The Chancellor’s Budget Speech announced details of the new ‘Right to Build’ initiative last month, since then, Planning Minister Nick Boles has revealed further details as part of National Custom and Self Build Week.
Boles spoke at the Grand Designs Live Exhibition on Tuesday, setting out his vision for the initiative. He indicated that he hoped it would have as much impact as Mrs Thatcher’s ‘Right to Buy’ scheme which has led to around £1.5million people buying their council houses since it was launched in the 1980s.
The idea is expected to be one of the main planks of the Conservative’s 2015 Election Manifesto, and it’s seen as a way of dramatically boosting the number of self-build homes constructed in the UK. At present around 10,000 self-build homes a year are built here; ultimately Boles is keen to see this figure rise to 50,000 a year, or more. This would help to grow the proportion of new self-build homes built in the UK from its current 8% to nearer 25%. In other European countries it’s common for a third to a half of all new homes to be built this way.
The initiative is not designed to take new housing opportunities away from the established volume house building sector; it’s main purpose would be to complement their output and help boost overall new housing supply from its current level of about 120,000 new homes a year to nearer 200,000 homes a year.
Speaking at Grand Designs Live, Boles set out what he expected from the scheme:
- Research shows that there are currently more than a million people in the UK keen to build a home for themselves, but at present the biggest barrier they face is securing a reasonable building plot. So the whole thrust of the initiative is about getting councils to deliver tens of thousands of serviced building plots each year.
- The first stage would involve would-be self-builders formally registering for a new building plot with their local authorities (a bit like people currently register on a council housing waiting list). Only people who had lived in a local authority area for two to three years would be eligible to register, and they might also need to prove they had the resources to buy a plot once the council makes them available.
- Each council would need to take note of the level of demand there was on its patch and facilitate suitable building plots to match the local demand. The Government is planning to impose a legal duty on councils to provide the plots, and it has allocated £150m to help kick start the process. This would enable councils to acquire land for the plots if it has no land of its own, and it could also be used to service the plots (ensure good road access and that water, power etc. is laid on for each plot).
- People on the local register would not be able to demand plots in specific locations, or get them at unrealistic prices. “They would have to pay the full local value,” said Boles. And people on the register could not expect to pick and choose too much; if a council made reasonable plots available and those on the register turned them down the council would have delivered on its side of the bargain, said the Minister.
- However if councils do little or nothing to facilitate suitable building plots those on the register would be able to sue them. “It has got to be a legal right to get a plot of land to build your house. We need lots of people out there saying ‘it’s my land, give it to me and I will sue you if you don’t’,” he said.
Over the next few months the Government wants to trial this approach and it is currently recruiting a number of ‘vanguard’ councils to see how the initiative might work in practice. It will also be publishing a formal Consultation document on the idea on the summer.
Ted Stevens, National Self Build Association chair, said he warmly welcomed the initiative and stressed that his association was keen to work with the Government and other industry bodies to help devise a scheme that was workable and practical.
“We don’t want councils rejecting the ‘Right to Build’ because they see it as being onerous and difficult to deliver. It’s vital that they welcome it, that they appreciate the benefits it brings in terms of the additional new housing it will provide , and that it complements the new housing that the volume house builders deliver,” he said.