22 Jun 2016

Editor’s blog

Editor’s blog

Welcome to June’s newsletter, and the dawn of a post-Brexit Britain – whatever that brings for the industry. We’re halfway through 2016 now, and it’s turning out to be a massive one for housing in England, even before the referendum. The Housing and Planning Act 2016 is now law, and the custom build homes sector can look forward to councils supplying serviced plots to reflect demand on their local Self and Custom Build Registers.

And registers are big this year! Government has announced that 73 councils are piloting new Brownfield Registers. These will provide developers with information on brownfield sites available for housing locally, which will tie in with Government’s aim of having planning permission in place on 90% of brownfield sites suitable for housing.

And what about the Small Sites Registers? If these go ahead they will require councils to compile a list of all small sites, which are expected to be of 10 units or less. However, Section 151 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016, which covers these registers, requires secondary legislation before they can commence.

Starter homes

The flagship element of the Act is of course the starter homes initiative, but the requirement is yet to be published. However, currently it seems that it may be a requirement of 20% on residential developments, with homes available to first time buyers between 23-40 years old, offered with at least 20% discount off market value. To prevent profiteering, it looks as if there will be restrictions put in place which may limit the sale or letting of the home for eight years. But how many people do you know who have lived in the same house for this long? What happens if your family grows quickly or you need to move for work?

The good news for custom build homes is that it would seem that custom build sites may yet be exempt from starter home provision – and this in itself may see more custom build sites coming on board. It would have been even better had custom build been included as a way to bring on some of these starter homes, but Government saw differently.

Brexit may have been the big story this month, but for some Euro inspiration about custom build homes check out Chris Brown in his regular blog slot. This month he highlights some of Berlin’s best practice when it comes to its innovative custom build industry, not least the use of dedicated leaders to help bring projects along. Take a look for some amazing insight into what the model can achieve.

Custom build site starts

Our sector has also got some significant news this month, not least in pivotal dates for two of the UK’s most eagerly anticipated custom build projects. In Bicester, Graven Hill is gearing up to bring the first of its 1,900 plots to market this summer, while down in Cornwall Carillion Igloo’s Heartlands project has broken ground, with infrastructure starting to go in for Phase 1. Staying with projects, the Act has become a tool that will hopefully help Czero obtain planning permission for its Eccleshall custom build homes site, while across the border Glasgow is bringing on its very first serviced-plots custom build site. It’s great to see custom build in the news the length and breadth of the nation!

But just as the industry is starting to roll, a dark cloud has appeared in the form of a Prudential Regulation Authority lending warning that could slow the market down. Frustrating indeed.

But at least there’s more good news than bad in this issue – not least in the incredible and inspirational work that Plymouth City Council has put into its housing supply sector, including custom and self build. In fact, so good is it that it’s earned the authority the coveted Royal Town Planners Institute Silver Jubilee Cup for its Plan for Homes policy. I know every council out there will want to read this and find out how they can emulate Plymouth’s roaring success.

Finally, don’t forget to enter your favourite project into the Build It Awards 2016, whether it be a collective or group project, a local authority’s planning office or a custom build project or model. It’s your turn to give something back to those who are forging ahead with custom build.

Happy reading!

Duncan Hayes


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