10 Oct 2017

The legal context for custom build house building in the UK

The legal context for custom build house building in the UK

The Right to Build went live on 31 October 2016, when the Housing & Planning Act came into effect. This means that all English authorities are now required to host Right To Build Registers, paired with a duty to supply sufficient serviced plots for the people on their registers.

Councils have three years to provide these plots from the date people registered, with each there-year-cycle starting from the 31 October. These make up their Right To Build responsibilities. Take a look at self-build specialist Chris Bates’ review of the Right To Build challenges, here.

This is further supported by the National Planning Policy Framework, which puts a duty on the social aspect of planning in paragraph 50:

“To deliver a wide choice of high-quality homes, widen opportunities for home ownership and create sustainable, inclusive and mixed communities, local planning authorities should:
plan for a mix of housing based on current and future demographic trends, market trends and the needs of different groups in the community [including] people wishing to build their own homes.”

Custom build definition

DCLG states that:

“The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016) provides a legal definition of self-build and custom housebuilding.

“The Act does not distinguish between self-build and custom housebuilding and provides that both are 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.”

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) states on its Self Build Portal: “we define self build as projects where someone directly organises the design and construction of their new home…. Custom build homes tend to be those where you work with a specialist developer to help deliver your own home.”

What are serviced-plots?

This traditional definition of custom build is overly simplistic, as much of what is referred to as custom build today operates on a spectrum, whether or not it should. In fact, there is much need for clear demarcation of the term as it has implications in law in connection with VAT and exemptions such as CIL.

Serviced plots (ie more than one) are typically included in the loose definition of custom build for the sake of housing and planning departments, as well as a host of other stakeholders.

This means that an enabler or developer has put in the infrastructure on a site. With this, each plot is handed over ready to build, with services ready to be connected and a presumption that planning permission has been obtained in principle for a type of house.

This permission typically uses Masterplans, Design Codes and Plot Passports to set out design principles and limitations on a plot or site basis.

The serviced plots model de-risks the process of conventional self building in that the land is sourced, serviced and permissioned prior to consumer engagement.

This takes out much of the truly difficult legwork of building your own home, while offering the benefit of being simple to scale up.

Self and Custom Build Registers

With every English council now having a duty to host a Right To Build Register and also service plots for those signed up, the clock is ticking to delivery.

NaCSBA states that over 18,000 have already put their names down on self and custom build registers. It also expects this to rise to 25,000 when figures are released for the second base period, ending 31 October 2017.

The registers are governed by legislation and Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) with DCLG offering in-depth guidance about what the duty involves.

The PPG was issued to clarify matters such as local connection issues, the ability to charge and also exemptions, which, ironically, include authorities whose register represents demand that is 20% of the land identified local for housing.


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