Custom and Self-Build Housing

What Impact Will There Be?

At the time of writing, the holiday season is coming to an end but Parliament has yet to return from the Summer recess.

There is much anticipation over promised planning consultations and advice on matters ranging from calculation of housing requirements, housing delivery test, increase in planning application fees and permission in principle. 

However one area which has made fewer waves is custom and self-build housing.

The Government has set up a Right to Build Task Force to support custom and self-build delivery in the UK.  This initiative has a number of aims including broadening  choice in the housing market as part of the wider intention to diversify and encouraging small and medium-sized enterprises in the market.

Chapter 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 covers relevant changes to the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015.

The 2015 Act places a duty on local authorities to keep a register of interest from parties wanting to acquire serviced plots of land for self-build and custom housebuilding. This duty extends to a requirement on authorities to take these registers into account when carrying out planning and other functions.

This has already made its way into development plan policy at the local planning authority level in some locations with a requirement on some sites – albeit typically major or strategic in scale – to provide several plots for this section of the market.

There are the usual teething problems starting with a relatively low level of understanding of the difference between custom-build and self-build and lack of robust evidence on demand.  Much more work is required from local authorities to maintain and keep relevant the register of interest, as this should form the basis for discussions on planning applications and preparation of development plans.

Research undertaken by the National Custom and Self-Build Association has highlighted access to land as being the biggest barrier to delivery, followed some-way behind by the ability to obtain planning permission and securing finance.

There are practical issues presented for the larger house builders faced with a planning requirement to provide plots for this section of the market but these are not insurmountable. The traditional image of a ‘hammer and nails’ self-builder can bring-on nightmares for the larger construction companies, but the more delivery-friendly custom-build gives less concern.

Delivery challenges include estimating demand, site locational considerations and managing the site build-out.

There are examples of both types of housing on plots on sites being delivered by Plc housebuilders through to registered providers in locations from Kent up to Northumberland and ranging from ten to more than 50 plots.  These inform practice going forward so that the industry and advisers can learn directly from experience 

It is doubtful that any meaningful impact will be made on choice in the housing market because of custom and self-build housing, but given the legislative back-up, this type of build will increasingly become a requirement through the planning system.


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