Tuesday, October 28, 2014

A rght to self/custom - build?

On 24 October 2014 the Government published the consultation Right to Build: supporting custom and self-build https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/366722/141023_Right_to_Build_Consultation_FINAL.pdf with a closing date of 18 December 2014.

This consultation is on top of several financial incentives (many to group self-builders) and the private member's bill to make it a statutory requirement for planning authorities to keep registers of potential self-builders.

When preparing a response it seems that the Government is shy of the obvious mechanism of increasing supply of self/custom-build plots which is to require a (say) 20% of all larger sites to be reserved for those purposes. 20% is more than the 10% of all new dwellings which is the recent trend seen as inadequate to meet either the demand (eg 145 from 900 households in my village) or the need to build more dwellings without relying on the large volume builders.  In fact the paper does refer to the Teignbridge Plan that requires 5% of plots on large sites to be reserved for these purposes.  This might create some supply but below trend.  The prospect of Councils finding land to meet the 'right' implied by having a name included on a register seems to be unrealistic.  And what would be the legalistic nightmare of a Council's failure to satisfy that right?

As so often a better response can be found in policy and not in law.  The Paper says that the supply should be in accordance with the planning system that implies that supportive policies and proposals should be included in the hundreds of neighbourhood development plans and local plans in preparation.  Changes in legislation will not be made until the next Government in 2015 when many development plans will have taken further steps towards adoption.  There seems to be no reason why all such plans could  not require 20% of plots on sites of 5 dwellings and over to be reserved for sel/custom-building - both to be carefully defined in the plan.  If there are no takers from the registers then the developer would be free to finish these plots.  These larger sites are much more likely to be on land that it is appropriate/sustainable to develop than for Councils to find what might be "exception sites" that are unsuitable for housing.

The Paper makes no reference to the need for these self-custom-built homes to be sustainable and to be zero-carbon.  The general need for two bedroomed south facing terraced housing might not be easy to reconcile with a self-build community used to building four bedroomed detached homes.  There is also an interesting question of whether models of self/custom-building can meet the need for downsizers.  It would be fantastic if the capital from downsizers could be added to the energy and skills of those after their first (small) that could be built for rent (but with staircasing options.  The Paper discusses the role of Community Land Trusts (and Housing Associations) as assisting with the provision of self/custom-built housing for affordable rent and CLTs might provide the platform for these partnerships.  It would be too much to hope for to find a reference to co-housing as an ideal way of joining these interests - and possibility of building themselves a commonhouse and other shared facilities.

Good marks to the Government for picking up on this issue but I hope that respondents will explain that models should include enabling policies in development plans that describe how self/custom-building should be zero carbon, 'affordable' in terms of the required quota and should be part of the phased development of all sites of five or over (less than 20% would be lower than the current trend). No change of the law is required if Councils accept the benefits of this kind of houising and recognise these in development plans.


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