Right-to-build registers

IT was in response to a campaign launched in 2011, that people in England interested in the idea of building their own homes can now request to be formally alerted to potentially eligible plots.

Four years on from the campaign launch, the National Custom & Self-Build Association (NaCSBA) was granted its wish. 

Well, at least partly.

The England-only Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (here) placed a duty on local authorities to keep a register of people and groups of people who are seeking to purchase serviced (with infrastructure, such as utilities) plots of land.

Subsequent legislation, the following year, the Housing and Planning Act 2016 (here), placed a further duty on local authorities, to ‘permission’ sufficient plots to reflect demand, within three years of people signing up.

The tentacles of these pieces of legislation are only beginning to reach Scotland.

Five years ago, Glasgow City Council launched its own register, being overseen by Angela Doran, who works part-time for the council, as ‘self-build co-ordinator’, and who unsurprisingly is the Scotland representative on the NaCSBA board.

And a privately-operated and Scottish self-build register has been launched by BuildStore, a leading specialist in self-build finance.

Says a NaCSBA spokesperson, of the registers operated in England: “Councils must ensure they have granted planning permission for sufficient ‘shovel-ready’ plots to meet demand, and they have three years from someone signing up, measured from the end of October each year.”

The invitation to register extends to not just individual households but groups too. 

While most local authorities in England directly manage their own registers, some use third-party providers, such as Local Self Build Register (here).

In a recent media release issued by NaCSBA (here), it estimates that 40,000 registrations have taken place, which it believes to be an under-estimation. 

It has created an interactive map – here – which, among things, reveals a variety of approaches towards charging for registering.

In Glasgow, its register currently stands at around 300 individuals and families expressing an interest in self-building within the city, with six pilot plots having been released (in the Maryhill part of the city) with a further 45 in the pipeline.

And recently, the efforts of the city’s council were recognised at the Build It Awards 2020, named as the ‘Best Council for self or custom builders’.

Continues NaCSBA: “The Right to Build registers in England allow you to note your interest, and often requires you to share information about the sort of plot you require.

“Unfortunately, this does not mean that the council will permission the sort of plots that would suit you, in the area you prefer. 

“Rather, it’s a way of demonstrating to the council the amount of people who are interested in building and the sort of thing they are interested in building. 

“The council will consider this as part of their housing provision plans.”

As a temperature gauge, the current legislation gives an indication of demand in England for self- and collective-build plots. 

But the jury is out whether the demand is actually being satisfied; as indicated by a review announced by the UK government, on October 30 last year (here).

That review was published in early February this year (here).

Doran is pushing hard for local authority self-build registers to become Scotland-wide.

She said: “Our self-build register and pilot project have proven that there is demand for self-build within Glasgow. 

“Self-build has traditionally been seen as a rural phenomenon in Scotland. However, it is a key tool in the regeneration of our cities; providing affordable, flexible and sustainable housing and building resilient communities. 

“We are determined to make self-build an option available to all, regardless of wealth or social status.”

Meanwhile, a spokesperson for the Scottish Government said: “The Planning (Scotland) Act 2019 (here) introduced the requirement for local authorities to prepare, maintain and publish a list of people interested in acquiring land for self-build housing and for authorities to have regard to this list in preparing their local development plan.

“The NPF4 [National Planning Framework 4] position statement (here) indicated that promoting self and custom-build/self-provided housing is being considered within the current policy review and we will publish guidance for authorities on preparing lists.”

Added Doran: “We are keen to share our experiences with other local authorities to encourage them to pursue self-build in their areas. 

“The inclusion of local authority registers in the recent Planning Act is a real step forward and I hope that it will help to encourage local authorities across Scotland to meet the demand.”

Five years ago, the Scottish Government supported the ‘custom and self-build’ sector by launching a two-pronged fund: one to support research and pilot projects in the sector, the other to support individual households (only individual households, not groups) who are struggling to finance their self-build ambitions.

The £4m fund for households began to take applications from the autumn of two years ago; among the successful research and pilot projects to receive backing was one involving Doran, as part of Assemble Collective Self Build, which has resulted in the publication – available in a limited print run and still to be transferred online – of a custom and self-build ‘road map’.

Says Doran: “The road map is specifically designed to help groups of people – wishing to build their own homes collectively – to navigate the self-build process. It also provides recommendations to local authorities and other stakeholders on how to support these groups.”

At the time of writing, the BuildStore register (here) contains 1,190 notes of interest, with the Highland Council area the most popular, followed by Perth & Kinross and Fife.

Says BuildStore’s Harry Connor: “We have sent every Scottish local authority a view-only login to the website where they can see the latest demand we hold for their area. 

“We don’t charge people for registering and there are no plans to.”

If the Scottish Government were to oversee the introduction of a right-to-build register in Scotland, BuildStore urges the adoption of the following:

* a central register with identical or very similar questioning for all;

* if a fee must be charged, that it is reasonable and does not recur every year; 

* a local connection test (to what extent registrants have a ‘connection’ with the area they are registering a note of interest in); and 

* a ‘suitable’ financial test.

For more information: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/self-build-and-custom-housebuilding

BuildStore register: https://www.righttobuildregister.co.uk

Glasgow’s register of interest in custom and self-build: http://localselfbuildregister.co.uk/localauthorities/city-of-glasgow/

Scotland’s Self & Custom Build Portal https://www.scotlandsselfandcustombuildportal.co.uk

Mike Wilson is a member of the PlaceDesignScotland team

Picture: Plot 4, Bantaskin Street, Maryhill, Glasgow

Picture credit: Joanna Susskind