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6th March, 2017

Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015

The Government has, over the last couple of years or so set out a planning strategy to encourage and accommodate individuals and associations wishing to build their own homes.

The Act, amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016 provides a mechanism by which those wanting to build their own homes can register their interest with their local authorities and for those authorities to bring forward suitably serviced sites which have planning permission for this form of development.

The Act imposes three related duties on local authorities which are to:
  • maintain and publicise a Register of individuals, and associations of individuals (groups) who are seeking to buy serviced plots of land in the authority’s area to build houses for their occupation,
  • have regard to a Register when carrying out their planning; housing; public land disposal; and, regeneration functions, and
  • to have regard to any Government guidance when exercising the above duties.

The Act only applies in England but can be applied in Wales if the Welsh Government passes enabling regulations.

What is self-build and custom housebuilding?

Self-build homes are built by individuals or associations who have directly organised the design and construction of the house whether as a traditional DIY self-build or as a kit, whilst a custom build is one has to have been commissioned from a specialist developer. However, there has to be a genuine commissioning of a home to produce something special with retention of control and oversight over the building process, which would not be the case with a standard off-plan purchase instigated by the developer for onward sale to a purchaser whose control and oversight would then be limited.

Self-build properties are exempt from the requirement to pay the Community Infrastructure Levy.

Overview of the Act

The Act’s purpose is to increase the number of self-build homes and custom built houses in the UK so they become a more important feature of the housing market as they are in Europe.

Local authorities are placed under a duty to keep a register of individuals and community groups wanting to acquire sites to construct such housing to occupy as their homes, and to make provision for such housing in their local plans.

A serviced plot of land on which to build such housing is land that has access to a public highway, with connections for electricity, waste and water, or can be provided with those within the duration of the permission granted for the development.

Authorities can expand upon the definition of serviced plots to ensure that when developed as part of a wider mixed scheme, they have services commensurate with the market housing on the site, such as provision for fibre optic broadband.

Registers provide valuable information for those who want to build on serviced plots with the register having to be publicised. Most authorities by now should have a webpage dedicated to self-build and custom housebuilding setting out what they are doing to promote opportunities for such projects, explaining the purpose of the register and how to apply for entry on to it.

Authorities can set local eligibility criteria for entry unto the register and if so the register must be in two parts with Part 1 being the register as a whole to which any individual can be entered if they are aged 18 or over; a British citizen, a national of an EEA State other than the United Kingdom, or a national of Switzerland; satisfies any conditions set by the relevant authority under local eligibility conditions; paid any fee; and is seeking (either alone or with others) to acquire a serviced plot of land to build such housing.

An individual or association is eligible for entry in Part 2 if they meet all of the eligibility requirements for Part 1 apart from a local connection test or in the case of an association one or more members do not meet that test but meet all the other requirements.

The local connection is to have sufficient connection with the authority’s area, and extends to those in the armed forces who are deemed to satisfy the test whilst in service and for a period after leaving service.

Authorities can also set a criterion whereby only those who can demonstrate they have sufficient resources to purchase land for their own self-build and custom housebuilding, are eligible.

Local eligibility conditions must be published by the authority.

There is a right of review for persons who have been refused entry onto the register (either first entry or on renewal) or have been removed from the register, on grounds relating to eligibility.

An individual can be removed from the register once they are no longer an eligible person; acquired land suitable for building a house; or not paid any fee required to remain in the register.

An authority can charge fees to maintain the register which are payable annually otherwise the person’s name will be removed from the register. The fees to be charged must be publicised by the authority.

Authorities are required to have regard to the register when they discharge certain functions in respect of planning, housing, land disposal and regeneration and on the disposal of any authority owned land. When developing plans to regenerate their area, local authorities are under a duty to consider the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding as shown in the register.

A duty is placed on authorities to grant sufficient development permissions for serviced plots of land to meet the demand as evidenced by the number of entries on the register.

An authority may apply to the Secretary of State for exemption from the duty if the demand for such housebuilding is greater than 20% of the land identified as available for future housing.

In conclusion

Up until recently building your own home in England had been the preserve of a small set of enthusiasts and those with deep-pockets, but that is now changing and the government is keen to make such housing an important part of the housing market.

Aaron & Partners are able to guide you through the planning process as well as on acquiring the land to build your home and, where necessary, recommending architects and other experts required to bring a project to fruition.

David Delaney

Partner & Head of Planning
Email: [email protected]
Tel: 01244 405538

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