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  • Nicky Frost

Does Right to Build support the Self-Build Market?

The Right to Build, launched in 2016, is a piece of legislation that supports those who want to build their own homes, helping people get onto the housing ladder and create an individual home. Prospective self-builders are asked to log their desire to build their own home with their local authority via the Right to Build Register.

What does this all mean for the likes of self-builders? Fundamentally, you're now in a position where you can ask your local authorities to look to make viable plots available to you. This should lead to serviced sites with genuine planning permission coming through to match the level of demand indicated on each council’s register.

If there are enough sign-ups, it could also boost the general appetite for self and custom build among decision-makers, and encourage them to grant planning consent for more bespoke schemes – not just those that are enabled through the Right to Build.

All councils now hold statutory self-build demand registers, with over 50,000 people having joined so far. Many are introducing initiatives through local plans, proposals for garden communities or directly by releasing land for plots.

Many councils said they need more help to deliver their ambitions, and in 2017 the Right to Build Task Force was established to offer support and advice.

The case for custom and self-build

Based on recent research, 1 in 3 people across the UK are interested in commissioning or building a home for themselves. If this demand were unlocked it could permanently increase housebuilding.

Not only more homes, but higher quality developments, compatible with Modern Methods of Construction, more energy-efficient and with design reflecting the preferences and needs of different individuals and communities. There are other benefits too, as custom and self-build often draws on the services of local SME builders and those who live in custom and self-build homes generally stay in them longer, creating more cohesive communities.

Funding and governance

Although founded by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA), the Right to Build Task Force operates independently, with an ethical wall between the two organisations.

“Good local authorities are ensuring the land is available for self and custom builder: some are freeing up council land, acquiring sites for self builders, working with developers to ensure a percentage of their large sites are available, or working with housing authorities,” stated Michael Holmes, chair of NaCSBA. We are pleased with this progress, but it is still massively underestimating the level of demand.”

Through FoI requests in 2019, NaCSBA established that only 45% of England’s local authorities believe they have met their duties under the legislation. While 37% failed to provide any response to NaCSBA, and 18% accepted that their obligations had not been met.

Furthermore, it's believed that around 8,000 names have been removed from the registers. Since April 2016, an estimated 55,000 people have signed up to Right to Build registers across England, but due to roughly 8,000 removals, the total currently sits at around 47,000.

Following Right to Build Day in 2020, NaCSBA confirmed it will be sending a Freedom of Information request to all English authorities to track their activity, and will report its findings in early 2021.

A series of measures announced in the Comprehensive Spending Review by Rishi Sunak looks set to transform custom and self build in 2021, with a new Help to Build planned to support more people to build more sustainable and more beautiful homes.

The Creview includes two significant announcements for the sector (para 6.59):

  • £2.2 billion of new loan finance to support house builders, which includes delivering a new Help to Build scheme for custom and self builders, as well as funding for SME housebuilders and Modern Methods of Construction.

  • £100 million of funding to support, among other things, the release of public sector land, including for serviced plots for self and custom builders.


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