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The Self-Builders Guide: The Right to Build Scheme

As the UK housing crisis put mounting pressure on the government, the Right to Build scheme was unveiled as a way to alleviate the problem and encourage self-building last year.

But what is this legislation and how can those looking to undertake a self-build project take advantage?

A brief history

Self-building took a hit during the recession, with a mere 10,000 finished in 2014, compared with 17,000 in 2006 and with the country mired in an advancing housing crisis – it became clear that action needed to be taken to spur on self-build developments.

During the 2014 Budget, the coalition government announced Right to Build, billing the scheme as a way to help self-builders gain access to council land.

Unveiling the scheme, chancellor George Osborne warned that despite growing levels of house building, more needed to be done to tackle Britain's housing deficit.

To that end, he pledged £150 million of finance to launch the scheme, which would provide local communities with the means to undertake small-scale, site-specific developments.

While local authorities were already required to account for self-build in their planning policies, Right to Build allowed self-builders to launch official challenges for councils that failed in this provision, legally binding them to seek out and offer suitable plots.

In September 2014, eleven 'vanguard' councils were selected to access an initial pot of £555,000 to facilitate self-building, which were:

  • Cherwell District Council
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council
  • Teignbridge District Council
  • Shropshire Council
  • Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • West Lindsey District Council
  • Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities
  • Pendle Borough Council
  • Sheffield City Council
  • South Norfolk District Council
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council

In July that year, councils across the country were invited to express their interest in gaining 'vanguard' status with a view to extending Right to Build throughout the UK.

Community Right to Build

Right to Build shouldn't be confused with the Community Right to Build, which was launched as part of the Localism Act (2011).

This enables local groups to create community-led housing projects or reconstruct public buildings in their locality like community centres.

The legislation aimed to cut red-tape for group self-build projects, enabling community groups to side-step the typical planning process associated with such projects – instead applying for a Community Right to Build Order.

This works in a similar fashion to typical planning applications, with the application publicised and subject to consultation before being reviewed by the local planning authority.

If it's judged to be legally sound, the order is put to a local referendum and if more than 50 per cent of voters are in favour – the development gains planning permission.

Community Right to Build Orders can be produced in conjunction with Neighbourhood Plans, or as a completely separate endeavour.


Structural Defects Insurance

The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act (2015)

 Last year, the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act received Royal Assent, requiring councils to establish registers for groups and individuals who have expressed their interest in bringing forward self-build projects within their domain and account for this when developing housing initiatives and local plans.

"The aim of my Bill is help us reach the point where choosing to build your own home – or to have someone build a home for you that fully aligns with your personal choices as a customer – is a completely normal and routine part of the housing market,” said Richard Bacon MP, who first brought the bill forward.

Using Right to Build

If your council (or the council of the area you're looking to build in) is one of the Right to Build vanguards, they should have a section of their online planning portal that details the steps they've taken to meet their commitments.

These will typically include:

  • Assessing local demand for self-build projects
  • Providing support and information to prospective self-builders
  • Working to identify suitable sites for self-build in the locality
  • Listing partnerships or group projects that are currently being undertaken under Right to Build or the Community Right to Build.

In line with the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act, many non-vanguards have begun to launch custom build registers that allow those interested in purchasing a plot to register their interest and be contacted when suitable sites become available.

As these differ from authority to authority, it'll be necessary to research and if appropriate, consult directly with your local council to discover whether they've identified suitable plots and proceed with the purchase.


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