Following NaCSBA’s annual Freedom of Information request to all English councils, it has announced that 40,000 people have now signed up to Right to Build registers across England to secure a plot to design and build their dream home. This figure includes everyone that has signed up since 1st April 2016. In October 2017 there were 33,000 people signed up, and in the last year over 10,000 new registrations have been added, many via NaCSBA’s Right to Build Portal.
While NaCSBA is happy to see the number of people who have registered growing, it firmly believes that the numbers remain far short of the real underlying demand.
NaCSBA believes that a major reason for the registers not meeting their potential is the lack of promotion of registers by most local authorities. This is compounded by increasing action by many authorities to make it harder for individuals to sign up to the registers.
NaCSBA research* shows that very few local authorities placed restrictions on joining in the first year of the registers, but that this has now grown to over one in four. These restrictions can include local connection tests and charges to join and remain on registers.
Barriers to Self Build register sign up
The legislation states that local connection tests must only be applied where there is a strong justification and in response to a recognised local issue. For example, in a national park or a small authority, such as a city-based one, where land is limited. Charges must be on a cost recovery basis but range from £50 one-off to £350 as a one-off charge and £150 for each year.
In many cases NaCSBA states that there are strong grounds to challenge the approach taken by these high-charging local authorities and that many people are being denied opportunities to build a better-quality and better-value home. NaCSBA states that this is creating a postcode lottery as well as a domino effect by shifting activity to councils that maintain open registers.
NaCSBA firmly believes that councils should also be promoting their registers, but action is again limited, with one council noting that its proactive promotional activity consists solely of a “press release around the introduction of locally-set criteria and fee”.
It acknowledges the fact that most councils are managing their registers as part of a wider suite of evidence for demand for custom and self build, but in light of the uneven picture it plans to use this evidence to raise its concerns with the Government.
Michael Holmes, NaCSBA’s Chair said, “While it’s great news that the numbers who want to self build has increased, NaCSBA has deep concerns that, rather than meet the demand for custom and self build homes through the granting of planning permissions to match demand, some local authorities are instead seeking to minimise the number of registrations.
“This is a direct challenge, not only to members of all parties in parliament who supported the legislation, but also to the 60% of the public who are interested in commissioning or building their own home. Through their actions these local authorities are reducing the number of homes that are built as well as depriving individual and families of the best and most cost-effective route to a well-designed home of real quality and value.”
The Right to Build Portal
NaCSBA urges anyone wanting to build to sign up to their Right to Build via its Self Build Portal campaign site. If a local authority imposes a fee NaCSBA still urges people to sign up as evidence of demand, but where people feel the charge is too high and refuse to pay, it suggests they write to the head of the council asking for their aspirations for a plot to be considered within the Council’s planning policy. NaCSBA can help with this if they contact email@example.com.
*Details of this survey: NaCSBA issued a Freedom of Information request to all 336 English Planning Authorities on 6 November 2018 requesting details as to the operation of their registers and of the numbers of people and groups of people on their registers. More than 85% of these have now responded. The overall result has been extrapolated based on past years’ responses received. Follow-up work will be taken from 4 February 2019 to seek justifications for local connection tests and charges. This is the earliest date to ensure that a future request can be made.