New ‘Right to Build’ legislation is stepping into action to meet demand for self and custom build homes

From Monday 31 October 2016, every local planning authority in England has to ensure the delivery of sufficient serviced building plots to meet local demand for self-build and custom build homes when a new legal duty within the Housing and Planning Act 2016, dubbed the ‘Right to Build’, commences. Despite this, 26 out of 326 local planning authorities have still not fulfilled the requirement to even assess demand from their local community by introducing and promoting a custom and self-build demand register – a requirement that became law from 1 April 2016.

The Right to Build initiative is intended to help more of the 53 per cent of adults  who say they would like to self-build or commission an individually designed custom build home at some stage in their life, to fulfil their ambition. Not having a register denies residents and others who want to move to the which the local authority needs to grant permission.

Guided by the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF), each local authority will need to adopt policies to meet demand for serviced plots appropriate for its own circumstances, whether rural or urban, densely-populated or looking to attract people to the area. In the UK, just over eight per cent of homes are self/custom built compared to about 60 per cent in Germany, 50 per cent in Australia and 23 per cent in the USA. This Right to Build legislation aims to fulfil the Government’s manifesto commitment to double the number of custom and self build homes in the England by 2020 and see numbers rise to European levels in the future. It includes the conversion of existing buildings into homes, and the creation of blocks of apartments. Local authorities can apply to the Government for an exemption where demand for serviced plots is high but the supply of land for housing is constrained.

Michael Holmes, Chair of the National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and spokesperson for The Homebuilding & Renovating Shows, says:

“Apart from the attraction of having an individually designed home, there is a financial incentive to having a custom or self-build property.  Depending on the level of involvement from the homeowner, it is possible to save 10-15 per cent compared to buying an existing property and 20-30 per cent for those willing to self build on a DIY basis.

“Under the new legislation, councils can give priority to local self and custom builders with a connection to the area.  Councils can also encourage communities and self-build groups to help bring forward exception sites to create low cost homes on land that would not otherwise be granted planning permission for housing. With land constituting up to 80 per cent of the cost of a new home, this can make a huge difference to affordability. Some local authorities will look to make use of council owned land and other surplus public sector land, owned by the NHS, MoD and other bodies to create serviced plots. Local authorities can also act as a facilitator, encouraging private sector developers to bring forward serviced plots, or to include a proportion of serviced plots for custom or self build on all larger sites. Teignbridge Council is a great example of this approach; it is expected to deliver approximately 400 serviced custom build plots over the Local Plan period, equivalent to 20 plots per year. It has also identified that so called ‘windfall’ self-build plots through infilling or rounding off of existing settlements, deliver, on average, a further 20 units per year.

The Right to Build legislation is not going to resolve the shortage of building plots for custom and self build homes overnight, but it is the beginning of a transition in the housing market which, over the coming years, will see custom and self-build become a mainstream housing option, as it is in so much of the developed world.”

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Michael Holmes will also be at The Northern Homebuilding & Renovating Show which takes place from 4-6 November at HIC, Harrogate. Standard tickets are £8 in advance or £12 on the door (children under 16 go free). For further information, visit or call the ticket hotline on 0844 8740 484 (calls cost 6p per minute plus network extras).