Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Reviewing the Bacon Review

The review of custom and self-building (CSB) carried out for the PM by Richard Bacon MP has just been published.   After 100 pages it recommends Homes England be given a greater role, more publicity including CSB show parks,  support for community-led housing, realizing potential of MMC, getting  support from the new planning framework and Act and ironing out creases with the tax regime.  Not much to object to but why does it take 5 years to expose the abject failure to implement the 2016 Housing and Planning Act? 

 Unfortunately Richard Bacon blames a conspiracy between the volume builders and the planners instead of the real culprit being the Government and the Secretary of State who cannot face the fact that the planning system could and still can get this show on the road.  The slagging off of the existing planning system and the support for Planning for the Future (by Mr Bacon, a Tory MP) fails to identify the main reason why the planners are such an easy target; the contradictory and/or inadequate advice provided by governments (eg Secs of State) who fail to or are ideologically opposed to understanding the potential of relying More on regulations.

If LPAs had been properly equipped with strong and consistent advice on CSB since 2016 the last 5 years and counting would not have been wasted, nor would this report or speculative recommendations be needed.  Even now, a clearly worded Written Ministerial Statement from Mr Jenrick (now Mr Gove) could have immediate benefits. 

 A minority of the public say that they would choose a new home but, I am afraid to say, about 80% of those that do, claim that they are happy with their choice.

The economic consultants to the report  concede that the energy efficiency standards of new building will improve so that the differential between the volume builder and the self/custom builder will narrow. In fact the gap must close to a net zero standard of construction and operational carbon if carbon reduction budgets are to be met. It seems unlikely that the recommendations will result in CSB becoming  any less  focused on detached houses and enabled to promote terraced houses and apartments that will required for new housing to meet carbon reduction budgets.   There is no mention of the imperative to "retrofit first". The Department of Leveling -up, Housing and Communities decline to say whether the new Help to Build Fund will be available to those wanting to sub-divide existing properties?

The need for residential sub-divisions, so that the insulation and heating of about 50% of our residential space and fabric is not wasted, is not mentioned. It would have been really interesting to see an economic analysis (inc social welfare) of custom-splitting.

It is hard not to see Richard Bacon as part of the failure to deliver on the 2016 Act and his criticism of the planning system suggest a significant lack of understanding of how it could and should be enabled to deal with this and other aspects of meeting housing needs.  My advice is to take some of the data from the report to persuade your LPA that it should be supporting CSB, but in the form of residential sub-divisions and custom-splitting. Given the climate emergency I am not inclined to be supporting hundreds of thousands of new builds however delivered.

1 comment:

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