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Tip of the week

Make smart features part of the specification of your new build right from the start. Then can build your home around an intuitive system that is an integrated part of your home to enhance the way you live.For a wired smart home system, remember to leave additional space in your distribution board to allow for future expansion 
Phillip Schuster, MD of smart home specialists Loxone.

In the news . . .

Graven Hill plot sale success prompts release of more land

Eight more premium serviced building plots are up for grabs at Graven Hill, following the recent auction of the first seven plots on the UK’s largest custom- and self-build site.

Graven Hill Village Development Company, along with the site itself, is owned by Cherwell District Council. It reported a positive response to the release of the first Gold Brick plots which were opened to sealed bids in February. 

The plots, which can accommodate up to a six-bedroom house, were opened up to bidding between January 16 and February 24 and fetched prices ranging from £270,000 to £354,000 for plot sizes of between 4,726 sq ft and 6,901 sq ft.  

More than 80 per cent of plots on the first phase have now been reserved, leading the company to release a further eight plots, with guide prices of between £230,000 and £265,000.

Adrian Unitt, operations director for GHVDC said: “We had anticipated high levels of interest in these plots, given their prime location near to the hill, but we are delighted that all seven have sold as it confirms that our guide prices are right for the market.  

“Given the level of demand for these larger-sized plots, we have therefore made the decision to bring forward the release of a further eight plots. These are a combination of four- five- and six-bedroom plots.

Over the next decade the site will develop up to 1,900 new homes, many of which will be self or custom built with the potential to provide a wide variety of sizes, including plots for people on more modest budgets.  

Graven Hill is expected to release a range of new products over the coming months and the first residents will move onto the site later this year.

April 2016

2017 Passivhaus Awards

Selfbuilders have only a few weeks to get their entries together for the annual UK Passivhaus Awards. Submissions close on April 10.

The 2017 awards, now in their sixth year, celebrate the best in UK Passivhaus projects and are open to projects of any size, site and style. They should demonstrate that Passivhaus buildings are comfortable, healthy and beautifully designed. The German standard can be applied to both new build or retrofit.There are two categories:

• Small Projects with a floor area less than 500 sqm.

• Large Projects with a floor area greater than 500 sqm.

Several large Passivhaus schemes have been completed in recent years, and the Passivhaus Trust which organises the awards is anticipating some interesting submissions.

To be eligible, projects must be completed and certified to Passivhaus/EnerPHit standard and have measured building performance data available.

Schemes that have won a previous UK Passivhaus Award are not eligible, though projects that have been previously shortlisted are invited to enter again. Entry is free.

Detailed submission requirements and entry forms can be downloaded from the Trust’s website:

March 2016

White Paper ‘Good For Self Build’

The NaCSBA has welcomed the government’s White Paper on housing, saying it shows a clear ongoing commitment to The Right to Build and the promise to introduce more legislation should local authorities fail to fulfil their duty to assess demand for custom and self build, and permission sufficient plots to meet that demand.

NaCSBA chair Michael Holmes said: “The White Paper sets out the government’s support for the which provides links to all local authority demand registers. It also confirms the extension of CIL relief for custom and self-build homes, and support through the Accelerated Construction Programme, which could see direct commissioning of serviced plots of custom build starter homes.

“It also sets out the government’s support for the soon to be launched Right To Build Task Force, which will assist local authorities in bringing forward schemes for custom and self build homes through expert advice.”

Mr Holmes added: “Another significant development is the response to NaCSBA’s request for national planning policy to be changed to allow small ‘windfall’ sites to be brought forward outside of the Local Plan for housebuilding, in particular for custom and self build homes.

February 2016

Custom build opportunities in Burton on Trent

East Staffordshire Borough Council is launching its first custom/self-build site, on council owned land in Burton upon Trent, offering a rare opportunity for local residents to create a bespoke home and saving up to 15 per cent on a comparable new house in the process.

The 25-plot site at Lynwood Road, Branston Village, will be developed in three stages with the first phase of eight plots available with outline planning permission for a three, four or five-bedroom home. Prospective homeowners can opt to do as much or as little work on their project as they wish, with access to professional expert advice throughout.  

Prices for the fully serviced plots start from £85,000, with build costs for a four-bedroom detached home of around £150,000, depending on the specification. 

ESBC cabinet member Councillor Patricia Ackroyd said: “This is an exciting time for people in East Staffordshire Borough who wish to custom build their own home and we’re pleased to provide a real development opportunity in this new and growing sector.”

The council is hosting an information event In conjunction with Custom Build Homes at Branston Golf and Country Club on January 31. To register to attend the event, visit or call Emma Spence on 01506 409212. 

Doors open at 3.30pm, with a presentation on how custom build works starting at 4pm. Representatives from Danwood House, English Brothers, Scotframe, Flight Timber Products, Fleming Homes and Sylva will be on hand to discuss construction and design options. In addition, custom build mortgage specialists BuildStore will offer advice on securing finance.

January 2016

18,000 sign up to right to build register

New research carried out by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has revealed that around 18,000 people have signed up to local authority custom-and self-build registers to exercise their ‘Right to Build’. 

Since April 1, 2016 all local authorities in England are required to establish an accessible self-and custom-build demand register so that individuals and groups can record their interest to buy a serviced plot in their area and build their own home. 

Additional legislation, which came into force on October 31,  2016, requires local authorities in England to give consent for sufficient serviced plots to meet the demand as shown on their register in the first base period (April 1 to October 31).

Data requested by NaCSBA under the Freedom of Information Act from 336 local authorities has revealed that around 14,300 people signed up to the registers between April 1 and October 31, 2016. 

In addition, 12 councils became vanguards in 2014 and set up their own demand registers at this point. Since then about 3,700 people, including groups, have signed up to the vanguard registers.

MP Richard Bacon, chair of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Self Build, Custom and Community Housebuilding and Placemaking, said: “I’m delighted that about 18,000 have so far signed up to the Right to Build registers across England. 

Cherwell Council

“Cherwell Council has over 2,000 people registered showing the true potential of custom and self build. A number of local authorities now have over 100 people registered, but still too many have under 10 names. Twenty authorities have yet to set up registers or to market them. Imagine the potential once all the registers are up and running and, like Cherwell Council, all councils apply full effort to marketing their registers,” Mr Bacon said.

NaCSBA chair Michael Holmes described the number signing the register as a great achievement but only the tip of the iceberg. 

“Some councils have only operated their registers for a few months and some have yet to establish theirs. 

“The potential is immense and if local authorities can consent their serviced plots in a timely manner the Right to Build could play a big role in meeting the government’s target of building 20,000 custom-and self-build homes a year by 2020.”

Local authorities have up to three years to meet their obligation. “With the number of people now registering month-on-month it is essential they start consenting serviced plots now to stay on top of meeting this demand,” Mr Holmes said.

”It is encouraging to see that a number of local authorities have already made a start consenting serviced plots.”

December 2016

Council Obligation To Provide Plots

Local planning authorities in England now have a legal obligation to service the delivery of sufficient serviced building plots to meet local demand for selfbuild and custom build homes under the new Housing and Planning Act 2016, which came into effect on October 31.

Dubbed the ‘Right to Build’, the initiative is intended to help those looking to build their own homes to fulfil their ambitions.

Despite this, more than 20 out of 326 local planning authorities have still not fulfilled the requirement to assess local demand by introducing and promoting a custom and  self-build demand register – a requirement that came into effect on April 1, 2016.

Guided by the National Planning Policy Framework, each local authority will need to adopt policies to meet demand for serviced plots appropriate for its own circumstances.

In the UK, just over eight per cent of homes are self/custom built compared to 60 per cent in Germany, 50 per cent in Australia and 23 per cent in the USA.

The government aims to double the number of custom and self build homes in England by 2020. This includes the conversion of buildings into homes, and the creation of apartment blocks.

Councils can apply for an exemption where demand exceeds land availability.

November 2016

Javid: Time To Get Building

Communities Secretary Sajid Javid has acknowledged the government’s poor track record for delivering new homes and has promised new measures to speed up the supply of new housing.

Speaking at the Conservative Party conference in Birmingham, Mr Javid said that while everyone acknowledged that more houses had to be built, too many objected to them being built next door: “We’ve got to change that attitude. It’s time to get building.” 

Mr Javid called for big developers to release their stranglehold on supply and to stop sitting on land banks, delaying build-out. 

“Almost 280,000 planning permissions were issued over the last 12 months… I want to see each and every one of those homes built as soon as possible,” he said. “Local leaders must be prepared to make difficult calls, even if they’re unpopular. And so must MPs and councillors.” 

While there were valid reasons to oppose some planning applications there was a duty to think about the long-term consequences. 

Mr Javid used his speech to highlight the launch of a £3bn Home Building Fund which would provide loans for SME builders, custom builders, off-site construction and essential infrastructure. 

He also promised a package of measures to encourage urban regeneration and to build on brownfield land. 

The government hopes to build “a million new homes by 2020”.

October 2016

Funding support for Highlands selfbuilders

Selfbuilders in the Scottish Highlands are to be given more help to carry out their self-build projects, thanks to an increase in loan funding from the Scottish government.

The £4m Highland Self Build Loan Fund now allows homebuilders to borrow up to £175,000 in stage payments in an effort to support selfbuilders and boost the number of new builds in the area.

Designed to tackle the shortage of mortgage facilities encountered by selfbuilders, it is hoped the fund will also boost the number of selfbuilt houses in the area, a figure which fell from 1,000 single projects in 2007/8 to just 320 in 2012/13.

The loan is released in pre-agreed stages, and is repaid when the project is completed and selfbuilders are able to access a traditional mortgage.

The interest rate is 5.5 per cent, providing it’s paid back within the agreed timescale. The fund will revolve, meaning once the money is paid back by one selfbuilder, this will be available to fund another project, and applications can be made anytime before March 31, 2018.

September 2016

RIBA call to reduce taxes on insulation and solar panels

The government has been urged to use VAT flexibility to boost construction and bring down costs in the wake of Brexit.

The Royal Institute of British Architects has published a new policy highlighting five challenges and five opportunities for architects and architecture in the UK following the referendum to leave the European Union.

RIBA argues that leaving the EU opens up opportunities for the UK to reduce VAT rates on goods and services. This would provide a welcome stimulus to the design and construction sector, particularly if the government returned VAT to its original reduced rates on energy saving (five per cent) and alterations of listed buildings (zero-rated).

The UK could also gain by lifting EU specified taxes on products that may help bring down the costs of meeting standards. For example, removing taxes on products such as solar panels and insulation could help the UK hit its energy targets.

It also urged the government to forge new trade agreements, especially in areas where UK tradesmen could add most value, such as Asian countries.

August 2016

Brexit effect on Selfbuilders

Selfbuilders can expect to see an immediate rise in construction and labour costs as a result of the Brexit vote, according to the National Custom and Self Build Association.

NaCSBA chair Michael Holmes said that this was because a huge amount of British construction materials are imported from Europe, and therefore purchased in euros.

“The pound has already devalued by a certain per cent, so materials are therefore going to cost more,” he posted on the self-build portal. “You then have to add in shipping costs – if fuel is bought in the UK.”

Labour costs would probably pause in the short term as people put off starting new projects but in the longer term, there would be fewer people available to build if the system for immigration didn’t allow skilled construction workers to come to the UK.

This meant that labour prices would dramatically increase until training programmes and apprenticeships were stepped up and able to train enough British workers to undertake the construction work required by the housebuilding sector.

Mr Holmes said that in recent conversations with selfbuilders most were still committed to going ahead with their projects

July 2016

NaCSBA welcomes 106 decision

The National Custom and Self Build Association has welcomed the Court of Appeal’s ruling on Section 106 agreements. 

Selfbuilders and other small developers will no longer have to pay the council tax towards local infrastructure after the recent Appeal Court’s decision. 

Last month the court reversed an earlier High Court decision to quash the exemption from Section 106 planning obligation payments for small sites of fewer than 10 houses.

The exemption, first introduced by Housing and Planning Minister Brandon Lewis in November 2014, freed selfbuilders from the unpopular tax, which required them to pay tens of thousands of pounds towards roads, schools, affordable housing and other local authority infrastructure. 

However, in July 2015, a High Court judge ruled the exemption unlawful, and it was quashed eight months after its introduction. 

NaCSBA immediately launched a campaign for the reintroduction of the exemption and the DCLG was granted leave to appeal. 

Meanwhile, NaCSBA, which represents the self-build sector, is currently in the process of drawing up a code of practice for its members to safeguard against rogue traders in the industry.

June 2016