Malvern timber clad house from Grand Designs

Is Right to Build delivering enough plots?

Richard Bacon MP highlights the need for local councils to deliver more plots

By Jenny Mcfarlane | 21 October 2019

An imminent deadline will be a valuable opportunity to test how well councils are complying with the new Right to Build act.

October represents a significant watershed for self and custom-build: on the 30th, it’s Right to Build Day, the first deadline for councils to have met their development permission targets under the new Right to Build legislation. This will test how well councils have complied with the Self-Build and Custom

Housebuilding Act 2015, revealing which are meeting the needs of local residents who want to build their own home, and which could do better.

Malvern timber clad self build home as featured on grand designs tv show on Channel 4 and hosted by Kevin McCloud

This hillside plot in Malvern was not without its problems for Grand Designers Jon and Gill Flewers. Photo: Chris Tubbs

Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk and ambassador for the Right to Build Task Force, has the following to say:

“It’s a personal milestone for me, as I was responsible for the bill that led to the law. My plan was to help more  people fulfil their dream of building their own house by requiring all English local authorities to keep a register of anyone interested in self-building locally. Under the act, councils have a duty to grant enough suitable planning permissions to meet demand. The more people on the register, the greater the legal obligation for the council to provide    more planning permissions. It doesn’t mean, however, that councils have to create plots themselves, rather that they must ensure that enough plots are coming through the system from a variety of sources.

“Northern Ireland is already way ahead on this; Scotland and Wales have been watching the progress in England while they work out how their own devolved governments can meet the demand for self-build.

“The registers work on a base period of three years, and the first period comes to a close on 30th October. By this date, councils should have granted as many permissions as there were people on the register between 31st October 2016, when the legislation went live, and 30th October 2017. From then on they will be required to meet yearly targets, so by the end of October 2020, there should have been as many permissions as people on the register from 2016-17.

Building near trees: This horseshoe-shaped self-build in rural Suffolk is arranged around an oak tree

This horseshoe-shaped self-build in rural Suffolk is arranged around an oak tree. Photo: Jefferson Smith

“At last count, the National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) calculated that there were some 40,000 people on these registers, all eager to source a plot. By the end of the first base period, around 18,000 plots should have been given permission, reflecting demand registered in the first year of the legislation.

“We know the legislation is not perfect – none is – and if you are actively looking for a plot it may feel that little is happening locally. However, NaCSBA will be paying close attention to the results and will continue to monitor the progress and campaign to make sure that all planning authorities are meeting this challenge.

“We know custom and self-build helps create a dynamic housing market with more choice for people – and that it also creates extra houses that big house-builders probably wouldn’t otherwise be making, as well as boosting the local economy by using local contractors and traders. I regularly urge ministers to go further; they know that we need many more individual houses to be built if the Government is going to meet its own targets.

“Time will tell how many plots the legislation helps bring forward, but it has already put custom and self-build firmly on every English council’s agenda, regardless of how they decide to fulfil their duties.”

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