Exploring the potential for Custom & Self Build in Kirklees

Successfully anticipating and meeting housing need is one of the biggest challenges facing local authorities. This project forms one initiative, as part of a broader aim, to meet the ambitious housing requirement across the district, providing a broad range of accommodation for local residents.

What went in

Priority area addressed: the need for affordable home ownership and demand for Custom and Self Build in Kirklees
Budget: £25,000
Resources: Officer time, expertise and experience of Three Dragons and the Right to Build Taskforce
Time taken to achieve outcomes: 12 months

What came out

Deliverables: a forward plan and delivery strategy for a C&SB pilot programme

Indicators of success: increased awareness, production of delivery strategy that can be piloted, better understanding the full picture of C&SB demand across Kirklees’ diverse borough.

Executive summary

Successfully anticipating and meeting housing need is one of the biggest challenges facing local authorities. This project forms one initiative, as part of a broader aim, to meet the ambitious housing requirement across the district, providing a broad range of accommodation for local residents. The overarching aim of this project was to develop and implement a Custom-Build and Self-Build (C&SB) delivery plan and initial pilot scheme which will, in the long-term, benefit a wide range of community members.

Kirklees Council’s C&SB register has, over the past 4 years, demonstrated a significant demand for C&SB plots, with 392 register entrants. The HAP project team worked with consultants, the Right to Build Task Force and an internal cross-service working group; to identify opportunities for facilitating C&SB in Kirklees and produce a delivery strategy. This strategy will be key for informing an initial pilot programme to deliver C&SB in the district.

Challenge and context

The Kirklees district is uniquely diverse, comprising of industrial and market towns, picturesque countryside and rural villages. In villages where house prices are extremely high, for example in the Holme Valley, house prices are often unachievable for younger homebuyers that have grown up in the area, resulting in young adults being forced to move elsewhere, often away from their family members. C&SB, whether undertaken by an individual or a group of community members, has the potential to provide an innovative solution to the pressures at the centre of the housing crisis; including unrealistic house prices for both first-time buyers and expanding families. As well as contributing to successful regeneration, increasing available C&SB opportunities would diversify and improve the sustainability of our existing housing stock, as well as providing a further housing delivery strand.

Whilst the council has granted planning permission for a significant number of self-build homes since the introduction of the C&SB register, this is relatively small in relation to overall residential planning permissions, and it is not guaranteed that the eventual occupants will be C&SB registrants. Additionally, although the council has secured planning permission on small sites for disposal to SME developers, the council has not yet directly promoted, or enabled a C&SB scheme on council-owned land.

For this reason, many council officers do not have awareness or direct experience of C&SB, its benefits and the relevant legislation. Similarly, C&SB has a relatively low political and corporate profile. Early work with our Housing Advisers identified that, in order to maximise success, political and officer awareness and support from the outset was key.

Our original aim was to review how best the Council could support aspiring self-builders in Kirklees and produce a forward-plan for this, by optimising the use of existing assets. Kirklees Council holds a substantial land portfolio and the HAP project team hoped to identify several suitable sites and acquire authority for disposal, for serviced plot provision. Despite its extensive land ownership, competing priorities and geographical and topographical constraints mean that competition for suitable sites is high. This is problematic when considered alongside the demand for C&SB plots in Kirklees, with 392 entrants having signed up to the C&SB interest register since its inception in April 2016. Analysis revealed that indicative permissions for C&SB dwellings in Kirklees was approximately 55 per annum. Monitoring C&SB permissions/delivery is challenging and until recently applicants did not have the option to identify their scheme as C&SB, meaning often an officer judgement is required. This has been rectified on the national 1APP form therefore planning applications should not specify if the proposal constitutes C&SB. To improve C&SB delivery, our forward plan needed to address the required increase in delivery.

What we did

In December 2019 we commissioned consultants Three Dragons and the National Custom and Self-Build Association’s Right to Build Taskforce to review opportunities for C&SB across Kirklees. As well as provide guidance and learning from existing C&SB schemes across the UK and Europe, the project team also conducted research into how Community Land Trusts (CLTs) operate alongside local authorities. This research was used to support Kirklees Community Association’s journey in establishing a CLT.

The HAP project team originally wanted to be closer to securing outline permission for plots by December 2020 but by March it was evident that this would not be feasible. Following initial scoping work, it was apparent that substantial awareness raising and promoting needed to take place before we could secure the approvals and authority required to proceed. The aims were therefore revised to securing internal approval to consider a number of council assets for disposal and work with our Housing Advisers to assess their C&SB development potential. In addition, we wanted to raise awareness of C&SB’s potential and promote its benefits to decision makers. 

The schedule of profile-raising work included the following activities:

  • Established a cross-service working group (November 2019) 
  • Presenting an overview of obligations and C&SB work to date to Kirklees' Planning Policy Implementation (March 2020), Asset Governance and Housing Growth Boards (July 2020)
  • Updated the Housing Delivery Group on our progress and forward plan (June 2020)
  • Internal cross-service discussions with council officers from Housing Growth, Planning, Assets
  • Engagement with developers – presented C&SB as an option to development partners of stalled sites
  • The delivery of an educational workshop by the Right to Build Taskforce, to council officers from Planning Policy, Housing Growth, Planning and Development Management (June 2020)
  • Awareness raised amongst decision-makers of our duty to consider C&SB demand across multiple functions

Additional activities conducted by the HAP project team and Housing Advisers comprised:

  • Reviewing council assets alongside our Asset Strategy team, to identify suitable sites to bring forward for a pilot C&SB scheme
  • Using the Council’s Brokerage service to help facilitate more C&SB opportunities
  • Desktop analysis of 8 small council-owned sites and 2 large strategic sites
  • Analysis of Kirklees’ C&SB interest register
  • Producing a Best Practice Guidance Note to help inform the delivery strategy
  • The production of a delivery strategy report, including recommendations and potential delivery models
  • Making links with other Councils to discuss learning best practice on how they are maintaining and managing their register and meeting demand
  • Updated our C&SB register website to include a link to live disposals and auctions
The difference we made

Whilst our original programme and success indicators were acknowledged as needing to change, the primary success of the Housing Adviser’s Programme was the awareness raising of C&SB amongst a broad range of stakeholders, including senior management, Asset Strategy, Planning colleagues and developers. The HAP project work ensured the profile of C&SB was raised, as this was necessary to proceed with considering disposals. Presenting updates to Kirklees Planning Policy Implementation, Asset Governance and Housing Growth Boards made significant progress in raising C&SB demand in Kirklees up the political agenda. The consideration of C&SB opportunities using Kirklees’ Brokerage Service promoted its’ benefits to development partners, thus beginning to improve awareness. Collectively, these impacts have laid a robust foundation on which we can begin to build a long-term C&SB strategy.

What's next?

Kirklees hopes to take a more proactive approach to enabling and facilitating C&SB development opportunities. We intend to do so by continuing to promote C&SB’s benefits and by working with potential partners to identify development opportunities and drive delivery. Following the conclusion of HAP project work, our programme of works as part of a wider C&SB initiative are as follows:

  • Asset Governance Board – 27th January 2021
  • Business Case and Options paper to Housing Growth Board – Spring 2021
  • Continue reaching out to potential development partners/housing associations etc.
  • Pilot project, beginning with the identification group of 8-10 small sites. Exploring the commissioning of a consultant to conduct site investigations and then take forward 5 of these by applying for outline planning permission. 
  • Signposting to C&SB in our emerging Housing Mix and Affordable Housing SPD and consideration of a policy approach when the council reviews the Local Plan
  • Write to register entrants to confirm that they are still seeking land in Kirklees. Once the pilot C&SB scheme is approved, notify the interested registrants of upcoming disposals and opportunities
  • Further consider how affordable C&SB housing could realistically be enabled in Kirklees
Lessons learned

Every local authority in the UK undoubtedly faced colossal challenges and resource pressures throughout 2020. Despite this, the project team communicated effectively to ensure the facilitation of progress through partnership working. This was instrumental in identifying opportunities, such as potentially suitable sites. Also essential to the project’s success was the multi-faceted cross-service working group, which enabled actions to be progressed. Finally, the Right to Build Taskforce are a resourceful team with a wealth of experience – and are available to support all local authorities in their C&SB journeys.


Ellie Selby – Affordable Housing Officer, ellie.selby@kirklees.gov.uk