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The challenges of delivering Self and Custom Build Homes

Following on from the statistics published in 2022 from the Bacon Review which estimated that between 30,000 and 40,000 self and custom build homes could be built annually, more and more Local Authorities are seeking delivery of self and custom build homes within large development sites. The Right to Build Task Force estimates that 58% of Local Planning Authorities have or are bringing in policies that support custom and self build housing delivery. The majority of new Local Plans now require all major sites to deliver a % of self and custom build.

Having done a degree in Architecture I love the idea of one day building my own home and having the opportunity to have a unique place to live. However, would I want this home to be within the middle of a development?

In my experience as a town planner at Boyer (consultancy) and on the housebuilding side of things (Vistry Homes) I can see the challenges that these policies create for all parties.

Firstly, there is a need to provide a level of control as to what the self build homes look like within a wider development site. This is generally controlled via a Design Code which will provide limits to the creativity permitted, potentially making the opportunity less attractive. Secondly there are huge CDM and health and safety implications of allowing individual builders onto a site where the developer has the responsibility and liability as the main contractor. Finally, although there are a lot of people signed up to the Self Build Register, whether any of these people have the ability, time and energy to actually build their own home is unclear. In my experience there is a lack of understanding as to how much is involved in building a self build home.

Local Plan policies often provide some flexibility by allowing some custom build (the Act doesn’t differentiate between the two which provides its own challenges in terms of justification). Whilst this may sound as though it is an easier solution there are significant barriers to delivery on site as in order to be truly custom developers cannot build these homes until customers have come forwards. This goes against the business model of the majority of major housebuilders and slows down delivery of homes. In reality, delivering self build homes as part of large development sites would be much more effective when these can be phased separately with separate construction accesses etc.

Overall there are many challenges to delivering self and custom build homes which will need to be ironed out to ensure ease of delivery and that the policy aspirations can be fulfilled.

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