what is the right to build?
historically, the difficulty of finding a suitable plot of land has been one of the biggest hurdles to building your own home. the so called ‘right to build’ is changing this. two recent pieces of legislation have established a ‘right to build’ your own home in England (see lower down if you live in Wales, Scotland, or Northern Ireland). the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (which came into force in April 2016) placed a legal duty on all local authorities in England to keep a register of individuals and associations of individuals who are seeking to acquire serviced plots of land in the authority’s area in order to build houses for those individuals to occupy as homes. the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (which came into force in October 2016) reinforced the self build act by requiring local authorities to make “serviced plots” of land available to those who have expressed an interest in building their own homes within three years of the demand being registered.
the government defines “serviced plots” as plots of land that have access to a public highway and have connections for electricity, water and waste water, or can be provided with those things in specified circumstances or within a specified period. in other words, a serviced plot is a plot of land that is ready to build on. furthermore, serviced plots sold by or in association with local authorities typically come with outline planning consent. the largest example of such a development in the UK is at Graven Hill in Bicester (near Oxford) which has about 1900 plots. having received a local development order from the local council, Graven Hill offers serviced plots with plot passports setting out the details of the plot and various parameters agreed with the council for building on that plot. it is likely that this model (or similar) will be adopted by other local authorities elsewhere in the country.
self build registers
since the self build act 2015 came into force, the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has periodically issued freedom of information requests to all councils in England in order to take stock of registered demand. by the close of the first base period on October 31st October 2016 (the first six months) 18,000 people had already registered, by a year later the number was 33,000 and the most recent report is that 40,000 people have registered to date. If you have not yet signed up, why not register now? rather than searching for your local authority’s register directly, we recommend that you use the Right to Build Portal (operated by the NaCABA) as after you log in and enter your postcode, the portal displays the local authorities nearest to you and some useful information such as the number of people already on the register and the number of serviced plots already consented. doing this will give you a good idea how engaged your local authority is with respect to your right to build. the portal will also provide a link direct to your local authority’s self build registration page. note that you typically need to have a local connection (meaning that you live, work, or have some other connection to the area) in order to sign up to a local authority’s self build register.
right to build day
Right to Build Day on 30th October 2019, marks the date when all 336 planning authorities in England must demonstrate for the first time that they have complied with the legislation to deliver the 18,000 permission plots needed to match the number on their self build registers three years prior on 30th October 2016. thus, right to build day should bring to light the effectiveness of the right to build legislation to date.
in our estimation, the right to build legislation has the potential to:
- alleviates the problem of land availability as self build plots should become more easily obtainable.
- de-risk the planning process by bringing forth plots with outline planning.
- facilitate the creation of communities by grouping together those who aspire to build their own home – potentially opening up opportunities for collective custom build.
- reduce the cost of building in comparison to stand-alone builds due to the economies of scale brought about by the collective provision of utility services.
self build in Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland
since housing is devolved issue, the self build legislation brought in by the UK government applies only to England. the approaches taken by the devolved administrations differs.
- Wales – in January 2019 , the Welsh Government announced Self Build Wales, a new £210 million self build scheme that will see local authorities and housing associations bring forth serviced plots for self build. the scheme will offer loans to self builders for up to 75% of the plot cost and which will be repayment free until the new home is completed and mortgaged. a new Self Build Wales website, operated by the Development Back of Wales, will list the plot opportunities available. this initiative is the first significant step in making self build more accessible and viable in Wales.
- Scotland – back in 2011 , the Scottish Government published a policy paper entitled ‘Homes Fit for the 21st Century’ which promised a self build initiative for Scotland. The development of such an initiative though has been slow, apart from various pilot schemes operated by various local authorities such as Glasgow City Council and Highland Council. In September 2018, a new £4 million self build loan fund was launched offering loans of up to £175,000 to help with construction fees for self build projects – although this is only available to applicants who can prove that they are unable to access standard bank lending. Furthermore, the fund will only run for 3 years from 1st September 2018 to 31st August 2021.
- Northern Ireland – self build is somewhat of a cultural tradition in Northern Ireland, particularly in rural areas where there has historically been presumption in favour of building even in open countryside, with a peak of 7,000 permission for single new dwellings in 2003. as of 2006, more development controls have placed on rural regions with a view to protecting the character and openness of the countryside. this has reduced the amount of development, with approximately 1,075 self build completions in 2016. this is still equivalent to just over 16% of all new housing, meaning that Northern Ireland can boast the largest self build and custom housebuilding market in the UK relative to the size of the population. if this level of self build per capita were extrapolated to the whole of the UK, the sector would deliver over 37,000 new homes per year.