Self-Build Round-Up Industry News

3 April 2018 Michael Holmes, NaCSBA
Michael Holmes 2017

Ask anyone who has built their own home and they will tell you that there are few things in life more satisfying or rewarding, so it’s perhaps no surprise that self-build is an ambition shared by over half of the UK’s adult population.

Yet despite this enormous level of interest inspired by TV shows, magazines, exhibitions and places like Potton’s Show Centre, fewer than 7% of new homes in the UK are designed, built or commissioned by the people who will live in them. This is well below the average of 39% across the developed world, where self-build is well established as a mainstream housing choice.

So why is it that the UK, so often ahead of the game in terms of innovation and creativity, is the outlier when it comes to something as intrinsically simple as offering choice when it comes to buying a home? The answer, as quickly discovered by the million or so people who each year set out with ambitions to self-build, is a lack of serviced plots with planning permission.

Affordable building plots for sale in places people want to live, are few and far between thanks to a planning system designed to prioritise the delivery of large scale housing estates. This plays out in a number of ways:

Most of the 13,000 people who built their own home in 2016 did so by buying and replacing an existing house.
Many of those who couldn’t find land bought a project instead, turning a small, run-down house in a good location into the home of their dreams through extension and renovation.

Neither outcome does much to alleviate the nation’s shortage of affordable homes by adding to the net housing stock. It also means that in most parts of the country, you have to be pretty well-off to be able to afford to build your own home: as you can see from research by Homebuilding & Renovating magazine here, ‘Self Build in Numbers’ the typical self builder is currently a wealthy couple, aged in their early fifties.

Right to Build Legislation

Thanks to the work of the National Custom and Self Build Association of which Potton is a founder member, there is some good news in all of this – Government in England, Scotland and Wales have all realised that relying entirely upon the private sector to supply enough new homes to meet demand and keep house prices affordable, is never going to work.

There is too little competition and too little supply to ever drive down prices, or drive up quality.

The Government’s response to this broken market it to encourage alternatives, and this includes creating more opportunities for people to build their own home both through self build, and through custom build for those who want individual design would prefer to leave the build side to a developer.

The Government in England has led the way on this, with its landmark Right to Build legislation that requires all local authorities to keep a register of individuals and groups of individuals who want to build their own home, and a legal duty to grant planning permission for sufficient serviced plots to meet that demand.

To find your council’s register, visit www.RightToBuildPortal.org where you can also find out how many others have signed up. For details of all of the plots available for sale in your area visit plotfinder.net

Providing enough people sign up to the registers, councils will be forced to identify small sites and either create and sell-off plots themselves, or work with developers, landowners, housing associations and others to bring serviced plots to market.
Since its launch on April 1st, 2016, nearly 35,000 people have signed up to the Right to Build Registers and now local authorities have three years to grant enough permissions to meet this demand and this number will grow as more people register.
The result is a 32% increase in the number of individual plots granted planning permission across the UK, to 20,000, in the 12 months to October 31st, 2017. There are also many more plots being permissioned on larger custom build sites, such as the 1,900 plot site at Graven Hill, near Bicester, Oxfordshire.

There is a parallel desire to create more opportunities for people to build their own home in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. Together with NaCSBA’s work to ensure mortgages are available without the need for a huge deposit, we finally really are on the way to making self build an option for the many and not just the few.

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