NaCSBA employee Duncan Hayes has published a dissertation reviewing processes around custom build, self build and and community led housing and its relationship to local authority practice.

Written for the University of Westminster’s Masters in Urban and Regional Planning, the dissertation adds weight to the body of academic evidence advocating custom and self build.

The design of the research was to bring together two major strands of housing delivery that fall under the heading of alternative housing – community led housing (CLH) and custom and self-build housing (CSB).

With regards to local authority planning departments these have a unique position in housing supply in that they exist in the realm of the ‘other’, that is neither mainstream market housing nor affordable housing provision.

The research in the dissertation therefore focuses on the ways in which planning engages, promotes or restricts these models.

Right to Build legislation

This is important because custom and self build is supported by legislation that places a statutory duty on LPAs, which is not the case for community led housing. This creates an imbalance between policy and practice within local authorities, and how this relates to the delivery of homes.

The dissertation explores some of the methods employed by proactive planning authorities, with regards to how they engaging with alternative housing provision, and puts forwards recommendations on how to build on this.

Ultimately, this leads to a need to strengthen and make more robust the Right to Build legislation – as has recently been announced by government – and the need for planning authorities to give alternative housing more attention.



These will help embed alternative housing as a valid component of a calculated, rather than wishful, housing strategy.

  • Reform legislation and guidance to give CLH and CSB equal weight in national policy, identified as the ‘alternative’ sector.
  • Registers are key, and LPAs should be incentivised and penalised around their duties, as set out by legislation.
  • CLH should be incorporated into registers to evidence demand, clarifying the matter as to whether replacement group members qualify with regards to ‘permissions’ granted for the register.
  • Clarity around definitions must be an imperative for policy/guidance.
  • Government should require the collation of empirical sector data.

Local Authorities:

Intended to assist LPAs to diversify their local housing supply, and create valuable additional housing to complement mainstream delivery.

  • Policy is essential to give CSB/CLH credibility – vague statements of support limit DM planners in negotiations.
  • Guidance can be used to establish development management mechanisms to support policy. Without this, planners are limited in their actions. SPDs, S106 template clauses etc can provide reassurance and knowledge to developers.
  • Registers should be robust in terms of evidence of demand, and should facilitate communication with the public, with clear expectations about potential outcomes for each party.
  • Land supply is a core area where LPAs can support activity, either through wider interpretations of ‘best value’, strategic allocations or peppercorn sale for affordable schemes.
  • Action needs to be substantive so that housing comes forward in a timely manner to meet demand. For example, a S106 can prevent a developer on a majors site from delaying delivery by pushing the CSB/CLH element to the final phase.
  • Practice should be shared between authorities, and be more flexible.
  • Consider how CSB/CLH works with wider affordable housing policy requirements, such as the need for all social rent to be provided by a Registered Provider.

Sector stakeholders:

(incl: land promoters, SME housebuilders, developers, enablers etc)

  • CSB/CLH bodies should present a unified front for alternative housing sector, compiling robust empirical data.
  • Substantive activity should be shared, both policy and practice.
  • More should be done to educate consumers/groups about the realities of the registers, setting out what they can, and cannot, deliver, and the timeframes involved.

Read the dissertation

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