Councils charging up to £300 for joining self build registers, conference told

Some local authorities are charging individuals up to £300 to join self-build registers, a task force chief has claimed, as he warned that high fees were suppressing demand from people wanting to build their own homes.

Mario Wolf speaking at the Planning for Housing conference yesterday
Mario Wolf speaking at the Planning for Housing conference yesterday

Mario Wolf, director of the Right to Build Task Force, part of the National Custom and Self Build Association, was speaking at a session on self and custom build at the Planning for Housing Conference yesterday.

Under the Right to Build legislation, since October 2016, all English local authorities are required to prepare and publish registers of people wishing to build their own homes, and then provide planning permissions for enough serviced plots for all those on the register. 

Wolf warned that authorities charging high fees or applying local connection tests for applicants to join or stay on their registers had implications for the numbers signing up.

He said: "Fees range nationally between about £20 as high as £300-odd. As an individual, would you register with a local authority that charges you £300? When all a local authority really needs to do is count the number and make a decision on whether to bring forward some allocations on serviced building plots.

"It supresses demand quite considerably. 

"We would always argue that a strong register and database is a good thing for a local authority to have. 

"It doesn't mean a lot of administration, it actually helps you have conversations with landowners and developers about the form of development you can bring forward on a particular site."

He added that some authorities were "really struggling to successfully deliver their duty" under the Right to Build.

Wolf went on to say that local authorities being "proactive" on self and custom build can help meet the new housing delivery test, which penalises authorities for failing to deliver enough homes to meet their local requirement. 

He said: "We know that local authorities need to deliver more housing, there's a new [standard housing need] methodology and a tougher housing delivery test. 

"They need to look at all possible sources of housing. Self and custom build is one of those sources." 

It was one of a number of ways that the sector could help authorities meet new requirements in the revised National Planning Policy Framework, including accommodating 10 per cent of their housing requirement on small sites, he said. 

Wolf said that 33,000 people were on the registers last year, but the task force believes this number has now risen to about 50,000.

"This is the tip of the iceberg in terms of willingness of individuals to come forward," he said.

But Wolf warned that registers "do not help in assessing longer-term demand" for self and custom build. 

He said: "It's very important to recognise that they are important tools to gauge demand but not a very good tool for long-term planning. It only recognises those who choose to register on those registers."


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