need to know
It's time for self-builders to be heard The government recently issued a consultation paper for the revised National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) and has asked for comments. You may recall that the original NPPF came in 2012; it whittled 1,000 pages of policy guidelines down to just 62 and enshrined the ethos of a presumption in favour of pushing sustainable developments. Since then, annual figures for new home building have increased. However, this has been nowhere near enough to meet the chronic housing shortage in the UK.
At the moment, everyone continues to shift the blame for the problem. The government points at the developers for sitting on large sites with planning permission until the market offers the best return. The latter group, however, takes local planning authorities to task for putting too many policy hurdles in the way of legitimate developers. The public are castigated as NIMBYS for not wanting new dwellings anywhere near them, and so they lambast their councillors for allowing construction in their local areas without a corresponding increase in infrastructure by way of more hospital beds, school places, roads and public transport.
On top of all this sits the realisation that the UK’S ratio of house prices to average income is the least affordable in the western world. Furthermore, the definition of an affordable home (one that costs less than £300,000, or £450,000 in London) is nothing of the sort for most people, let alone first time buyers.
Today I read through the summary of the revised NPPF proposals looking for indications of how self- and custom build might be promoted as a positive and acceptable means of constructing new homes, without the usual arguments about concreting over the countryside and the loss of green belt.
There is a clear push towards greater use of small sites and recognition that these could support diverse properties that can be delivered quickly, which should help self-builders. The summary also hints that local planning authorities should ensure that 20% of proposed sites are half a hectare or less. This will be helpful to custom build enablers and could usefully be applied to make individual sites available for self-builders. The underlying theme is clearly one of increasing density of housing in areas with the most demand, which could benefit community and co-housing groups.
Another interesting suggestion is to allow only two years from planning approval to the start of works (down from three) – a move designed to name and shame slow developers and allow councils to identify the worst land banking firms across the country.
Lastly, there seems to be an acknowledgement that there is a case for more exception sites – land for affordable housing and starter homes. NACSBA has been pushing for the use of more exception sites for self-build in general, so I hope this will provide for individually designed houses, too. We shall just have to wait and see.