New hope for self-builders

4 min read

A local authority’s failure to uphold the intent of Right to Build may provide your route to gaining planning permission

WORDS OLIVER MURRAY, ARCHITECT

With the first plots released in summer 2016, the Graven Hill custom- and self-build site in Oxfordshire spans 188 hectares. It is the biggest of its kind in the UK

It’s well known that if you want to build your own home, you must first get planning consent. The system is discretionary and there is no fixed set of rules that determines whether permission will be granted or refused.

Obtaining consent can be particularly difficult in certain locations such as outside town and village boundaries and in designated spaces such as greenbelt or conservation areas. This is because there is a general presumption in planning policy against development in these places and, unlike in areas without location-specific constraints, the onus is on the applicant to show why consent should be granted. The difficulty lies in finding a reason why an exception should be made for your individual case and effectively communicating this to the planners.

But if a local authority has not met its duty under the Right to Build legislation, applying to self-build could help you obtain permission or overturn a refusal through the appeal process.

Navigating planning

When preparing to submit a planning application for a self-build you will need to provide supporting documents and drawings for the application to be validated. For sites in the countryside or designated areas, a planning statement is likely to be required. Hiring an expert planning consultant is a good investment as they will use their knowledge of relevant national, regional and local planning policies to demonstrate why permission should be granted.

In preparing the planning statement, a consultant carries out an objective assessment of the proposed project. First, they identify the relevant material considerations, which are categorised as either harms or benefits. For instance, in a case involving a listed building the impact of proposals on the local setting might be considered a harm while the renovations might be regarded as a benefit. The next step attributes weight to the harms and benefits using words such as limited, moderate or substantial. The last step is to evaluate whether the harms or the benefits are greater – think of a set of antique balancing scales. The harms are placed on one side and the benefits on the other. So for planning permission to be granted the benefits must be shown to outweigh the harms.

Recently a new material consideration has come

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