21 Nov 2017

New planning tool to assess long-term custom build demand piloted by local authorities

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New planning tool to assess long-term custom build demand piloted by local authorities

NaCSBA’s Right To Build Task Force and Three Dragons have announced the development of a significant new tool to help local authorities assess a longer-term view of custom build demand and the need for serviced building plots. The first of its kind, the new tool will be piloted by select local authorities over the coming months, prior to going live in spring 2018.

The tool will provide estimates of the demand for custom and self-build by district/housing market area, with outputs summarised in a report that includes:

  • the legislative context and national policy expectations;
  • the local authority policy position including relevant information from Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMAs) and the local authority’s demand register; and
  • an assessment of custom and self-build demand for the local area, with recommendations for actions and steps the organisation could take to meet this demand.

Since April 2016 councils have been obliged to keep and maintain Right To Build Registers, tracking local demand for people wishing to build their own home, either by self-build or custom build. Local authorities then have a duty to permission serviced plots to meet this demand within three years of people signing up to the register.

These registers give a local snapshot of demand, and are not expected to be the only assessment tool used to gauge demand, but as part of a wider planning approach under the National Planning Policy Framework. But for planning to be effective, there is a need for a longer term assessment tool to help councils with this task, which is where this assessment tool comes in.

Working in line with the five-year time frame of the local plan periods, the new tool aims to provide information about:

  • overall demand for custom and self-build (CSB) housing in the district;
  • demand for different types of CSB homes (build routes);
  • demand for different types of building plots;
  • demand from households unable to afford to access the market;
  • potential cost of local building plots (where data exists); and
  • interest in collective projects for associations of individuals.

This is even more relevant now, as Government examines a new national approach to assessing local housing need, as set out in Planning for the Right Homes in the Right Places: Consultation Proposals.

“Current practice has shown that local registers provide a short-term supply-led picture and can be a significant under-representation of latent demand, unsuitable to inform longer-term site allocations and policies in local plans,” says Lin Cousins, Director, Three Dragons

“There is therefore a need for a tool to help local authority planners gather enough evidence to enable them to plan confidently for Custom and Self Build housing, helping them make informed planning decisions.”

lin cousins

Lin Cousins, Director, Three Dragons

Michael Holmes, Chair of NaCSBA and Task Force Board Member, said: “Government has been quite clear in its national planning policy and guidance that local authorities need to assess the overall demand for Custom and Self Build housing and prepare local plans to meet this demand over the period of their plans.”

“Local demand registers play an important role to help identify the number of building plots which should be made available now and in the near future. But they are not well suited to judge what land should be set aside over the time frame of a local plan.”

“The new tool will help councils take a longer-term view of demand, so they can make better informed planning decisions for their communities.”

Three Dragons specialises in town planning, economics and policy development and publishes research papers into various aspects of new housing provision.

Find out more about the custom build assessment demand tool on the Right To Build portal.

Find out more about the Right To Build Task Force’s activity, and how it can help you deliver custom build.

Editor’s comment

Evidence is critical in planning, and it has to be robust and reliable. This tool is a welcome complement to the registers as means of assessing demand, helping local authorities make decisions, and then ensuring those decision can stand up if challenged legally.

However, the key aspect not mentioned here is the need for more people to know about the registers. I firmly believe the potential is huge, but currently too many people are unaware of their rights under Right To Build, and what a custom home can deliver for them.

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