Planning Permission Changes For Self Build Homes and Custom Build Homes

If you weren’t aware, 31st October was an important day in the Custom Build and Self-build industry.

It’s the day when all councils have a responsibility to grant planning permission for enough ‘serviced plots’ to meet the demand on their own self-build and custom build register.

The theory is that lots of us want to build our own homes (either on our own or with a developer) and that doing this will help us plug the gap between what the volume housebuilders generally produce every year and what we need as a country to keep housing demand and supply roughly in balance and hopefully avoid the boom and bust economics that actually does no good to anyone.

This is great news for architects!

Most of the larger practices I know ‘bit their teeth’ on small private client work before expanding into bigger projects. When the customer is so heavily involved in the concept, design is going to be crucial to the home. New custom build models are emerging where there are opportunities for architects to become SME developers or manufacturers of turn-key solutions. The more diversity we have, the greater the opportunity for architects.

The 31st October is a day that many of us in the industry have been waiting for for a long time. It started many moons ago with Richard Bacon MP forming the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on self-build and custom build which eventually led to legislation that had cross-party support and forced Local Authorities to sit up and take notice.

Survey after survey reveals that a huge number of us (12 million at last count) would want to build or commission our own home. 

Yet, only 10,000 of us actually manage to do so. That means 99.99% of us go disappointed. 

In context, we sit at the very bottom of the league table for providing this form of housing. Germany, Austria, France and most of the rest of Europe rely on self-build and custom build to deliver over 50% of their new homes every year. In Germany for example, that’s over 100,000 new self-build or custom build homes every year.

The first thing that the legislation managed to do was to force the councils to set up registers of demand. The idea is that we go on to register and the council then have evidence of how many people want to self-build or custom build and therefore know how to provide for those people.

Sadly, this has played out like the opening scene in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy where Arthur Dent is told that the public consultation to knock his house down is in the bottom of a locked draw in a disused lavatory in the cellar of the planning office with a sign that says “beware of the leopard.” A current trawl of the London councils and you would be forgiven for thinking that councils are big fans of Douglas Adams.

Councils do not appear to be exactly enamoured with the idea of having to provide serviced plots. What’s worse is that councils are now looking at charging for you to enter your details on their registers.  This is less a locked drawer, more a vending machine with a note inside, which says “sorry, nothing to see here, come back next year”.

I believe that we have a unique opportunity to make self-build and custom build a reality in the UK. To do so, we must bypass the council’s own marketing departments!

So, this piece is a call to action to all architects and professionals who have private clients that have once remarked “I’d love to build a new home one day.”

Point them in the direction of the legislation and tell them to fill out their local register.

If we all do it and encourage others to do so too, we can make these registers get the exposure and the light of day that they need. This is potentially our only chance to change the way we build and buy homes in the UK, let’s not let it go to waste.

To help, we’ve put a list together of all the councils in London and their websites.  

And here is another link to some more of those outside London.

- Gus Zogolovitch