An amendment to the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 was proposed as part of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill. The proposed amendment will require local planning authorities to give sufficient permissions for self-build and custom housebuilding in order to meet the demand for these kinds of development.
What are self-build plots?
The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act provides the following legal definition, stating that a home is classed as a self-build:
‘where an individual, an association of individuals, or persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, build or complete houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals.’
In practice this may mean individuals being involved in the building or construction process from start to finish (self-build) or else making key design and layout decisions (custom-build). Either way, the initial owner will have primary input into its final design.
Why are they beneficial?
The primary benefit of a self-build plot is that they diversify the housing market. The custom nature of self-builds means that there is greater scope for innovation, unique design and construction choices, and the use of less common materials.
In an increasingly standardised housing market, self-builds increase consumer choice.
How does the legislation try to increase self-builds and what does ‘duty to grant planning permission mean’?
There is a duty to grant planning permission on the relevant planning authority. This duty obliges the relevant authority to meet the demand for self-build properties by granting suitable planning permission to enough serviced plots of land.
In such instances, demand is determined by reference to entries on the register. These registers are controlled by the relevant authority, and as such demand is not always accurately reflected in the register.
Are there any exemptions to this duty?
This duty can only be exempted when the demand for self-build houses is greater than 20% of the land identified as available for future housing.
What amendment has been proposed and how will it help?
As identified in a review published by MP Richard Bacon in 2021, less than 10% of properties in the UK are self-built, as compared to an average of 40% across the world’s developed economies.
An amendment to the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 is therefore being proposed as part of the Levelling-Up and Regeneration Bill which will require local planning authorities to give sufficient permissions for self-build and custom housebuilding on serviced plots to meet the demand for such development in their area over a given period.
The amendment has been brought in to tighten the requirements around what can be classed as self-build homes, and address what has come to be known as the ‘Warwick problem’.
This stems from a case in which Warwick Council successfully argued that the word ‘suitable’ could include all sorts of market developments as ‘self-builds’ thus allowing them to meet their legal requirements without granting planning permission or sites to genuine self-build projects.
What does the amendment mean going forward?
Ultimately, the crux of the amendment going forward is to ensure that, by tightening the legislation, relevant authorities cannot pretend to have met their obligations when they have not.
This ought, in turn, to make it easier for self-build applicants to secure planning permission, or else appeal the relevant authority’s decision and be successful on appeal. Even for market led schemes, prospects of success of achieving planning permission may increase if an element of self-build is included. Increasing numbers of appeals are being successful where despite other policy conflicts, the statutory duty of the council to meet the demand for self-build and custom-build is held to be an important material consideration and given considerable weight such that it outweighed other policy conflicts.
It is hoped that, in time, this amendment may bring the UK’s self-build percentage more in line with other developed economies and encourage the government to make further amendments in the future.
Can developers bring forward self-build schemes?
Yes, provided the ultimate plot owners still retain a degree of choice usually from a palette of options that has been approved as part of a reserved matters application made by the developer.
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