A few people have talked to me recently in various degrees of excitement about the Community Right to Build. Announced last month, this is the Government’s plan – part of its Localism agenda – to allow groups of likeminded locals to get together and build what they want, where they want, without any involvement in the planning process.
Many would-be self-builders got particularly excited about this because it sounds pretty similar to the much-heralded model that many people within the industry (myself included) have been advocating for some time. We’re basically after local settlements releasing small numbers of individual plots on the edge of countryside to facilitate sustainable expansion of our villages and towns. These plots would be available to self-builders or small builders and, the theory goes, would reduce the impact of new housing whilst providing land in areas people want, and houses people need.
The Government’s scheme is different to this, and in truth it’s not very well thought-out. Here’s why:
– it bypasses the planning process, which means that, as long as certain criteria are met, design quality of these new homes will be unregimented.
– it does however require either 80 or 90% local support in a referendum. Which sounds incredibly difficult to achieve and is likely to be the main practical barrier to any of this happening.
– funding. There is no detail as yet on how these schemes are going to be funded but given the current cuts agenda, it seems unlikely there will be any Govt. cash to get these things off the ground. And I look forward to anyone pointing me in the direction of banks willing to lend to individuals major money to buy tracts of non-residential land.
– perhaps worst of all, I’m hearing an interpretation of this scheme that the land will be held in Trust status in perpetuity. This means that all the houses involved in CRTB will be leasehold.
So does it offer a realistic hope for self-builders looking for land? Perhaps a little. But it certainly isn’t the panacea that we were all hoping for and the one we’ve been led to believe is the case.