An overhaul of the country’s outdated planning system that will deliver the high-quality, sustainable homes communities need will be at the heart of the most significant reforms to housing policy in decades, the Housing Secretary has announced today (6 August 2020).
The landmark changes will transform a system that has long been criticised for being too sluggish in providing housing for families, key workers and young people and too ineffectual in obligating developers to properly fund the infrastructure – such as schools, roads and GP surgeries – to support them.
Valued green spaces and Green Belt will continue to be protected for future generations, with the reforms allowing for more building on brownfield land.
Local community agreement will be at the centre of the proposals being put forward in the white paper, Planning for the future, published today.
The changes will be a major boost to SME builders currently cut off by the planning process. They will be key players in getting the country building on the scale needed to drive our economic recovery, while leading housebuilding that is beautiful and builds on local heritage and character.
The current system has shown itself to be unfavourable to small businesses, with the proportion of new homebuilding they lead on dropping drastically from 40% 30 years ago to just 12% today.
Recent studies show smaller firms feel the complexities of the planning process and its associated risks, delays and costs are the key challenges they face in homebuilding.
Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:
Our complex planning system has been a barrier to building the homes people need; it takes 7 years to agree local housing plans and 5 years just to get a spade in the ground.
These once in a generation reforms will lay the foundations for a brighter future, providing more homes for young people and creating better quality neighbourhoods and homes across the country. We will cut red tape, but not standards, placing a higher regard on quality, design and the environment than ever before. Planning decisions will be simple and transparent, with local democracy at the heart of the process.
As we face the economic effects of the pandemic, now is the time for decisive action and a clear plan for jobs and growth. Our reforms will create thousands of jobs, lessen the dominance of big builders in the system, providing a major boost for small building companies across the country.
The reforms will mean:
Local communities will be consulted from the very beginning of the planning process. By harnessing the latest technology through online maps and data, the whole system will be made more accessible
Valued green spaces will be protected for future generations by allowing for more building on brownfield land and all new streets to be tree lined
Much-needed homes will be built quicker by ensuring local housing plans are developed and agreed in 30 months – down from the current 7 years
Every area to have a local plan in place – currently only 50% of local areas has a plan to build more homes
The planning process to be overhauled and replaced with a clearer, rules based system. Currently around a third of planning cases that go to appeal are overturned at appeal
A new simpler national levy to replace the current system of developer contributions which often causes delay
The creation of a fast-track system for beautiful buildings and establishing local design guidance for developers to build and preserve beautiful communities
All new homes to be ‘zero carbon ready’, with no new homes delivered under the new system needed to be retrofitted as we achieve our commitment to net zero carbon emissions by 2050
Jane Meggitt’s life ambitions had never included physical labour on building sites, wrangling prima donna builders and travelling the country inspecting bricks. Then fate intervened in the form of Tim, the man who would become her husband. “He was doing up a completely dilapidated farmhouse near York,” Jane recalls. “I didn’t really want to get involved, but I started going to the site just to have a look and gradually it became addictive.”
Three decades on, Jane, 60, and Tim, 58, have spent half their lives renovating wrecks, including a former schoolhouse and barn at Barkisland, West Yorkshire, where they lived with their daughter, Lottie, now aged 24. When Tim, a chartered surveyor, got a new job in Surrey in 2011, the family needed to move on. They sold the barn, moved to a rented house in Ifold, West Sussex, and began hunting for another ruin to rescue. But they quickly found that vendors down south are a far more ambitious bunch than those they had encountered in the northeast.
“People wanted almost the same money for something that needed renovation as for something that had been done up,” Tim says. On top of that, there was the VAT issue: there is no tax relief on a renovation, but it is possible to claim back the levy on a new-build. So Tim and Jane changed tack and decided to build a house from scratch.
From purchasing a site to completion, the project took more than two years, and costs spiralled. But the couple are now the proud, if slightly exhausted, owners of a fabulous contemporary house that costs almost nothing to run. This is what the experience taught them. 1 Be ready for obstacles The first step was finding a building plot. Tim and Jane scoured estate agents’ windows until they found a site occupied by an ancient, asbestos-riddled bungalow in Rowhook, near Horsham, Surrey. “It had been on the market for a couple of years, it was a complete mess, full of weeds, and there was a right-of-way issue,” Tim says. Despite its shortcomings, they had a look and were enchanted by the gently sloping 10 acres of bluebell-studded woodland and paddocks.
The owners of the adjoining land had a right of way across the plot, so the couple went to meet them. “I don’t think anyone had gone to see them before,” Jane says. The meeting went well and they agreed to waive their right of way in return for shifting the boundary between the properties about 10ft in their favour.
The bond Jane and Tim had made with their neighbours held firm even when a property developer got wind of their plans, and tried to step in and snap up the land from under them. “Luckily for us, the neighbours were people of principle,” Jane recalls. “They said the agreement was with us and nobody else.”
2 Haggle hard The land had initially been listed for £900,000. As time passed, this dropped to £850,000, £750,000, then £725,000. The couple felt this was still too much, so they offered £600,000. “We told them to take it or leave it,” Tim says. They reasoned with the vendor and, after the offer was upped to £610,000, a deal was struck and they bought the site in September 2013. 3 Find the right architect
Jane says the single most important person in a successful self-build is the architect. To find the right one, she scoured magazine and newspaper articles for leads, and attended self-build shows and conferences. While negotiations over the land were going on, the couple were already meeting potential architects who could design a modern house for them.
“We talked to agents, and they told us that because it was such a unique site, we needed to build something bespoke to maximise our money,” Jane says. They chose Nick Willson, founder of Nick Willson Architects. Not only did they like his work and hit it off with him personally, they were deeply impressed by his willingness to meet on a weekend — “It showed he was going to be flexible” — and by the fact that as soon as they started talking about their ideas, he began sketching designs.
4 Brief well
Jane and Tim drew up a two-page brief detailing what they wanted from their new home — it had to be open-plan, contemporary (but “not a white box”) and full of light. It also had to make the most of the beautiful rural site, be flexible and be cheap to run.
They included photographs of their favourite furniture, which they planned to bring with them. It had to physically fit into the new house, but it also gave Willson a good idea of their taste. Within two months, he had drawn up plans for a long, slender, two-storey timber-frame house with a brick facade presented to the road and a more open glass aspect overlooking the grounds.
He designed a semi-open-plan ground floor with a light double-height kitchen/living room at the heart of the house. The 3,444 sq ft property also has a second sitting room on one side and a utility room/plant room/office on the other. Upstairs, the four bedrooms lead onto a series of cantilevered balconies. 5 Whatever your budget is, be prepared to pay (a lot) more
Tim and Jane initially expected the build to cost about £600,000. They now admit that they were being wildly optimistic: the work cost about £900,000 and the landscaping (including building a swimming pool) added £100,000. Taking into account the £610,000 they spent on the site, this brought their total spend to roughly £1.6m. They had to take out a mortgage to cover the full cost.
6 Hire with care
The couple project-managed the build themselves, and hiring the right team of contractors was crucial to its success. They went to building shows to learn about green technologies (they opted for solar panels and an air-source heat pump) and asked suppliers and tradesmen for recommendations.
Crucially, they met everyone face to face, asked to see examples of previous projects and visited their premises to get an idea of how they operated. This was time-consuming, but they believe it was essential. “They also need to be local,” Jane says. “Then, if there’s any snagging, they’ll come back.”
7 Get the materials right — and at the right price
Choosing materials — and not paying over the odds for them — is another piece of due diligence that shouldn’t be scrimped on. Tim and Jane called in endless samples of bricks until they found something they liked, and went to visit every company they could find to inspect examples of concrete floors before hiring a firm to put one in their kitchen. Willson was, of course, also able to advise them.
Once they had settled on what they wanted, Jane entered into what she describes as a “war of attrition” with suppliers to get the best possible prices. She was able to buy all the glass for the windows and doors for £105,000 — the original quote had been £130,000. And she paid £104 per 8ft x 4ft sheet of the bamboo cladding used on the interior, rather than £150.
Yet the couple agree that, while discounts are great, it really isn’t worth skimping. “If you want quality and the right products, you have got to pay for it,” Tim says. “You simply can’t manufacture quality cheaply.” 8 Keep calm and carry on
By September 2014, the couple were ready for construction to start. They drew up a detailed timetable of what was supposed to happen when, and made sure the materials were going to be delivered at the right time.
The first job was the groundworks, which took three months. The timber frame was built off site, but things were then held up by a delay with the steel “skeleton” that supports the building, so it was not until the spring of 2015 that the main structure of the house was up and watertight.
Jane went to the site every day to troubleshoot problems and make sure all was going to plan. With endless mini dramas, she might have been forgiven for losing her cool, but she says patience is a virtue when wrangling builders. “If you feel you are getting angry, walk away — because if you do get angry and swear, then the problem becomes about your behaviour.
“I just supported the workmen as much as I could, making sure they had the materials and tools they needed and constantly reminding them about what had to be done. Choose your battles, because there is no point falling out.”
Jane recommends keeping a close eye on builders so they’re not tempted to slip off to other jobs. She also wrote snagging lists so that nothing was forgotten, and spent hours checking the progress of the build.
“You can’t have a personal life, because you have to be on the site all day — and in the evenings and weekends, you are checking lists and sending emails,” she says. “It is really all-consuming. We have neglected our friends. They all know we go into housebuilding purdah.” 9 Bespoke can be a bargain
The kitchen has bamboo-clad cupboards, Corian work surfaces and appliances bought from the Miele factory shop in Abingdon, Oxfordshire. It was designed by Willson and built by a local joiner for £12,000 — a fraction of the price of a “designer” kitchen. 10 Listen to the experts
When the plans were being drawn up, the architects told the pair that they wouldn’t need underfloor heating because the house was so well insulated. They found this hard to believe and installed it anyway — which they now admit was a waste of time. “We have never switched it on,” Jane says. 11 Don’t expect the project to finish on time
By August 2015, the Meggitts were able to move out of their rented home and into their new house, though work continued around them until September. But they are still working on landscaping the garden and grounds, and there are inevitably niggly bits of snagging. “With any home, you have always got continual maintenance,” Tim points out. 12 There is no such thing as perfection
Jane and Tim say they are 99.9% thrilled with their house. They particularly love their double-height kitchen and the fact that the house is so light. (Willson aligned it to take advantage of natural daylight all year round.) But if they were doing it again, Jane would like more storage in the kitchen and more electric sockets. Meanwhile, Tim is planning an anti-deer fence to keep out unwelcome wildlife.
More developers are sourcing land with increasing demand in the North, however sales prices can still render sites unviable. The message is very much land at the right price is selling.
The Help to Buy scheme is helping first time buyers return to the market and this in turn is stimulating activity.
Planning is still difficult and takes time but sites in sustainable locations that are not ion green belt or flood zones are attracting attention. In addition the availability of funds to smaller developers is helping to shift sites that have been on the market for some time.
Should you have land to sell why not give Development Land For Sale a call today to get an up to date appraisal of your land.
You can reach them on 0117 3730077 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Local councils consider the development envelope every 5 or 10 years,
if you think your land might be suitable for commercial or residential
development you should ask the council to include it in the LDP (local
development plan). Once it is included in the LDP it will be
attractive to builders as they know they can build on the land. They
will then have to convince the planners that their scheme will be acceptable.
The planning process what can I do once I have planning consent
How do I gain planning consent on my land?
There are several options
Once your land is in the LDP, you need to decide whether to build on
it yourself or sell it to a developer. If you wish to build yourself
it is important to ask a planning consultant to help you. If you
would rather sell to a developer you can use a Land Agent to help,
some of these offer a free service to land owners.
The planning process
What to do
If you wish to build yourself, find an established Planning Consultant
who will discuss your site with the local planners at the council and
then draw up and submit drawings for approval.
What is an Option Agreement?
My land has no planning consent
If you think your land has development potential a builder or investor
might be interested to get the planning consent, this will be done at
their expense. You will be asked to enter into a contract to sell the
land if suitable consent can be obtained. You will not be able to sell
the land to anyone else during the period of the contract.
Once planning consent has been granted how long does it last?
This varies from one council to another
Usually 3 or 5 years but once you have started to build the planning
consent does not lapse