Making custom and self-build part of your housing strategy

This is the year self-build and custom house building will scale up. 

Government remains firmly committed to the Right to Build, announcing a review of the legislation and a Help to Build loan scheme, and updating the planning practice guidance. 

At the Right to Build Task Force, we facilitate this process by advising local authorities to build capacity for custom and self-build (CSB).

Our key priority is providing free ‘Introduction to the Right to Build’ sessions to local authorities, funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government. 

These webinars showcase a range of approaches and, to date, our experts have conducted sessions with councils working under different pressures, from rural to urban situations. 

For example, Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council is developing draft policies for its local plan update. In January, the task force ran a workshop for council members, tailored to those working on policy direction, informing them about planning policy mechanisms and legislative requirements.  

This gave members insight into the opportunities for CSB, a discussion on the issues around the delivery of plots and how these could be secured through planning policies.

“Reaching a range of council stakeholders is important”

Cllr Mark Ruffell, Cabinet Member for Planning, Infrastructure and Natural Environment, said: “Custom and self-build housing plays an important role in meeting the borough’s housing needs. The session helped us get to grips with the different ways that custom and self-build plots could be delivered, and helped shape our new policy approaches.”

In contrast, the London Borough of Tower Hamlet’s workshop highlighted urban design issues and offered insight into the potential of infill and regeneration schemes to be delivered by CSB and collective self-build. 

Cllr Eve McQuillan, Cabinet Member for Planning and Social Inclusion – Lead on Planning, said: “With Tower Hamlets Council committed to custom and self-build housing, and in the process of implementing an affordable self-build programme, this workshop was helpful in highlighting the importance of the sector, giving examples of recent projects and signposting to where further information was available. 

“It was appreciated that the designer leading the workshop was well prepared, with local knowledge used to help focus the session.”

The introductory sessions help publicise good practice examples, especially those tailored by councils to meet local needs. 

In 2020, COVID-19 brought these sessions online, which made them more effective, as it enabled more people to join. Reaching a range of council stakeholders, including councillors and housing and planning teams, is important to our mission. This reduces siloed working, supports authorities with their statutory duties, and ensures CSB sits within wider housing strategies.

This good practice can embrace a range of solutions, including plan making and policy to bring on plots – either on public land or as a portion of large/strategic sites, or through affordable exceptions. 

Councils also promote CSB through policy guidance and by supporting collective/community self-build.

For more detailed support, the task force operates as a consultancy, advising councils about tasks such as writing supplementary planning documents, pilot projects, and assessing demand. To support this, its ‘Planning guidance for custom and self-build’ and advisory notes are free to access via the website. 

To find out more, or apply for support, visit the Right to Build Task Force at www.righttobuild.org.uk

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