Customising our future homes: the quiet revolution of the self / custom-build sector

24 Jul 19 | James Bompas

Custom and self-build decisions have at long last started to emerge across the UK, albeit it still feels like too many are being made by the Planning Inspectorate rather than Local Planning Authorities. Notwithstanding the sluggish rate of approvals, the output is positive, with custom build schemes providing a greater choice and mix of homes; a higher take-up rate of sustainable technology; and a more affordable housing product that is often future-proofed.

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There were 7,184 construction businesses that were a casualty of the 2008 recession. In 2011, the government attempted to reverse this trend by introducing policy that promised 100,000 new homes over a ten-year period to be delivered, in the main, by SME builders. This equates to approximately 214 custom or self-build homes per local authority in England.

For those reading this in Scotland, the need is just as evident. Historically, self and custom build homes have not been major contributors to the housing supply in Scotland, however, self and custom builds are increasingly being seen as a way for Scotland to meet its target of building 50,000 affordable homes by 2021. Only last month, the new Planning (Scotland) Bill was passed which introduces a requirement for Local Planning Authorities to prepare and maintain a list of persons who have registered an interest in acquiring land for self-build housing, and the Local Planning Authority should have regard to this list when preparing and monitoring Local Development Plans.

This builds on previous efforts to stimulate this aspect of the housing market. In Autumn 2018, the Scottish Government announced a self-build loan fund of £4m (open until 31 August 2021) to support people who are interested in building their own homes.

Importantly, in England and Scotland, the onus is clearly on Councils to establish the demand for those people wishing to build their own home and prepare plans positively to respond to it. In October 2019, we will reach a watershed moment as Local Planning Authorities in England will need to have granted sufficient permissions to meet this demand identified on their registers.

Custom and self-build decisions have at long last started to emerge across the UK, albeit it still feels like too many are being made by the Planning Inspectorate rather than Local Planning Authorities. Notwithstanding the sluggish rate of approvals, the output is positive, with custom build schemes providing a greater choice and mix of homes; a higher take-up rate of sustainable technology; and a more affordable housing product that is often future-proofed. Moreover, on many custom build schemes we have worked on we have seen an entirely different attitude by “could be” NIMBYs – with many residents embracing these schemes and putting down deposits to secure a new home – becoming YIMBYs.

However, far too often, the hurdles placed in front of “would be” custom build developers relate to the provision of affordable housing; the legal drafting of planning obligations/planning conditions; and the Construction Management Plan. These are issues that Iceni Projects faced first-hand as planning witness on the first ever custom build planning inquiry in 2015, yet still remain the widespread source of delay.

With the 31 October 2019 deadline looming, are we now approaching the necessary trigger to kick start the custom and self-build housing sector in England?

James Bompas Director of Business Development,Planning

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