Last edited 23 Feb 2017

Right to build

In the 2014 Budget the Chancellor, George Osborne, announced that the government would:

Ref Gov.uk Increasing the number of available homes.

On 2 July 2014, Nick Boles MP, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Planning, announced that self-builders and custom builders would be given the new ‘Right to Build’ allowing them the right to ask their local authority to identify a ‘shovel-ready’ site for their project. Ref Gov.uk Vanguards to start surge of custom build homes 2 July 2014. This will be done by registering their interest with the local authority. The local authority will be required to make suitable serviced plots available at market value.

This initiative is intended to help address the UK housing shortage. Self-building in the UK is relatively unusual compared to other countries in the European Union:

  • UK 10%.
  • Germany 60%.
  • France 60%.
  • Italy 60%.
  • Austria 80%.

The government suggests that ‘Building your own home can be a more affordable route to home ownership and an opportunity to own a bespoke and sustainably designed, high quality home. It can offer opportunities to smaller builders and contractors, create local jobs and contribute to local economies. The custom build industry is also important for the national economy and housing supply - turning over about £4 billion and providing 10,000 homes per year.’ Ref Gov.uk Increasing the number of available homes 16 May 2014.

A poll by Ipsos MORI suggested that more than a million people are considering building their own home in the UK, and that the main reason they do not is because of the difficulties of finding a suitable plot.

Nick Boles' announcement asked for ‘vanguard’ local authorities to apply to set up suitable schemes in their area on a voluntary basis, in advance of any formal requirement to do so. He said ‘Becoming a Right to Build vanguard offers councils a way to help local people get a place to live which is designed and built locally.’ The Right to build vanguards: invitation for expressions of interest set out further details about the Right to Build, how the vanguards programme will operate and how councils can express an interest in participating.

The vanguard scheme requires participating authorities to:

  • Open and promote a register for prospective custom builders by 31 October 2014.
  • Begin the process of making available a sufficient number of suitable serviced plots for those on the register by 31 January 2015.
  • Provide feedback to the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG).

On 30 September 2014, DCLG announced details of 11 local authorities selected to establish and maintain a register of prospective custom-builders and self-builders and to begin to identify shovel-ready sites for those on the register. Ref New Right to Build areas at forefront of helping aspiring self-builders.

  • Cherwell District Council
  • South Cambridgeshire District Council
  • Teignbridge District Council
  • Shropshire Council
  • Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
  • West Lindsey District Council
  • Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities
  • Pendle Borough Council
  • Sheffield City Council
  • South Norfolk District Council
  • Stoke-on-Trent City Council

DCLG stated that 'This first wave of areas will form part of a consultation on Right to Build. It will be decided whether the changes should be extended across the country later this year.'

On 23 October 2014, Right to Build: supporting custom and self build: consultation was published by DCLG seeking views from local planning authorities, the custom build sector and prospective custom builders about the best way of rolling out the right to build across England.

In February 2017, following publication of the Housing White Paper 2017, a Right to Build Taskforce was established, funded by the Nationwide Foundation, to help local authorities, community groups and other organisations deliver large, affordable custom and self-build housing projects.

Taskforce ambassador Richard Bacon MP said: “...custom and self-build housing will only become mainstream if local authorities and other organisations truly harness these powers. This is where the new Right to Build Task Force comes in, with its experts on hand to help. This may be councils needing help setting up, or better marketing of their demand registers, or advice in creating planning strategies. Alternatively, it could also include affordable housing providers or community groups who need help to engage with councils.”


NB DCLG defines custom building as, '...individuals or groups of individuals commissioning the construction of a new home or homes from a builder, contractor or package company. Custom build includes self builders who build their own homes themselves.'

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