Thursday, March 3, 2016

Custom building - and a back door to co-housing

The Government is keen to see the level of self/custom building increased from about 8% of housing supply to something approaching 20% that will still be among the lowest in the world.  A substantial contribution from this sector is need if the 1m new dwellings by 2020 promised by the Government in 2015 is to be achieved.

All local planning authorities (LPAs) are being required to have registers available by 1 April 2016 for those wanting to self or custom build.  This under the 2105 Self Building Act and the Registers might have to change when the Housing and planning Bill passes into law as it is likely to include the scope of associations to register their interest to include those wanting to co-house.

There will then be a requirement for LPAs to provide the land on which the demand shown in the registers can be expressed. The target is for 50% to be met in three years and 100% within five.  I take this to be a rolling horizon so that people can expect to be on the registers for between 1 and 5 years with an average of 3?  There is nothing to stop people  registering in different local authority areas although councils might give priority to those with local connections.  If councils fail to provide suitable land/serviced sites the remedy would seem to be that those on the registers could try to self provide and use the council's failure as an argument at appeal in a similar way to the argument used by volume builders that there isn't a five year housing land supply.  This would be in addition to political pressure being applied through councilors, parish councils, members of parliament and the media.

In many parts of the country it is highly unlikely that the registered demand will be met without reserving sites on large allocated and permitted sites.  Logically 20% of such sites should be reserved for self/custom builders to move towards the Government's target.  However the Department of Communities and Local Government seems to think that 'requiring' this approach would be contrary to the spirit of localism and should emerge from the duty placed on councils to find effective ways to meet the registered demand.  If this approach is not adopted then self/custom build sites might be additional to the Local Plan allocation or contribute to the windfall 'allowance'. Such sites should still be in suitable and sustainable locations. 

We should be queuing at planning offices on 1 April (if not before) with our pens set to express our demand as individuals or associations of individuals for opportunities to create our own homes.  This is also appears to be the only way that co-housing will be privileged through the planning system even if some co-housers see themselves as commissioners of custom built dwellings rather than builders.

And a committee of the House of Lords has recommended that the Government reinstate a Code for Sustainable Homes and the Zero Carbon Homes target.


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