Once again individual self-build is not on the agenda of either of the main political parties. But both have polices in their planning armoury that could impact:

Labour

  • Planning Gain Supplement could rear its head again. Last time it surfaced, figures of 20% of the uplift in value when a plot got planning were mentioned. It’s been tried before with the Development Land Tax of the Harold Wilson era. It failed back then because owners of land simply didn’t bring it to market. And the same could happen again, shortening a supply of plots that is already miserly compared to our needs.
  • The Labour government backed away, at the last minute, from the introduction of Local Member Review Boards to take over from the independent Planning Inspectorate in the hearing of Appeals by delegated refusals. It seemed to most fair minded people that it could not be right that the same local authority that refused an application should then, in a slightly different guise, be responsible for determining an appeal. But the poor old Scots had the system imposed on them and it’s waiting in the English and Welsh wings.
  • Quietly wending its way through Parliament and likely to become law if Labour wins is a Water Bill. Sounds innocuous doesn’t it? But if it’s approved it will require a joint Planning and Drainage Consent application for all developments of one or more houses. That’s more time, more expense and, in the end, greater build costs on top of all of the other impositions that the persistent upgrading of the Building Regulations brings with it.
  • On the plus side they intend to continue easing the Permitted Development Rights for renewables.
  • They also intend to reduce the time limit for the discharge of conditions.

Conservatives

  • Their new buzzword is ‘localism’, which makes a great sound bite but is in fact an appeal to the worst kind of populism and a massive boost to Nimbyism.
  • They intend to scrap Regional Spatial Strategies and allow local authorities to decide their own policies for housing development and numbers. The trouble is that this is one area where democracy doesn’t really work. Most of the areas that have the greatest housing need are also blessed with local authorities that consistently resist further development in their area. Planning should be for the common good rather than the preservation of house values and it sometimes needs to be taken out from the cauldron of local politics.
  • In mitigation the Conservatives intend to give an incentive to local authorities by matching any new council taxes with a six year government grant. And if that doesn’t work, they warn that local authorities could face, as yet unspecified, financial penalties. None of which will persuade some of the more recalcitrant, and mainly Conservative, councils.
  • The Local Member Review Boards, which the Labour party has shelved for now, found great favour with many Conservatives in their drive towards this Mecca of localism.
  • Most alarmingly they have mooted the concept of a third party right of appeal, which a recipe for absolute chaos.
  • On the plus side they talk of scrapping Section 106 and infrastructure charges for all self build homes. But it’s difficult to see how that would be policed and what the exact definition of a self built home would be.
  • Change of use conversions to dwellings would be made much easier, which is a distinct benefit.
  • There is also a proposal to encourage environmentally friendly building with a ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, although whether that would override other considerations, is not quite as clear.

So when they all come knocking on your door asking for your vote, please ask them about these issues and send them away with your old copy of H&R to begin their proper education.

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