DCLG clarifies definition of self-build for planning

The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) has updated its planning practice guidance in order to provide clearer definitions of what self-build as well as custom-build means.

The updated guidance also explains more clearly how many serviced plots of land should be provided, what qualifies a site as a serviced plot and introduces criteria for exemption from the requirement to meet demand.

The DCLG’s updated guidance advises authorities that when deciding whether a build qualifies as a self- or custom-build, they “must be satisfied that the initial owner of the home will have primary input into its final design and layout.” It doesn’t, however, define what the difference between a self-build and custom-build is.

The duty on local authorities to “grant planning permission” under the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016) has also been further explained within the guidance: “Relevant authorities must give suitable development permission to enough suitable serviced plots of land to meet the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding in their area.”

A serviced plot of land is deemed to be “land that either has access to a public highway and has connections for electricity, water and waste water, or, in the opinion of a relevant authority, can be provided with access to those things”.

However, despite the clearer definitions, the updated guidance also sees the inclusion of elements that could potentially see local authorities providing fewer plots.

Authorities are now able to split their registers into two parts, should they choose to set a “local connection test”. A person qualifies as having a local connection through either “residency, employment, family connections or special circumstances”. Those who meet all eligibility will be entered on Part 1, while those who meet all eligibility except for a local connection test will be entered on Part 2. Only the entries on Part 1 must be granted planning permission – Part 2 entries “do not count towards demand for the purpose of the 2015 Act”, although authorities are still required to consider them. The guidance also specifies that authorities should only apply for a local connection test “where they have strong justification for doing so.”

Relevant authorities are also now able to apply for complete exemption from their “duty” to grant planning permission. They can do this when “the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding is greater than 20 per cent of the land identified by that relevant authority as being available for future housing.”

Right to Build was introduced last year and means local authorities are obligated to maintain a register of people interested in building their own home and provide sufficient serviced plots within three years. NaCSBA reported at the time that over 18,000 individuals had signed up to local registers, demonstrating the demand and enthusiasm for self-build in the UK.