The land owner's perspective
Advantages of developing for self-build
- Pressure from Government means appeal inspectors will add weight to our side of the scales. See our legal commentary at Self-build: government and law.
- Local authorities now have legal obligations to provide self-build sites, so will be less likely to object when we help them to do so.
- Self-build is suitable for smaller sites. It is impractical to have 50 sets of contractors running up and down the site roads and blocking them with contractors’ vehicles.
- Local objections will be fewer because self builders tend to build to unique designs and to a higher quality than estate housing.
- Local objections will be fewer because more local people will want to be a self-builder than will want to buy a “red box”.
If you are not sure what it’s all about, look at the government supported self-build portal . It covers every sort of self builder, every sort of structure and every level of cost.
LPAs are adopting self-build
It is Central Government against local councillors. The first is trying to satisfy all voters; the second to satisfy their own local voters. Local councillors are still winning, but Central Government is catching up. The Self-build and Custom House-Building Act 2015 has now been given its baby teeth. It has been amended twice already. All over the country local planning authorities are coming to terms with their obligations under the Act. A few, like South Cambridgeshire have embraced the concept, appointed a special team and set an ambitious target of self-build plots.
The Act obliges LPAs to find sites. Because many LPAs took precious little action after the Act was published, the government has now beefed up the pressure on an LPA, not only to be more active in finding plots, but to tell us all what they have done.
There is talk of insisting that volume builders allocate some sites to self build. They will be reluctant. They make money because they use detailed systems and repetitive designs. Can you imagine the chaos that would result if a woman arrives at the site entrance of a 200-house scheme in an elderly digger and says she has come to start work on plot 64? The site manager would pull his hair out. It will not happen.
That is where we can help you. Because we are not builders, we have no prejudice against self build. On the contrary, we are committed supporters. We think it is likely that LPAs may be happier to justify planning consent for self build in a “marginal location” because they are under pressure and have difficulty in meeting the provision themselves. In some locations there may even be a groundswell of local opinion ready to support self build when the same people would instinctively object to other types of development.
Resolute may also be the infrastructure developer
However, planning permission is only the first half of the project. That is what triggers the sale of the land, payment to you and terminates our agreement. Here is what might happen next.
After obtaining consent for multiple self build plots, and payment to the land owner, there remain these issues:
- No-one will want to buy or lend money against a plot unless the planning conditions have been met already or can be met with certainty and ease. No-one wants to spend three years and £100,000 excavating a Roman villa or re-routing the annual migration track of the lesser blue-eared snatterjack! So an infrastructure developer has to buy the site and take on these risks and obligations - some of which will be unquantified at this stage.
- A development of self build plots requires service connections to each plot. Roads must be designed and built. Drains must be laid. Utility services must be provided. External features must be in place: the entrance, provision for sight lines, sewerage, tree planting, and more.
- What is more the infrastructure developer will expect a financial return on the whole of the money put out - the land value AND the expenses and time involved in these tasks AND the marketing costs of brochures, people, signs and so on.
- Covenants must be considered and drawn as model conveyancing conditions so that there is a common, but acceptable understanding to make sure everyone is a “good neighbour”. So keeping a household pig or operating a car repair service are out. A development of self build plots does not permit a development of crazy houses.
- The local planning authority will quite reasonably impose a framework with which each detailed application must comply. Those obligations would then pass to each plot buyer.
One possible basis of agreement between Resolute and a land owner is that Resolute will buy the site with planning permission and undertake the infrastructure development. The open market value of the land with outline planning permission will be far lower than the “retail” price of the plots. Exactly the same applies of course when land is sold to a builder.
All that adds up to an interesting story of why we think we are best placed to obtain planning consent for your smaller site. Our single greatest advantage is our legal expertise. All law relating to self-build is new. The Ministry is refining its proposals and filling blank spaces constantly. Anyone without legal experience will struggle to keep on top and cover all the angles in their application.
Getting planning consent is like a military assault course. But you do not have to cross the obstacles - because we do it for you.
Getting houses built
Resolute Estates also sees self build as a potential substantial contributor to today’s housing shortage. The reasons are:
- Owning your own house is a strong feature of British culture. A house is also seen as an excellent investment. That is why we are all fearful of what might happen “over the fence” to reduce the value of that investment. To avoid that fear, we prefer to leave “over the fence” just as it is. That means no new building in or near existing homes.
However, the fear of what new development might bring correlates with the size and awfulness of the proposal. It is human nature to assume the worst. However, the opinion of Resolute Estates is that a small scheme of houses built with love and care by future occupiers will be acceptable to most village communities. As a result, there would be less political objection to self-build than to a larger estate.
- Site size is also important for a good, practical reason: The country is running out of skilled construction labour. Some self-build consists in part of “hands-on” work. So more gets done. Self builders want action fast, too. So, provided their LPA supports them, houses get built faster.
- The infrastructure cost for a small site is far lower than for large schemes. We do not need a new motorway junction to serve 20 new houses.
- When there is a real choice of self-build sites, the buyers will choose which plot, as they must now choose a house. However, if they want a house, they can select only from what is available on the market. Not all the boxes are ticked for any house buyer. Compromises must be made. However, self-build provides an opportunity not only to buy where they want to live, but to buy the perfect house - perfect, because they will have built or commissioned it themselves.
- For self-build, a local planning authority can be less concerned about satisfying a particular segment of the housing market. Plots will be bought by people stepping onto the first rung of the housing ladder as well as by older people down-sizing and everyone in between.
- (Of course, the converse is true: it is difficult to specify the inclusion of housing for the over 80s in a self-build scheme and by definition, it does not include social housing).
Without question, there are millions of people whose dream it is to build their own home. We contribute greatly to the quality of life of those whose dream we help make possible. The attractions of self build to the community at large are:
- Freedom to live in the house you really want - obviously.
- The satisfaction of being the creators - even if you never picked up a hammer yourselves.
- The environmental and architectural diversity and interest created by self builders and their architects.
- The potential for co-operative groups of people to build multiple houses at low cost.
In summary, self-build provides a little more “power to your elbow” as a land owner seeking planning permission for a suitable site.