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How an appeal has set a self-build precedent

Housebuilding / iStock

Andy Moger MRTPI considers the importance of an appeal against a Leicestershire council that failed to demonstrate that the 133 single dwellings it had already approved met the legal definition of self-build and custom housing.


The appeal concerned 1.9 hectares of land south-west of Swadlincote, a Derbyshire village. The appellant sought permission for “a self and custom-build residential development” comprising 30 plots.

In its evidence, North West Leicestershire District Councill confirmed that in the relevant period, it had 54 people on its register, and had permitted four self-build plots. However, it argued, it had also allowed 133 single dwellings across the district.

Inspector Harold Stephens was not persuaded that these permissions should count towards the council’s provision of self-build plots.

Full details here on The Planner.

The appeal by Astill Planning on behalf of Lauren Land provides clarity on how local authorities should monitor self-build and custom housebuilding in complying with their duty to meet demand on their Right to Build Register, given the absence of clarity through primary legislation.

The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016) placed a legal duty on authorities to keep a register of individuals and associations of individuals who want to acquire serviced plots of land and required them to have regard to this when carrying out planning functions.

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 placed a duty on them to grant sufficient development permissions to meet the demand for self-build and custom housebuilding arising in each ‘base period’ within three years after the end of each base period. This came into force on 31 October 2016.

The Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) enshrined these legislative requirements into policy and required base periods to run from 31 October to 30 October each year.

For example, if an authority had 100 registrations on its register in base period 1 (31 October 2016 to 30 October 2017) then by 31 October 2020 they should have granted 100 suitable development permissions to meet base period 1’s demand.

Our experience has been that authorities assume that all single dwelling permissions count towards meeting demand on its register. The problem with this is it does not provide a realistic picture of supply of suitable development permissions. 

We have found that the majority of single dwelling permissions would never come to the market as self-build plots for sale to address the demand on the register. Such permissions are typically built out or sold on to be build out as open market units – for example, a householder gets permission for a dwelling in their garden and sells the plot to a builder for them to build and sell, or the householder instructs a builder to construct and then sells on the open market themselves.

Regarding this appeal, the inspector called into question the local authority's approach on the basis that no evidence was provided that any of the single dwelling permissions would actually contribute towards the delivery of self-build and custom housebuilding in the district.

In the absence of such evidence it was unreasonable to include any of these single dwelling permissions as sufficient development permissions to meet demand on the register. As such the appeal proposal would be necessary to enable the council to meet its statutory obligations given there is an inadequate supply of serviced plots coming forward in the district.

The decision places the burden of proof on authorities to demonstrate provisions are in place to ensure permissions to meet demand on their register would be developed in a manner that accords with the legal definition of self-build and custom housebuilding. In the absence of this a site would not constitute the legal definition so should not be counted towards meeting demand on the register.

In local authority areas where no such evidence is provided and they fall short of meeting demand on their register, this has the potential to increase the weight attributable to self-build and custom housebuilding in the planning balance.  

Andy Moger MRTPI is an associate director at Tetlow King Planning

Image credit | iStock


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