Angela Doran was recently appointed to a three-year post as custom and self build representative for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland on behalf of NaCSBA. In her role at Glasgow City Council (GCC) she helped bring forward Scotland’s first enabled self build scheme, Bantaskin Street, Maryhill.
“Ultimately, my new job is to try and promote self and custom build in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland by maintaining pressure on the government and local authorities,” she says.
Maryhill is Scotland’s first enabled self build site with serviced plots, a design code and plot passports, part of a larger regeneration programme in the area. The first six plots to be released as part of the scheme have been assigned to their future owners.
“We decided to try something a bit different – a facilitated discussion exercise – to see if the community could work out between themselves who would have which plot, rather than allocate them by ballot,” says Doran.
“It was ambitious, but it worked. As a community that’s going to be living together it’s great to see the personalities gel like this.”
The project has been well-received by the public, and a further 17 plots will be released in March 2017 as part of the second batch. “And we haven’t even had to advertise,” says Doran. “I get emails from people every day asking what it’s about.”
Thanks to the high level of interest Doran hopes the council will set up a formal online register of interest for other enabled self build schemes in the city, which will act as an example for other councils.
“Once the pilot is up and running we’ll test the market to gauge the appetite for this kind of development. It’s likely to be even more popular once people see what’s built there.”
In her role at GCC Doran has investigated the stumbling blocks that repeatedly occur before enabled self and custom build projects get off the ground. Common issues include land availability, project funding and planning complications. Findings that helped Doran bring the Maryhill scheme forward.
Making land affordable has been a major part of our strategy, as it opens up the opportunity to more people,” says Doran. “We’ve also made sure the plots are serviced so that it’s easier to get started.”
Doran believes that Glasgow’s pilot scheme is something other councils across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland can learn from.
“GCC has quite a lot of land, as do many councils in Scotland. We can use this land and make it available in areas of regeneration to encourage custom build,” she says.
“If local authorities are able to think more flexibly about how we provide housing then it’s going to benefit custom builders. I’ve already been approached about this by other councils from across Scotland.
“Hopefully, with the right encouragement and government support, other councils will be able to replicate it.”
Doran’s priority is to set up focus groups across Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland that can feed information back to one central hub. Ideally, these groups will include people who are already working in the self and custom build sector, sharing pressure points and individual successes.
“The Scotland committee has already been established. Legal and fiscal policy, planning and land availability are key areas that need work,” says Doran.
“Obviously, people in each of these areas are going to be more aware of what’s going on. It’s about identifying individuals who are already working in the sector, setting up working groups and getting them to report back.”
Doran recommends that councils set up online databases so people can submit their interest in finding a plot for their own self or custom build, similar to the English registers. Currently, there is no legal requirement for local authorities in Scotland to have these registers.
“These records are something that should be launched in the countries I cover as well,” says Doran.
“We have a database you can sign up to in Glasgow. I’ve been sending out questionnaires to see what kinds of projects people want to do and which areas they’re interested in. There’s a common consensus that more plots should be available – particularly in urban locations.”
The fact that more than 100 people have already signed GCC’s register puts weight behind the need for the legislation to support national databases.
Having discovered that funding is another key barrier for consumers, Doran is working with companies such as BuildStore to try and solve the problem.
“We’ve been working with credit unions as well, as the required deposits are obviously much bigger than they used to be,” she says. “Most providers don’t give you the money up front for each stage, so we’ve tried to identify new products to make it easier for people to finance their builds.”
The launch of new accelerator products help make custom build a more affordable route to home ownership, says Doran.
“Credit unions have set up saving schemes so people who’re interested in self build can start saving. We can lend on top of that at a very low cost, so people are able to save the down payment they need.”
Doran believes the UK can learn a lot from what’s going on in custom build sectors overseas. For example, in the Netherlands enabled self build projects are supported by local and national government.
“Everything is well co-ordinated and people aren’t just left to it,” she says. “There’s a methodical approach to every project, supported by plot passports. This level of government support makes things a lot easier for the home owner. If they’ve found a way to do it abroad, why can’t we replicate it?”
As a result of her work on the Maryhill project, Doran gave a presentation at a recent conference to promote self and custom build in Scotland. A range of individuals from the public and private sectors attended the event.
“It demonstrated the government’s commitment to promoting self and custom build,” says Doran. “It was clear that GCC was the council that’s got to the furthest stage in encouraging this route to home ownership, but the event showed that other local authorities were keen to do it as well.”
The conference enabled Doran to share the Maryhill success story, including the plot passport GCC created for the scheme. “ I had numerous council representatives approach me about how they could to do the same sort of scheme. We want to share this information with people – it’s not a competition between councils.”
1) Address the challenge of plot availability by making serviced sites available in areas of regeneration.
2) Ease the planning process for consumers and enabling developers by bringing on large-scale schemes with design codes and plot passports.
3) Work with mortgage providers and credit unions to develop financial packages that will enable more consumers to take on custom build projects.
4) Test local demand by setting up focus groups in your area so they can feed information back to a centralised hub.
5) Look to neighbouring councils and learn from how they have brought on large-scale projects, like Glasgow’s Maryhill or Cherwell Council’s Graven Hill.
She also hopes that similar events can be organised in Wales and Northern Ireland. “As a NaCSBA rep, I’ll be working with the Welsh and Northern Ireland Assembly to encourage the promotion of self and custom build – similar events like the one organised by the Scottish government would certainly help raise the profile of the sector.”