I’ve taken some time over the Christmas/New Year period to digest the topics raised at the recent ‘Right to Build meeting’ held by NaCSBA and the Department for Communities and Local Government and attended by industry in December. And I wanted to share some of the outcomes with you here.

Key issues noted at the meeting include the need to educate and raise awareness of the value of custom build locally and benefits of the Right to Build among local authorities, prospective custom builders and professional bodies; there is also a need for a clear definition of custom build and how it is distinctive.

As the Right to Build ‘vanguard’ councils begin to open up registers to measure demand from local would-be custom/self builders, it is vital that importance is placed on ensuring the data on nature demand is made available to the enablers and industry; transparency is important. There is a need to ensure these registers recognise custom build as viable model, in addition to self build. One suggestion highlighted that these registers should draw on the approach of similar models used by online estate agencies such as Rightmove.

Turning to resourcing, there is concern that a lack of manpower in local authority planning departments is delaying the handling of applications for custom/self build. Furthermore, processes must be streamlined as much as possible where land is brought forward under the Right to Build; design codes, briefs and Local Development Orders are considered helpful tools.

Land availability remains a pivotal hurdle; the feeling is that more needs to be done to incentivise landowners and local authorities to bring forward land for custom build (an exception site policy would be beneficial). The scale of such sites is important to boost the sector and attract investors; the final Right to Build policy should emphasise different options available. Further concern surrounds the unflexibility of local authorities when disposing of land.

It was suggested that commercial loans are inaccessible as custom build is still considered to be an unknown risk. Concerns surrounded the Homes and Communities Agency’s custom build loan programme; notably the variation in interest rates, timeframes for applications and the speed in determining outcomes. Income/CorporationTax and Stamp Duty Land Tax appear to be preventing landowners from bringing forward sites. It seems that the Community Infrastructure Levy exemption is proving challenging for some custom build development. Further concerns regarded many of the bigger surveying practices who appear to be over-valuing risk and under-valuing custom build developments, particularly where sustainability features are included

There’s a perception that growth in the custom build sector may be at the expense of affordable housing; so clarification about the relationship to affordable housing policy is vitally important.

The committee and I continue to absorb these issues and hope that each can be addressed in turn to enable our sector to progress to the next step.

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