Right to regenerate proposal to develop unused properties

The public will be able to convert vacant plots and derelict buildings into new homes or community spaces under proposals announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick.

The new Right to Regenerate will require councils and the public sector to sell unused land and assets unless there are compelling reasons not to.

Under the proposals, public bodies will need to have clear plans for land in the near future, even if only a temporary use before later development. If the land is kept for too long without being used, they will be required to sell it.

The government argues that this will provide an opportunity for the public and local communities to redevelop and transform eyesores, taking control of unused local land or buildings and transforming them into something they want in their area. 

Unused publicly owned social housing and garages will also be open to redevelopment under the proposal.

The latest figures show there were more than 25,000 vacant council-owned homes and, according to recent FOI data, over 100,000 empty council-owned garages.

The Secretary of State will act as an arbiter “to ensure fairness and speedy outcomes in all cases,” Mr Jenrick said.

In practice the proposal could mean that someone with an unused plot at the back of their home owned by the council, could use the new Right to Regenerate. If the land was deemed to be underused with no plans to bring it into use, it would be sold and the person making the request would have first right of refusal to purchase – enabling them to extend their garden.

In 1980, Michael Heseltine introduced powers that form part of the current Right to Contest – giving the public the power to request the sale of underused land owned by public bodies in England. These powers were extended through the Community Right to Reclaim Land, in 2011.

However, since the 2014 creation of the Right to Contest, only 192 requests have been made and just one has been granted. Requests have usually been refused because the owner had future plans for the land, which meant some sites were left unused for years.

Consultation on the Right to Regenerate closes on March 13.

January 20th, 2021

House builds up

The number of new homes under construction increased by 111% in the third quarter of 2020 to 35,710, according to official government statistics. A total of 45,000 homes were completed in the same period, representing a 185% increase on the previous quarter.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said the figures show that the number of new home starts more than doubled compared to the previous quarter and the number of completed homes almost tripled.

14 Janaury 2021

Festive cheer for selfbuilders

The government has announced plans to create more new homes for England’s cities with the January launch of a £100m Brownfield Land Release fund. 

This will support brownfield development, estates regeneration and development on public sector land including serviced plots for self and custom build. The fund is available to all councils across England, with the exception of Mayoral Combined Authorities.

The government guidance states that “a significant portion of this new £100m will go to supporting self- and custom-builders – a growing sector which the government is committed to.” Councils have been invited use the time between now and the prospectus launch to consider and prepare their bids.

The announcement has been welcomed by the National Custom and Self Build Association. Its CEO, Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, said: “This is more festive cheer for the custom and self-build sector. The investment in bringing forward carefully selected sites for serviced plots of land offers the opportunity to deliver a number of exemplar sites across England.”  

Recent wider support for custom and self-build includes:

* A government review of the Right to Build legislation

* Annual publication of data that councils collect on self and custom build in their area.

* Forthcoming launch of Help to Build equity loan scheme for custom and selfbuilders

The Right to Build Task Force has also launched Custom and Self-Build Planning Guidance to support the sector in addition to a new website

17 December 2020

RIBA calls for greener homes

RIBA has called on the government to make homes more energy efficient by bringing forward a national retrofit strategy. 

In a new report, Greener Homes – Decarbonising The Housing Stock, it recommends the introduction of a sliding scale of Stamp Duty, capped at £25,000, with the most energy efficient homes accruing significantly less tax than the least energy efficient.

The report also suggests a tax rebate for a period after purchase, to encourage homeowners to undertake their own energy efficiency improvements such as insulating lofts and walls, draughtproofing doors, windows and floors, fitting double or triple glazing, and choosing smarter heating systems and appliances.

The UK has some of the most inefficient housing in Europe and RIBA has produced a short video explaining the need to improve the energy efficiency of our housing stock. 

In addition to Stamp Duty amendments, the RIBA recommends: 

* A commitment to front-load money that the government is committed to spending on energy efficiency over the next decade, so that it is spent over the course of this Parliament, in order to address a shift in balance of emissions and assist with the coronavirus economic recovery.

* Better targeting of existing income support payments including the Warm Homes Discount and the Winter Fuel Payment towards the most fuel poor.

* A clear long-term timeline for increasing the Minimum Energy Efficiency Standards for both the private and social rented sectors.

* Stronger standards for new homes.

* More information and regulation of the quality of building work carried out by tradespeople making energy efficiency improvements.

Read the full Greener Homes report. 

17 December 2020

FMB calls for government support

Ninety per cent of builders face rising costs, as supply chain disruptions and rising product demand are making it hard for building.

The latest State of Trade survey data from the Federation of Master Builders paints a worrying picture that it says the government must address to ensure that builders do not face a cliff-edge in the construction supply chain from January.

After a busy summer, it shows that workloads are slowing. Material prices are rising and there are key shortages in timber, tiling, white goods and PVC windows and doors.

Brian Berry, chief executive of the FMB, said: “Builders are facing significant material shortages and growing waiting times for the products they need. With the end of the Brexit transition period only weeks away, builders need confidence that they will not face delays at the ports and price hikes going into 2021. With 87% of builders forecasting material price hikes, recovery risks grinding to a halt if these issues are not resolved.”

Berry added: “By investing in a long-term plan to green our existing homes, and by ramping up funding for local authority planning departments, the Government can help support recovery and job retention in construction.”

17 December 2020

Building materials shortage

Building products such as screws, fixings, plumbing products and natural stone imported from the Far East are struggling to get to UK ports, leading to widespread shortages in the DIY and construction sectors.

The situation is being investigated by the Builders Merchants Federation, which says it is acting on concerns raised by its members over shipping delays.   

BMF chief executive John Newcomb, who is also co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Brexit Movement of Building Products and Materials Group, has raised the issue with government.

Mr Newcomb said: “There appears to be an increasing issue getting these products through ports, with some ships being stopped from landing and sent back to Rotterdam. Rather than taking a maximum of one week to unload, it is taking up to four weeks.

“We’ve raised this matter with government and asked about the readiness of ports and customs, as we head into Brexit.

“Our members manufacture 76% of building products in the UK. However, we need to ensure access to goods from around the world, to keep the industry running.”

Supply problems in Scandinavia have also been blamed for increases of up to 40% on the price of timber.

7 December 2020