The Government’s ambitions for custom build (and self build) are to double the size of the sector – so says the recently published prospectus for Right to Build vanguards.

It’s unclear what timeframe the Government has set for itself to achieve this goal, but there have, over the past few years, been a series of initiatives to support it – by way of new planning policy and guidance, a self-build investment fund and, more recently, the new CIL exemption.

So, what of the what, how and when of the Right to Build?

What?

What is the Right to Build?  As previously expressed by DCLG, it will be two-fold:

  • a requirement to open and promote a register for prospective custom builders – which will measure demand in a local area for custom build housing; and
  • make available for sale at market value a sufficient number of suitable, fully serviced plots for those on the maintained register, within a reasonable period of time.  This land might be council owned, or held by other land owners.

And, what (or rather, who) is a Right to Build vanguard?  In short, local authorities who will pioneer the proposed Right to Build – to “help test and push the boundaries of what it can achieve”.

How?

Each vanguard will:

  • open and promote a register – for people who wish to register their interest in purchasing a building plot in the local authority area, for the purposes of building their own home as a primary residence;
  • make a sufficient number of suitable, serviced building plots available, within a reasonable period of time, for those who have registered – these plots must have at least outline planning permission or be covered by a local development order; and
  • provide information to DCLG about the progress and outcomes of the vanguard.

Some limited resource funding will be available.

When?

Expressions of interest must be made by local authorities to DCLG by 31 July 2014.  These will be evaluated and applicants will be notified of the outcomes, and a public announcement will follow, by the autumn of this year.

Key milestones for the selection of vanguards to the programme are that their registers should be open and publicised by 31 October 2014; and by 31 January 2015 they should begin the process of identifying and securing a sufficient number of suitable plots to respond to establish local demand.

Formal feedback will be sought from the vanguards on their progress and experiences in January, March and June 2015. 

The real challenge

At the heart of this policy is a challenge - that local authorities must be willing and able to identify development land in their plan areas that is suitable for custom build and support landowners in bringing forward and achieving planning permissions for that land so that suitable schemes can be brought to the market.