Friday, January 30, 2015

Policies to privilege self-building and co-housing

I would not pretend to be an expert in the drafting of development plan policies but I have spent a career in applying policies and interpreting them as an expert planning witness  in the context of public inquiries.  The following was written in response to a request from a Neighbourhood Forum wanting to promote self-building and co-housing.  The former is receiving Government support and has many synergies with the latter and, incidentally,  with Community Land Trusts.

"Self/group-building and cohousing

The NDP recognises the important advantages that can arise from self/group-building and cohousing, particularly in terms of their sustainability; affordability, environmental  and social benefits. The 'golden thread' of sustainable development should run through the NDP, and co--housing and self/group building exemplify important elements of sustainability such that, in contrast to other forms of housing, either or a combination of the two would benefit from the ‘presumption’ in the Framework in favour of sustainable development. Experience shows that self/group building and cohousing are unlikely to occur within the Neighbourhood Plan Area without positive support and privileging.

1.         The Neighbourhood Forum will keep registers of those interested in self/group building and co-housing. Details in the register will include the nature of the household, the interest in renting or buying, the timescale of any prospective move, and the skills and time resources available to be applied to the project.

2.         On all sites suitable for 5 or more dwellings, 20% of the land shall be  reserved and made available to those wanting to self/group build.

3.         On all sites suitable for 20 or more dwellings, a suitable area of the site for  at least that number of units shall be reserved and made available to those wanting to  co-house.

4.         The area being used for co-housing and/or self/group building shall, subject to the resources being invested (see para xx below) be counted as part of the affordable housing quota required by the NDP/Local Plan.

For the application of the above policies reference to “suitable" shall mean that the site could, at 30 dwellings per hectare, accommodate the number of units indicated. Reference to “reserved and made available" shall mean that those wanting to self/group-build and/or co-house (whether or not on the Registers being kept by the Neighbourhood Forum), shall be given the opportunity to express and confirm their interest. The value of the relevant land and the nature of the interest shall, in cases of dispute, be subject to expert arbitration (e.g. RICS appointee). The period of the “reservation" will depend on the size of the site but, in no case will it be less than a period of 6 months  from the grant of outline or full permission, during which general purpose housing on that part of the site will not be allowed to commence.  In the case of a full permission there might well be a need for a further application (to be made at the expense of those wishing to self/group build and/or co-house).

In cases of self/group building the value of the work being provided by the builder/occupier or group will be assessed. If this amounts to more than (say) 50% these units shall qualify for part of the affordable housing quota required in accordance with the NDP/Local Plan."

I see that the original note made no mention of the unsustainable level of under-occupation (the subject of the previous post) that could be addressed through co-housing.

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