The old adage says “may you live in interesting times.” Well, we are certainly doing that.
We have had yet another change of housing minister, as Kit Malthouse is replaced by Esther McVey. I’ve got mixed feelings on the situation. We in the custom and self build (CSB) sector are desperately looking for stability and leadership, but no one seems to be in the post for more than a couple of months – I’ve had wine gums that have lasted longer.
Kit was hugely supportive of the sector and understood the process and motivations behind building your own home. But, he was also a keen ally of BoJo, so we knew he’d be called upon for higher things eventually.
I’ve no idea about Esther McVey’s views on the CSB sector, but she will have a seat at the Cabinet table alongside her boss, Robert Jenrick, secretary of state for housing, communities and local government. Two supportive voices in Cabinet can only be a good thing, but how long will the whole thing last? By the time you read this, we might be looking at a general election and it’ll all be up in the air again.
There are some positives, though. At Boris’s first Prime Ministers Questions, our own Richard Bacon MP asked about CSB and whether there would be continued support for the Right to Build Task Force – that group of stalwarts creating more opportunities by offering help and advice to local planning authorities, developers and landowners.
Their funding runs out at the end of this year, so it’s vital that alternative financing is found so they can continue running. NaCSBA are bidding for additional monies, a point that Richard Bacon made to the PM.
It had the desired effect and a meeting with the secretary of state has been organised to discuss how we might obtain the relatively trivial sum (around £300,000) to keep the good work going. The task force have been instrumental in facilitating an estimated 9,000 CSB plots into the pipeline.
These meetings are crucial – we have already raised the issue of punitive community infrastructure levy (CIL) penalties with the Treasury, securing a proposal for a surcharge, instead of losing out on all reliefs if you fail to issue the commencement notice before starting work. Good news indeed.
Our big day in the CSB world is 30 October 2019, which has been christened ‘right to build day’. It represents the first key test of the Right to Build Legislation, when local authorities must have permissioned sufficient serviced plots to meet the demand from Tranche 1 of the Right to Build Register in their area.
You may have noticed it falls the day before another promised event. Getting our message out over the noise over whether Brexit is happening then is going to be challenging to say the least. But, like BoJo, we are sticking with our date and will be holding local authorities to account if they fail to live up to their promises.