need an extra bedroom but don’t want to move?
  • Have some self-build ideas but need advice on putting them into practice?

If you have any of these issues, then you may be interested in our online ‘Ask an Architect’ sessions. Working with The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) we are offering a free personal consultation with an architect to discuss ideas for designing and building your own home, or renovating or reconfiguring your existing home, in a no-obligation 25-minute virtual meeting.

Meetings will take place using Zoom and we will arrange everything for you.

Bookings MUST be made in advance. Please contact Deanah with your contact details to secure your personal consultation:

Course cost: Free

Date: Saturday 16th May

BOOK NOW 

 


Passivhaus Workshop

The Passivhaus standard is designed to deliver comfort, quality and lower running costs, in any type of building. We spend most of our time indoors, so buildings play an important part in our health and wellbeing.

The most successful and cost-effective way of achieving Passivhaus is by incorporating the standard before your designs are complete. It’s also useful if the Passivhaus elements are included in your planning application.

Take advantage of this free workshop and ensure you have the right team behind you for your Passivhaus home.

This ‘virtual’ workshop will offer a full timetable of talks & webinars, question time sessions and live guided tours from the NSBRC across various platforms.

Workshop Highlights:

  • Introduction to Passivhaus Principles
  • Surgeries on: Airtightness, Insulation, Ventilation, Windows & Doors
  • Real Life Case Studies
  • Walking ‘Passivhaus’ expert tours
  • Question Time
  • How to improve existing buildings

Course cost: Free

Date: ‘Virtual’ Event – Fri. 15th & Sat. 16th May

FIND OUT MORE

 


Virtual Enquiries

To further support users, the NSBRC has set up a ‘virtual enquiry’ service, where you can request information from centre exhibitors from the comfort of your home.
We’ve launched our new offering. Simply provide a few details, choose the companies you want to hear from, and we’ll pass your enquiry directly to our exhibiting partners.

Our exhibitors are listed by segmentation. Just click on the + sign to expand each group, letting you view all of our exhibitors who can help with that particular area.

Follow the simple 3-step process:

  • Provide a few details by completing the short form.
  • Select the companies you want to hear from.
  • Click the ‘submit’ button, and we’ll pass your enquiry on directl

Alternatively, you can also visit our exhibitors individual profile pages to find out more information about them, and fill in the ‘quick enquiry’ form to request information from that specific business.

BLOG: building for a family of 8 that can’t afford to buy!

Anne Fennel Family

We’re following the story of Anne, mother of six boys who is building a home for her family and one for the grandparents on the same site. They used the Right to Build to help them escape the private rental sector, acting as pioneers for the legislation, which even the council was unsure about at the time.

Anne's family

Part 3: The land value idea

Our situation had become pressing – we were due to be turned out by our landlord of 10 years, we couldn’t afford to buy, and, as a family of 8, no one wanted to rent to us. So we decided to look at building our own home. In Part 2  we heard about the Right to Build, started looking for land and made contact with the Council.

So we were under way – our adventure had begun! We were stepping into the dark and I found myself enjoying the process. There was excitement in the chase, especially using a piece of legislation that neither we nor those we talked to really knew how it worked. We were making it up as we went along, and success or failure was not an issue (at least at this point), leaving us free to experiment.

Believing in the Right to Build somehow gave our aspiration life, and windows started opening. At this point we weren’t even sure if we could afford to do it, after all, can you build where you can’t afford to buy?

Peter (my architect husband) said there was a development rule of thumb: 1/3 for the land, 1/3 for the builder to build the house and 1/3 for the developer. We didn’t really know what was in the Developer’s 1/3, but knew that part of it must be wages, profit and fees, and we reckoned we could save on some of these.

But by how much remained elusive, for example, could the 33% be reduced to 13% and secure for us a house at 80% of market price? Probably not, and even 80% was beyond our budget!

We knew that most of what is referred to as ‘house prices’ is not about the house but about the land. So it can be argued that house price inflation in cities is actually the rise of land values over time.

Peter said that houses are like cars: they drop in value with age as they get closer to needing an MOT or the roof repaired. This is a simple and obvious truth once seen, but families miss this point, even while they feel the wrong of working hard and not being able to afford a house. Peter came across these ideas through an evening class called ‘Economics With Justice’.

The course puts forward the argument that society would be more equitable if inflated land values were retained for community uses. He wondered, could there also be a fix for the affordability problem in this? What if we didn’t actually have to buy the land?

Hearing about the Council’s duties under Right to Build had got us thinking about Council-owned land. Surely the Council must also be interested in answers to the affordability problem?

Here was the revolutionary idea– having found a Council plot, could we persuade the Council NOT to sell it to us?

As previously explained, It had been difficult getting to meet the Enfield Development Manager in the first place, and getting a post-meeting response was not much easier.

I eventually secured one by copying in our local MP, and when it came it was a full and considered response. It included the contact for the Right to Build in the Housing Team, an acknowledgement of the Council’s duty under the Right to Build Act and the information that 210 ‘interested parties’ had signed up to Enfield’s Right to Build register (at April 2017).

It was difficult trying to establish the right person to talk to about a plot, as it turns out that Housing, Property and Planning are all separate departments, something I had not realised. And naturally, they don’t necessarily talk to each other!

I thus went from a contact in Planning to a Housing contact to a Property contact (none of whom had a brief on the Right to Build) until I was finally given the email of someone with the title of Property Disposal Manager. I had finally got to a contact for someone who would be able to talk to me about the plot. It had taken a while and in the meantime another possibility emerged.

Another window opens

Every so often I go to the local church toddler group, and sitting round the table with my youngest on my lap the conversation turned to our housing situation. I’d plucked up the courage to discuss our hope of building, even though I was a bit nervous about discussing looking for land in London, as it seemed so unrealistic. But to my surprise the vicar’s wife said: “They are selling the land at the bottom of our garden – the Diocese have been talking about it for years”.

I went home and looked up the plot, and whether it was coincidence or fate, the garden plot backed directly onto the Council plot I had already been looking at.

So there was another Development Manager to talk to – this one for the Diocese of London. I emailed and asked about the plot and got an immediate reply. His reply was gracious.

They were indeed looking to sell the plot at some point although they were also trying to acquire the Council plot and they were obliged by Charity Commission rules to get best value. We now had two plots of interest and two public service mission landowners who might be willing to not sell to us.

We had made contact with the two property departments, although we didn’t want to tell them we were actually hoping not to buy; they wanted to talk to buyers!

We wanted to engage with them, and at the same time find out who might have the political mission to think about the wider issues around society and the affordability question.

Find your self and custom build register on the Right to Build Portal.

Read Part one of the Self Build Family Build Blog.

Photo: printed with permission of Fiona Hanson 2020©

Advice for self builders during Coronavirus

CORONA

With the constantly evolving situation around Coronavirus it is important that any self builders working on site are fully aware of the latest advice and guidance. Always check for the latest updates and be sure that you are safe and compliant. Also check the situation for your country:

England

Wales 

Northern Ireland

Scotland and specific Scottish Construction Advice

Ireland

Some of the effects of the Covid-19 crisis are having being felt now, and some will only start to impact as time passes and we return to work. The following are some ideas for how the crisis could impact your build, and what you can do now to be using your time proactively.

Homebuilding & Renovating has a useful rolling guide: Building As Usual, that’s also a great source of information about self building during the crisis. Build It has also got a regularly updated web page that has a handy guide to builders merchants that are operating currently.

Keep planning

Evidence from the 2008 crash showed that self builders returned to the market ahead of the large schemes, so it is worth keeping planning your project. At the end of the stay-at-home measures the country will need to get back to work as quickly as possible to restart the economy, and self build can help do this.

However, check that all the businesses you planned to use are still functioning, and that or any orders that you placed are still on track – and by when – as disruption to supply chains, staffing and so on can have a knock-on affect.

Stay safe on site

The priority for any build is to keep it progressing safely – so always follow regular site safety and social distancing measures that look like they will be good practice for a long while yet.

There is lots of guidance on keeping trades workers separate, staggering breaks and having multiple toilet or kitchen facilities if possible. Stay up to date with recommendations from professional sources, which will set the boundaries for small site working, too. Try Gov.uk, BuildUK or Construction Leadership Council for sound advice.

Set out in advance how this will work in practice on your site, to enable you to manage jobs that require a team of people to be able to work safely.

Chris Whitty, the government’s chief scientific adviser, warned that the social distancing could remain in place in some instances until the end of the year, so consider how you can keep your site operational and safe when planning all your work.

Construction sites in England and Wales have not been required to close, although Scotland did close sites, and anyone on site must be able to meet Public Health guidance, including for travel arrangements. At the end of April, the major English house builders are starting a phased return to site.

Meeting the 2m safety requirement may be quite manageable on a self build, especially depending on the work, and many self builders may be working solo on site. If you are working alone on site make sure you are safe, using proper safety equipment and practices, and that someone knows you are on site. Ideally keep you phone on you, too, in case of a fall or trip.

The Federation of Master Builder’s  has a useful general page with links for help and advice.

Be aware that cyber criminals will be taking advantage of people’s concerns during this time, so make sure you protect yourself from phishing and spam calls. Check out the FMB’s guide to protecting yourself, here.

Stay up to date

The Self Build Portal has consumer updates for self builders, while NaCSBA has updates for professionals that might be equally useful. These signpost you to other sites and bodies that are useful sources of help and advice, such as the Structural Timber Association and Federation of Master Builders.

Planning

Planning has deadlines when permissions must be actioned – typically three years from granting for the start of work, although NaCSBA and other bodies are lobbying for these to be extended. If you are delaying your start, check your permission, and get in contact with the planning office if you think it will cause an issue. Most planning offices are still operating, but remotely, and mostly be email.

Be aware that if you are applying for exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy then this comes with strict definitions of what starting on site involves, and you must apply for exemption before you start work – so don’t get caught out.

Mortgage finance

There is plenty of lending still available for self building, but the lending conditions may have changed, such as a mortgage being lent against the value of your furlough income, rather than your pre-corona income. But there are plenty of lenders still operating – make contact with a lender, broker or financial specialist with experience of self build, such as Build Loan, Mary Riley Solutions or other specialists facilitators if you are considering a self-build / custom build / stage release mortgage.

For those with a mortgage, many self build mortgage release funds at stages, and these stage payments are still being released by most lenders. Self builders may want to get evidence of work either via Warranty Certificates or Architects Reports, where possible with photos, to ensure the process runs smoothly – get in touch directly with your provider them to check what is needed.

With regards to other products, check with your provider if you have any concerns in advance. However applications are slowing as these are dependent on valuers, so keep an eye on the situation of who is, and isn’t, working and able to visit sites, as per government guidance.

Insurances

If you are in England and Wales and planning on working on site, make sure that your insurances still cover you and the site by checking with your provider if possible. Many site insurance products have a cessation clause, typically that involve a site not having been worked on in the last 60 days, for example. Providers are reviewing the processes around such clauses, so ensure you check if you are planning to cease work on site to see how you are affected.

Site security

You are responsible for ensuring your site is secure and safe, both for visitors, workers and for wider public indemnity. If you are closing your site make sure the perimeter is secure from theft and vandalism, and that any tools and equipment is secured safely on site, or removed where possible. The National Business Crime Centre has some good advice – and while it is designed for larger sites, many of the principles equally apply to smaller sites. Or read Self Build Zone’s advice on Homebuilding & Renovating’s website.

Materials and tools can be a target for theft or damage, so ensure you are protecting your investment. Check out the FMB’s video for preventing tool theft.

Scheduling

A good project manager knows the value of scheduling, as each trade on site is reliant on the previous one completing, and that materials are on site when needed. For example, you can’t tile a bathroom if the tiler is on site, but the tiles are not. In response to corona consider alternative jobs that can be done should one trade not be able to show up.

This also applies to equipment – so if you are planning to buy or hire plant and tools check well in advance that it is available and ready for trades when they need it.

This might mean you have to get creative and do non-essential jobs you are able to do rather than the most pressing jobs that you can’t right now, such as pre-staining or painting timber ready for use, if you have the materials on hand.

Materials

Linked to scheduling, ensuring you have the materials you need, when you need them is crucial to workflow. Consider alternative materials in case your preferred choice is unavailable, or consider buying in advance. After 2008 a brick shortage had a knock on effect of many sites, so prepare to be flexible. Be aware that if your planning permission specifies a material, such as a brick type and colour, you will not be able to make a change without amending your permission.

Materials, fixtures and fittings are valuable – if you are buying in advance make sure they can be stored safely and securely and are accessible for when you need them, where they can’t get damaged. Check your insurance is in place, and whether it stipulates any conditions for storing on site.

Stalled work

If works stops on the main build is there other work you could be doing that will keep things ticking over? This could be landscaping – where practical, fencing or be more home based, such as ensuring your filing is up to date for your VAT claim, researching materials online or sourcing second items, such as kitchens, on Ebay to save money.

If you are halting work on your site, ensure you site is safe and that the work done so far is secure. As well as a requirement on your insurance, you’ll want to ensure that the weather doesn’t do any damage from storms etc. Also, check whether your insurance as a ‘Cessation Clause’ which could invalidate it if work delays beyond a set number of months. Insurers are aware of this issue, but it is always worth checking.

Firms still working

Many companies are still operating, albeit on a limited basis. Architects and package companies , such as Potton, are often able to do online consultations, and still be able to do work on planning your project, design and pricing work.

So just because you can’t physically visit them, it doesn’t mean you can’t still achieve some of your goals.

Budgeting

If you’ve dipped into savings – or think you might have to – or taken a reduced salary, consider where cost savings can be made on your project. If you’re at the design stage this is easy, as you can scale down your plans and still create a fantastic home. If you are building already, consider other ways of bringing costs down.

This could involve not finishing some rooms beyond second fix, such as mothballing extra bathrooms or not fitting out loft rooms. However, check what’s allowable, as your home needs to be habitable and safe, so make sure all work complies with Building Regulations and doesn’t invalidate any insurances or completion warranties.

You can save money by delaying finishings, such as carpets or painting, or downgrading the spec of materials, fixtures and fittings – which can easily be upgraded further down the line if you wish.

Using your time well

If you have decided to halt your site, you can still plan for the work yet to be done. Planning and budgeting is never time misspent, especially if you can reach decisions in advance.

Every self builder worth their salt will have visited a self build show for ideas and advice, and for now this is no longer an option. But the self build magazines all have websites packed with help and case studies, and there’s lots of other places to get inspiration.

Search #selfbuild on pinterest, Instagram or twitter and find out what other people are doing, and keep an eye out for the new crop of webinars and online sessions for self builders. For example, Potton and the National Self Build and Renovation Centre are both hosting online training sessions.

For a hand personal take on working on site, read self build specialist Mike Hardwick’s blog on the National Self Build and Renovation Centre’s website.

Self builders exempt from planned new Homes Ombudsman scheme

new build homes

The Government recently announced it would be creating a new Homes Ombudsman that requires all developers to be party to the scheme, giving a route to redress for home buyers should their new property fall short of expectations of feature shoddy work. The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) fed into the consultation back in August 2019 to press the case for self builders.

In line with NaCSBA’s submission, the consultation confirmed that the scope of the New Homes Ombudsman will not include self-builders “unless they plan to sell the property to someone else within a set period”.

NaCSBA is supportive of this approach, but confirms that the ‘period’ referred to will need qualifying. Self building with the intent to sell has other consequences, such as the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) exemption, and puts self build in to a separate category, making it more akin to speculative building.

The confirmation is helpful, as a self build typically involves large numbers of suppliers of services, skills and resources, and the co-ordination of these elements into a new home, which makes them a poor fit for the Ombudsman scheme.

NaCSBA recommends self builders choose from its members when sourcing contractors and businesses for work, as its own Code of Practice offers a route to dispute resolution should a consumer have issues with a contractor. All NaCSBA members (apart form Not for Profit members, such as councils) must sign up to the scheme as a condition of membership. Equally, self builders should look out for members of other trade associations, such as the Federation of Master Builders or the Structural Timber Association also offers surety that firms are reputable operators in the self build sector.

Custom build grey area

While the exemption for self build is clear, the situation around custom build homes needs further clarification. NaCSBA highlighted this in its response to the consultation, where it concluded that, given the relative scale of the sector and the challenges of separating self-build and custom build, the best approach was to use the current legal definition. This covers both self and custom build and, on this basis, custom build should also be exempt.

NaCSBA will be seeking clarity around this, as it is unclear where the options for some custom build schemes, as each one is slightly different.

The new Homes Ombudsman will be able to hold developers to account and require them to put matters right in the case of a complaint, and it can even prevent developers from trading in the future if they fail to meet the expected standards.

Find out more about custom and self build here.

Is your self build home a Home of the Year winner?

HB&R winners 2019

The Daily Telegraph Homebuilding & Renovating Awards 2020 are now open to applications from all self builds, renovations, conversions or extensions. The awards celebrate some of the best homes of the last year, both designs and the spirit and ambition of the homeowners – a positive message in the current climate of bad news.

So if you’re self isolating in your new home, why not take the time to enter the awards and showcase all your hard work! There are 10 categories to consider, with one of the winners being chosen as the Home of the Year, as shown on TV, with the homeowner grabbing a prize of £1,000 of John Lewis vouchers.

Best Contemporary-Style Self Build — sponsored by Potton

Best Traditional-Style Self Build

Best Extension — sponsored by IDSystems

Best Renovation

Best Conversion

Best Sustainable Home — sponsored by Icynene

Best Value Home 

Spirit of Self Build — sponsored by Sips Eco

Readers’ Choice Award — sponsored by Selfbuild & Contract Floors

Best Interior

Plus Home of the Future — sponsored by ecoHaus

Find out more and what you need to do to enter, including the application form on Homebuilding & Renovating’s website.

 

Credit: Homebuilding & Renovating/Simon Maxwell

Self Build Blog, part 2: building for a family of 8 that can’t afford to buy!

We’re following the story of Anne, mother of six boys who is building a home for her family and one for the grandparents on the same site. They used the Right to Build to help them escape the private rental sector. We pick up from Anne’s decision to contemplate the possibility of building her own home.

Anne's family

Part 2: Looking for Land in London!?

Having decided to research the possibility of using the Right to Build as a route to solving our housing needs (read Part 1, here), I enlisted some help to find out more.

David Burrowes, my local MP, said he did not know a lot about the Right to Build legislation but would try to find out how it could be effective. He believed the local authority would be unlikely to want to help and would want to sell any Council land at the highest price for maximum profit. However he gave me the contact details of Enfield’s Head of Development Management – their chief planning officer – 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 and checking them out at the Land Registry. If you have an address this is simple to do online and costs only £3 per result.*

One plot that was of interest turned out to be made up of two triangles one private and the other Council owned. We also Googled “land owned by Enfield Council” and surprisingly they provide a full list. It had 2,300 lines and in a tiny entry amongst playgrounds, schools and car parks we found a couple of corner plots listed as “vacant land”, so it was time to talk to the council.

Since 2015 the government obliged local authorities to publish this information and introduced a ‘Right to Contest’.  They estimate that 40% of developable land is in public hands and if you think that any piece could be put to more productive use you can challenge them to sell.

Persistence pays

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. I resolved to make each call as if it were the first time 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. Who knew that there was Planning, Property, and Housing departments and you would have to trek from one to the next!

Meeting the Self Build community

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 at Birmingham in March 2017 and he suggested we go. 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 him later 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 and 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!

Anne will be sharing regular updates on her journey to build her family a home.

Find your self and custom build register on the Right to Build Portal. 

*It’s hit and miss. Land is only registered if it has changed hands in the last 20 years and finding a piece that may not have a straightforward address – like a patch of land between two houses or a bit of private road – is more difficult. Also beware! If you Google “land registry” half of the sites are ‘services’ simply reselling land registry search at inflated prices. I paid £12 the first time before discovering this!