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Have you considered self-build and custom housebuilding when developing your site?

With the increasing demand for housing in the UK and lack of supply in terms of available land and houses, it is understandable why home buyers and developers are seeking alternative approaches to house construction and securing planning permission to develop a site. The traditional housing supply relies upon decision-making between a developer and the local planning authority, resulting in policy-compliant houses, but is this what buyers want? And with the increasingly limited supply of available sites to develop, what can developers use to their advantage in the planning process?

Introducing - self-build and custom housebuilding. Could this be the saviour of home buyers and developers in the UK?

This article focuses on the legislative position, definitions and planning position for self-build and custom housebuilding to inform your approach to selecting a plot of land and developing a site.

Site model with aerial site plan

The legislation

The self-build and custom housebuilding act was adopted in 2015, later amended by the Housing and Planning Act in 2016, requiring the relevant authorities (including Local Planning Authorities (LPA)) to maintain a register of individuals or associations that are interested in self-build and custom housebuilding in their locality. This register provides a valuable tool to understand the demand vs supply, which across the board has seen a consistent rise in demand, but varying provision of supply. However, with LPAs starting to adopt local policies specific to self-build and custom housebuilding, this could be set to change.

What is the difference between self-build and custom building?

Whilst there is no legislative requirement to differentiate between the two forms of development, as the two can be summarised as a house constructed according to the future occupant's design and requirements, it is helpful to understand the differences.

Self-build enables a higher degree of individualism in the design and the construction process, limited only by the statutory requirements relating to the LPA, insurers or mortgage lenders, resulting in a higher risk to the buyer.

Custom housebuilding, in contrast, is lower risk whereby a developer, contractor or landowner takes on part of the development along three routes: 1. Turnkey, where the buyer selects from a list of design choices, and it is constructed to that specification, 2. A shell, where a developer will build the external shell of the building, leaving the internal design to the buyer and 3. A serviced plot, where the services (e.g. road connection, electricity supply etc.) are installed on a plot, but the design of the house is left to the buyer, within set design parameters.

However, it is essential to note that both of the above require planning permission from the relevant authority.

Model for block house custom

The planning position

Where planning permission is required, as well as enabling design input from the future occupier, self-build and custom housebuilding can also assist in the planning balance. The NPPG clearly states that an LPA must consider the self-build and custom housebuilding register, making it a material planning consideration.

Whilst this has not significantly impacted decision-making across the board, varying positive weight has been attached to this in Inspectors' decisions. Examples of this include appeal APP/Z1510/W/22/3305099, allowed in Braintree, where the provision of five self-build/ custom housebuilding plots was given significant positive weight due to a shortfall in supply in the local register. Additionally, appeal APP/W3520/W/23/3316136 in Suffolk was allowed based on a significant under-provision of available plots compared to an increasing demand from individuals, resulting in significant weight being attached to the proposed nine self-build/ custom housebuilding plots.

However, this is not always the case, as evidenced in a recent appeal in Warwickshire (reference- APP/F2415/W/22/3312699), where, despite significant weight being attached to the provision of 7 self-build plots, this did not outweigh the significant harm identified to the character and appearance of the area.

Considering the above, the addition of self-build and custom housebuilding into the development of a site will not enable development on all sites; put simply it will not be an automatic approval. However, it does enable a degree of design input from a future occupier, which is often rare in medium to large site developments, and it should be a consideration where local needs have not been met, which can play significantly in favour of achieving planning permission for a site, for house and plot buyers, as well as land developers.

In light of this, SPD Studio has provided planning support on projects that either focus on or include an element of self-build and custom housebuilding. As the individual characteristics of a site, such as the location of the site and the position of the LPA in respect of their self-build and custom housebuilding register, play a crucial role in the provision of self-build and custom housebuilding sites, SPD Studio provides an appraisal process to understand the potential of a site from self-build potential to the principle of development. In addition to appraisals, we offer planning, architectural and engineering support for pre-application, formal submission and technical design.

If these services are of interest, please get in touch.


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