Right to Build

Ted Stevens discusses the government's new Right to Build...

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You may have heard about the Government's new Right to Build. It was trumpeted by the Chancellor George Osborne in the last budget, and there is to be a 'public consultation' on the idea shortly. In my view it could have a huge impact as it will give people the right to force their council's to finally deliver land.

So how's it going to work? The idea is simple – all councils will have to initially set up a register (a bit like a council housing waiting list), and local people will be able to put their names down for a self build opportunity.

Councils will use the register to gauge just how much local demand there is, and then they will have to do something about it. For example, a council could tweak its Local Plan to help identify land suitable for self builders, or demand a proportion of all new large private housebuilding sites are set aside for self builders; or it might have some spare land of its own that it can make available to the millions of people that want to build their own homes. Other councils might choose to work with community groups that are keen to build collectively, or they might even buy land and split it up into ready-to-go serviced building plots.

The land won't be free (or even discounted), but at least it will be available. And, as its getting land that is the biggest hurdle for would-be self builders, it could lead to lots of new opportunities over the next few years.

To help kick-start the initiative, so that it can trial a few different approaches to making land available, the government is currently in the process of selecting a cross section of councils to act as 'vanguards'. The learning and feedback from these will then help other councils work out what's going to be the best approach to adopt on their patch.

So what happens if a council sits on its backside and nothing then? Is there a way of twisting their arm? The last planning minister Nick Boles said that he wanted to give people the right to sue their councils if they don't deliver the opportunities. I'm not convinced it'll come to this but I'd be surprised if the government doesn't have some sort of 'carrot and stick' ideas to encourage it to happen.

Ted Stevens, OBE is the former chair of the National Self Build Association.

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