Last year NaCSBA started the year with the strongest relationship we’d ever had with government, having worked hard to nurture an environment where MHCLG was receptive to the scope custom and self build has in contributing to housing.
But while growth was the watchword, for many stakeholders 2021 started with tough operating conditions following a year of intermittent lockdowns that required new ways of working.
The year kicked off with a welcome update to the National Planning Policy Guidance in February. Importantly, this stated that Custom and Self Build is likely to be a material consideration in planning decisions.
This was supported by Chief Planner Joanna Averley’s comment in her monthly newsletter, saying: “Self and custom builders are well placed to build high-quality, well-designed homes that are energy efficient, accessible, affordable and welcomed by their communities.”
Building on its increasing support for custom and self build, the high point in 2021 was the publication of the Government’s Self and Custom Build Action Plan in April.
This set out a suite of activities designed to boost activity in England, helping to make self and custom build a mainstream choice for more people. In the action plan, government also acknowledged the benefits of the route:
“We know that self and custom builders deliver high quality, well-designed homes that are energy efficient, accessible, affordable, and welcomed by their communities.” Boris Johnson, April 2021.
The Custom and Self Build Action Plan also set out the agenda for Government’s plans for the rest of the year, including the Bacon Review and Help to Build.
Commissioned by Boris Johnson as part of the April announcement, Richard Bacon MP was asked to conduct an independent review of the sector, support a major scaling up of self-commissioned new homes.
NaCSBA worked closely with the Bacon team in feeding into the research, with the report published in August for Government to consider. The review is a core piece of research into the sector, looking at a range of barriers and opportunities, culminating in six key recommendations.
“Warmly welcomed” by Government, NaCSBA is looking forward to the official response being published, as this will help inform our work over the coming years, both in terms of policy direction and lobbying activity.
Help to Build
Following campaigning by NaCSBA, the Action Plan also saw the confirmation of a Help to Build loan scheme backed by over £150 million new funding from the government.
This will help make custom and self build more accessible to more people, especially those with a smaller deposit. “Building your own home shouldn’t be the preserve of a small number of people, but a mainstream option,” said Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.
NaCSBA is expecting that Help to Build will kick-start 2022, offering choice to more people who otherwise may not have considered the route, and opening up a new market for our members. Read the prospectus or join our member event on January 18th to find out more.
Right to Build Legislation Review
Another element of the original Action Plan that is currently underway is the review of the Right to Build legislation, which we’ve also been calling for.
Successive Freedom of Information requests by NaCSBA had highlighted the inequalities people experienced in relation to the Right to Build, depending on their postcode, as the picture of local authority activity remains so varied.
While NaCSBA is not expecting a rewrite of the legislation, we hope that the changes will refine the existing legislation, helping to improve its efficacy.
Originally, the review would have worked in synergy with the wider planning reforms, but since Michael Gove took over as Secretary of State at the newly named Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities the department has been quiet about the reform.
Right to Build Task Force
2021 also saw the Right to Build Task Force go from strength-to-strength, building on its reputation for providing technical support, consultancy and guidance to Local Authorities.
In addition to delivering a record number of introductory sessions for councils on custom and self build, it went on to run a series of successful masterclasses that drilled down into specific aspects of delivery. More of these are planned for 2022. Check out the free guidance on its website www.righttobuild.org.uk
National Custom and Self Build Week
But it’s not just the Task Force that was educating in 2021, with NaCSBA’s Custom and Self Build week focussing on training. Over the week we ran 11 hours of training for a range of disciplines, from financiers to architects, all of which remain available as a free resource.
The idea was driven by our belief that the sector – especially new entrants – need to be as aware as possible of models and tools to support delivery as we gear up to scale.
Setting the scene for 2022
The pandemic, combined with construction labour and materials issues, meant that trading remained difficult for many in 2021, but despite this NaCSBA had a fantastic year in terms of our achievements. We hope this will pave the way for a productive 2022 for everyone in the sector.
While the elements referred to above represent the highpoints of the year, there are many other areas that we are working on, including working with other trade bodies in construction, as well as issues affecting our members, such as the moratorium on building due to nitrate pollution in some areas.
We also start 2022 with a new board structure to improve the way we, as a body, operate, to ensure we deliver the best possible outcome for our members. This is important as we rely exclusively on membership to fund our activities, so you – as a member – are our most important focus.
We thank you for your support through 2021 and look forward to delivering on our – and Government’s – promises for securing improved growth. Don’t miss our monthly updates for members – which kick off in January with a detailed look at the Help to Build scheme prior to it opening for bids, at 10am on 18 January, with Homes England in attendance.
Thank you for your support, and we look forward to the best year yet for the sector,
Duncan Hayes, Marketing and Comms, NaCSBA