Established as part of the Self and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, councils are required to maintain a register of people who wish to create their own home and ensure enough plots come forward to meet demand. These are known as Right to Build Registers. However, research has found that 21% of people are unaware they even exist. Many councils are also now applying tests and fees in order to be able to join their Right to Build Register, making them inaccessible to many and contributing to a 23% decrease in the number of planning permissions granted for custom and self build plots from the previous year, according to data from the Department of Levelling-Up, Communities and Housing. An example of this is Solihull Metropolitan Borough Council, which was censured by NaCSBA (the National Custom & Self Build Association) for new restrictions that effectively make it impossible for people to join the local authority’s Right to Build register. As of 30th October 2021, Solihull MBC had a delivery shortfall of 247 plots versus demand indicated on its register.
Six years after government launched the registers, Solihull MBC has chosen to adopt a local connection test, financial qualifications and an annual joining fee (£52). On top of that, the wording of the council’s restrictions effectively precludes people from signing up. For example, it demands an offer of a self build mortgage from a verifiable lender – something that can’t be arranged unless you already have access to land with planning (meaning you wouldn’t need to join a register). It also requires confirmation of readily accessible finance, savings, investments or equity to purchase land from a financial advisor, who would not be in the business of providing such confirmation to those who are joining a register but not yet able to consider proceeding with a mortgage.
Solihull’s policy also refers to the Council of Mortgage Lenders, which no longer exists; the organisation was merged into UK Finance in 2017. “These changes are contrary to the letter and spirit of laws aimed at helping people to build or commission their own home,” says Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, former CEO of NaCSBA. “The council needs to reverse them and understand how it got into such a mess in the first place.”