2019 closed strongly for NaCSBA, notably in that the Right to Build Legislation had come of age. This marked the first time local authorities had to meet their duty under the legislation to at least match the numbers joining the register with the number of suitable permissioned plots.
Furthermore, the Conservative Party manifesto for the first time set out further support for custom and self build. With the Brexit uncertainty apparently behind us, we hoped for great things for our sector in 2020…
Clearly none of us foresaw Covid and our thoughts go out to all those undertaking the essential work to keep the country, and our economy running and to care for those who need help. Despite some shortages and delays, and the loss of the shows that provide so much inspiration to so many, the custom and self build market has remained robust. We head into 2021 with realistic hopes that Covid will be beaten and a new post Brexit normality will have emerged.
This view is of course shared by the Governments across the UK and it is clear that housing is rising once again to top of political agendas.
For those who have weathered the storm, the case for quality homes that meet the needs of their occupants has never been stronger. Not only do we hope to see the market recover but in response to progress has been made by NaCSBA there is much to look forward to in 2021.
Freedom of Information – Right to Build
In January, our annual research into the self build registers found that a whopping 50,000 people had signed up to the registers since they started in 2016, but analysis revealed a series of ‘dirty tricks’ limiting activity.
NaCSBA reported large numbers of people being removed from the registers, an increasing number of constraints to signing up and some highly-questionable approached to assessing the number of plots actually permissioned.
However, making a positive out of a negative, we shared this news nationally through The Times, and also with government, making the case that changes were needed to address the weaknesses that had emerged within the legislation. And this has had impact, as we recently discovered!
COVID moves the goalposts
In early March, NaCSBA was celebrating the launching of the brilliant Self Build Wales scheme – a national programme to help more people to self build, when the news of the pandemic broke. Among other things, this stalled and ultimately cancelled our first ever Custom Build Summit, organised in association with HomeBuilding & Renovating.
COVID forced our AGM online, showing that we could run events remotely, and engage with more of our members where distance had previously been a barrier. The experience was so good that we created a programme of online engagement activities that have proved hugely popular, with events now held monthly. Members can read the minutes in the Members’ Section.
COVID proved, and continues to prove, a trial for the world, but early on construction was recognised as a core activity, with an early return to site encouraged. NaCSBA produced its own guidance to support safe work on-site for self builders, helping boost local economies and keep people working. We also embraced Boris Johnsons entreaties to Build, Build, Build and Build Back Better, as we firmly believe that custom and self build does indeed build better!
Diversification is an important pillar of the Government’s housing policy in England yet too little to date has been done. It became clear in 2020, and that was the need for the custom and self build sector to align its interests with other actors in housing provision that were not volume housebuilders or affordable providers.
Consequently, NaCSBA created the Housing Diversification group, working with the Federation of Master Builders, the UK Cohousing Network, the National Community Land Trust Network to lobby Government for a better environment to promote our discrete and shared interests. Together, members have the potential to deliver an extra 130,000 by 2025 – homes that definitely mirror Government ambition to better and more sustainable building. And we know that Government is listening.
Government support for custom and self build in England
One reason why 2020 has proved better in outcome than its lived experiences is the continued support Government has shown for the sector.
The Planning for the Future White Paper contained positive proposals for custom and self build including plots on larger sites, plots on Homes England land and continued exemption from the new Infrastructure levy, that will replace CIL.
On Right to Build Day NaCSBA was thrilled to hear a range of announcements including a review of the Right to Build legislation “to ensure councils provide enough land and take proper consideration for these homes when making planning decisions in their area”. The Government also committed to publish the data on performance from individual councils. We hope and expect this review to be completed in the first half of 2021.
Further good news came with the Chancellors spending review in November. The Chancellor announced a £100m fund to bring forward serviced plots in 2021/22 and the launch of a new Help to Build Equity Loan scheme for the sector.
Right to Build Task Force
2020 also proved to be a great year for the Right to Build Task Force, which is now funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. This includes the funding to reach every English planning authority with training for Custom and Self Build.
The Task Force experts also brought together their knowledge to create a suite of Planning Guidance for Custom and Self Build – setting out good practice for local authorities in complying with the legislation and wider planning guidance.
Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP saying, “I welcome this guidance from the Right to Build Taskforce that sets out practical advice on how councils and other partners can work together to provide more land and support people realise their housebuilding plans.”
You can find the guidance on the new Right to Build Task Force website, together with other advice notes supporting the delivery of custom and self build homes.
1 in 3 people want to self build
Finally, no review of the year would be complete without a reminder that a third of all UK adults are interested in self building at some point in the future.
This was the headline figure from joint research between us and the Building Societies Association in October, which mirrored the findings of the same research in March and an independent piece of research by the Ipswich Building Society. The figure is a huge shot in the arm for the sector, and reflects considerable unfulfilled demand. It is our job now to help to weave together the strands of demand, appetite and provision.
Looking to 2021
As we move into a new year, with the fantastic news of several viable vaccines that will help restore confidence and, ultimately, activity, we are in strong position for growth.
We know people want to build, and we know that Government continues to support the sector robustly – and, importantly, the review of the legislation will help more people do just that. As a body NaCSBA moves into the new year with stronger relationships both with Government and within the sector, and we will continue to lobby to help more people build.
Asks for 2021 – what can you do?
With support in place, it will be important to see the building of more, better and beautiful homes that we know the sector can deliver. The spotlight is on us and it is important that we are prepared to offer and deliver the quality and choice that the public will increasingly want.
Please continue to put the customer at the heart of what you do and to make sure that they have every reason to recommend your products and services to their friends and their families.
We know that our sector builds back better every time, contributing to local economies and employment, builds more beautiful and better quality homes, and also builds communities as people live in these homes for longer than usual.
Out of adversity comes triumph, and never before has custom and self build faced such a positive outlook at the start of a year, and we look forward to helping our members build more, and better, homes.
All this has only been possible with the work that your membership fees has funded.
My best wishes for a rewarding and successful 2021.