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Shapps: UK’s first self-build community to fast-track new homes

The move is part of wider efforts to help double the size of the self-build sector – with backing from experts including Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud, who has agreed to be the industry’s champion.

The Minister named seven sites across the country being set aside specifically for groups of people looking to work together to build their own homes. These sites, together with many more opportunities being identified by local authorities, will create hundreds of new self build opportunities across the country.

He also praised the work of councils including Cherwell District Council, who are looking to give as many local people as possible the opportunity to build their own homes – including on dedicated sites.

And with Datamonitor predicting that the numbers of mortgages available to self-builders will increase by 141 per cent over coming years, Mr Shapps wrote to major lenders urging them to consider how they can make the most of the business opportunity that a growing self-build sector can offer.

Enough surplus previously-used public sector land for up to 60 homes will be made available in Trevenson Park, Pool, Cornwall – making it the nation’s first-ever large-scale self-build plot.

He also confirmed that six other sites are being made available. They are:
Kingsweir and Torpoint, Bristol
Spencers Park, Hemel Hempstead
Pleasley Colliery, Bolsover
Upper Tuesley Milford, Surrey
Wilson Road, Hanford, Stoke-on-Trent; and
Chase Avenue, Walton Park, Milton Keynes

This is just the first step in a self-build surge. Mr Shapps has also asked the Homes and Communities Agency to continue identifying sites to be dedicated to group self build projects.

The move follows the Minister’s recent mission to Almere in the Netherlands – Europe’s largest low-cost self-build project. There, he was able to see the difference that can be made when a council gives help to local aspiring self-builders.

He praised the work of Cherwell District Council in Oxfordshire, who are following Almere’s lead by offering specific sites to local people looking to build their own home.

As councils across the country draw up their local plans for development, Mr Shapps urged them to follow Cherwell’s example and consider the needs of self-builders in their area.

In addition to offering land, Grant Shapps also published details of a new £30 million investment fund to offer people the money they need to lay the foundations for their self-build projects – the first time this has been done in the UK.

This new fund will offer short term loans to community groups, builders and other small organisations looking to start self-build projects.

The money could be used to pay up to 75 per cent of a project’s land and early construction costs, and will be available to organisations planning to build five or more homes at a total cost of up to £3 million.

In his letter to lenders, he highlighted a new ‘toolkit’ from the Building Societies Association, which provides information and advice to lenders looking to expand into this growing market.

Housing Minister Grant Shapps said:

"We are witnessing a self-build surge in this country, with more people than ever looking to construct their own home. As I saw for myself in Almere, the self-build capital of Europe, this shouldn’t be a niche interest for the select few – anyone with a dream to build should be able to do so.

"So I’m delighted to be able to announce the first seven sites with plots available exclusively for self-builders, as well as £30 million to offer short-term loans to help communities get their projects off the ground.

"This first-ever package of self-build support will help to achieve our goal to double the size of the industry over the next few years, but I want us to go further still. The new national planning rules require councils to consider the needs of self-builders in their area, and I would urge authorities across the country to look to Cherwell and the innovative work there as an exciting example of how this can be achieved."

Ted Stevens, Chairman of the National Self Build Association (NaSBA) said:

"This fund is very welcome. It should help small builders and developers who are active in the custom build sector to get projects away that have been ‘mothballed’ because of the difficulties they often face getting finance from the banks. And it should also be great news for groups of people who want to tackle a self build project collectively. They should be able to use the fund to buy a larger site and split it up into much more cost effective individual plots. We know that one in four would-be self builders are attracted to the idea of building together so it should be of real help to them.

"The announcement that more public land is to be set aside for self builders is fantastic news – finding a plot is the biggest challenge for most would-be self builders. I’m confident this will be warmly welcomed by the huge numbers of people keen to build a custom build home."

The industry’s self build champion, Kevin McCloud, said:

"Across the UK there are scores of communities keen to work alongside each other to build their homes collectively. By pooling their talents on group self build projects, they can construct great custom-designed homes at a fraction of the normal cost.

"Until now, it has been difficult for groups of people to secure funding from conventional lenders to buy larger chunks of land to split up into individual plots. Similarly, it’s difficult for collectives to obtain finance to cover the initial infrastructure costs on group self build sites.

"This fund will be widely welcomed, and should lead to many pioneering group self build projects taking off. It should also be applauded by small builders and specialist self build ‘enablers’ as they too can apply for finance to help kickstart multi-plot self build projects."

Pat Ritchie, chief executive of the HCA, said:

"We welcome this development finance, which will help provide a much-needed boost to the self-build sector. As enabler, we’re also pleased to be able to put forward several of our own sites, which we hope will help groups of potential self-builders access a supply of land. These measures aim tackle the key barriers to getting self-build housing schemes off the ground."

Barry Wood, Leader of Cherwell District Council said:

"Cherwell District Council has established Build!, our development programme to create 250 self-build housing opportunities for local people over the next three years. As time goes on we aim to further develop opportunities so that self-build is a mainstream housing opportunity for our residents. We believe self-build housing can achieve great outcomes for local people and the local economy. As a Council we are fully embracing this agenda and looking to secure ownership of land, including strategic sites to create serviced plots for groups and individuals to maximise opportunities for our residents.

"We are really pleased that the Government is launching its Investment Fund for community groups, builders and other organisations looking to bring forward self-build housing projects. In Cherwell we will be encouraging people to bid as we recognise this as a great opportunity for our District."

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One thought on “Shapps: UK’s first self-build community to fast-track new homes

  1. Worzel says:

    Yes indeed. The opportunity to build the self sufficient, energy independent, home of my dreams. Where do I sign up??
    Grey water recycling, rainwater harvesting, state of the art low energy lighting and appliances. Underfloor ambient heating, solar pv and st (integrated, not plonked on as an afterthought) and other low carbon goodies, off grid/on grid?? Variable DC output and 240V AC sockets throughout…. EPC? pah! They’ll need to re-write the code.
    Build quality and finish? Park Lane. Because I’ll be living in it afterwards. Not buy-to-let!!

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