Frequently asked questions

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Applications for this round of funding has now closed
What should I do if I need guidance with my application?

You should contact your Regional Programme Managers before the deadline for any assistance, or you can contact the OPE team at OnePublicEstate@local.gov.uk

Can I apply if I am not part of an OPE partnership?

No, we expect applications to be coordinated via an OPE partnership. If you are not already part of an existing OPE partnership, please contact the Regional Programme Managers.

Who is eligible to apply for BLRF?

BLRF is open to local authorities across England, apart from those in Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) areas that had the opportunity to benefit from the £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund.

Which MCA’s are not eligible for BLRF funding?

Greater Manchester, Liverpool City Region, North of Tyne, Sheffield City Region, Tees Valley, West Midlands and West Yorkshire, and their constituent lower tier authorities who have already had the opportunity to benefit from the £400m Brownfield Fund.

Can a project apply for BLRF & SCB?

Yes, assuming all other criteria are satisfied. It is advisable to target the most appropriate funding stream. It is recognised that S&CB may be part of a wider scheme. Where the request for funding is for both BLRF and S&CB as part of the same scheme, applicants should select this scheme type in the technical annex and the basic details form.

Where do I state that I have met the pre-selection criteria?

This is within the basic details form, on the application checklist tab. Applications should be co-ordinated by the OPE partnership and submitted by the accountable body for the partnership who should state how the partnership has met or will meet the pre selection criteria.

Each project should be signed by the applicant local authority’s S151 officer or chief executive on the application template. 

What must my application contain?

You must complete an application template and a technical annex for each project, and a basic details form detailing all projects which the partnership submits.

Can I submit extra documentation to support my application?

Supporting information should be provided to evidence market failure and additionality scores applied in the technical annex, and evidence of non-monetised benefits.

What is the definition of ‘Land Release’?

Land is counted as released as follows:

a) An unconditional contract, development agreement or building licence with a delivery partner is signed or freehold or leasehold transfer takes place (whichever is sooner)

b) It has transferred to a development vehicle owned, or partly owned by the local authority, this could be a local authority wholly owned housing delivery vehicle or a public–private joint venture

c) If (a) or (b) have not happened, the point at which development begins on site

d) In the case of self and custom-build, if none of the above applies, when contracts are exchanged on the first plot.

Homes England defines start on site as an excavation for strip or trench foundations or for pad footings, digging out and preparation of ground for raft foundations, vibrofication, piling, boring for piling or pile driving or drainage works specific to the scheme.

How should land released for housing be quantified?

Land released with capacity for housing should be quantified in homes.  The following categories of homes can apply:

  • A market home
  • An affordable or starter home
  • A self or custom-built home
  • Rental accommodation
  • Student accommodation (to note, 4 student units equates to 1 home)
  • Key worker accommodation (including health and military service personnel and family accommodation provided this adds to net housing supply)
  • An Annington home previously leased to the Ministry of Defence and sold to the market
  • Retirement/care apartments (which count as dwellings/homes)
  • A care home (to note, 4 rooms is equivalent to 1 home)
Is there a limit on the amount of funding I can apply for per unit?

There is no limit on the intervention level, but the process is competitive and there must be a justification for the level of funding sought.

What qualifies as brownfield land?

The definition of previously developed (brownfield) land in NPPF 2020 is “Land which is or was occupied by a permanent structure including the curtilage of the developed land (although it should not be assumed that the whole curtilage should be developed) and any associated fixed surface infrastructure. This excludes: land that is or was last occupied by agricultural or forestry buildings: land that has been developed for minerals extraction or waste disposal by landfill, where provision for restoration has been made through development management procedures; land in built-up areas such as residential gardens, parks, recreation grounds and allotments; and land that was previously developed but where remains of the permanent structure or fixed surface structure have blended into the landscape”.

Is greenfield land eligible for BLRF funding?

Only for self and custom-build projects.

Would a portfolio of small sites be eligible for BLRF funding?

No. Only single site applications are eligible. You may submit separate applications for small sites.

Is a scheme still eligible if it already has other funding?

In appraising costs, we will only take into account any pre-development costs to central government. This will reflect both spending through the LRF, and any other funding that has been received from central government. This will not reflect any money spent or recovered by the council. All costs and benefits will be discounted at the standard rate of 3.5 % p.a.

Is there any restriction/priority on the types of housing (e.g. extra care, student accommodation)?

There are no restrictions. Relevant ratios for housing tenures should be used.

Are building works eligible?

Yes, if demolition or related to abnormal costs (asbestos removal).

Does BLRF only apply to land, or could it be used on a site where buildings already exist & may need demolition or re-purposing?

Both are eligible.

Who is eligible to apply for BLRF?

BLRF is open to local authorities across England, apart from those in Mayoral Combined Authority (MCA) areas that had the opportunity to benefit from the £400 million Brownfield Housing Fund.

Can community-led housing groups take on the development delivery role?

Yes, if the land is in local authority ownership and there are upfront capital costs required to release the land; the land release point would be the transfer to the developer.

How do you demonstrate public sector equality?

Schemes which highlight a positive impact for people with protected characteristics (as defined in the Equality Act 2010) in the local area who struggle to attain appropriate housing will be given a 5% increase to their overall score. Examples of a positive impact could include:

  • proposals to bring forward development in areas where those with protected characteristics have disproportionately low home ownership
  • proposals in areas where those with protected characteristics suffer disproportionately from overcrowding
What is the minimum BCR a project must achieve for BLRF?

The project must achieve a minimum BCR + non-monetised benefit of 1.5:

  • the project must provide a BCR of 1.0 or higher. The BCR is calculated using the BLRF Technical Annex
  • all projects can add up to 0.5 to this score by demonstrating impact and evidence of non-monetised benefits in their application
  • where the BCR is between 1.0-1.5, non-monetised benefits will be considered as part of the gateway assessment. A maximum of 0.5 for non-monetised benefits will be added to the BCR and a threshold of 1.5 for BCR + non-monetised must be reached to proceed further

BCR is a Benefits Cost Ratio and the BLRF Technical Annex calculates this for you automatically. It is the ratio of the quantified outputs to the grant being sought.

Examples of non-monetised benefits

The HMT Green Book (Annex A1 non-market valuation and unmonetisable values) and MHCLG appraisal guide provide examples of non-monetised benefits.

These include:

  • Environmental and natural capital
  • Land values
  • Energy efficiency and Greenhouse Gas (GHG) values
  • Life and health
  • Travel time
  • Affordable housing/housing tenure mix
  • Visual amenity impacts

Applicants are also encouraged to put forward other identified non-monetised benefits for assessment where they provide sufficient positive impact on value for money that can be well evidenced.

Some hypothetical examples of non-monetised benefits below:

“Site A is a brownfield site with visual amenity impacts for local residents. The site is significant in the local area, vacant and in a very poor state of repair, as demonstrated by photography and an indicative site plan. The application is able to provide evidence that a significant number of local residents are affected by this blight through the use of maps and photographs of the site showing significant amounts of housing and community facilities in close proximity to the site, together with an estimate of the affected population, with evidence of local support. This application would score highly, having demonstrated a clearly detrimental impact on a sizeable community.”

“Site B is a brownfield site in which the land will be remediated so that it is suitable for new housing to be built including the provision of affordable housing. There may be different types of affordable housing built such as social rent, affordable rent and/or shared ownership. The application will set out the proportion of the new units built that fall into these categories. In this example, a significant proportion of the units delivered will be social rent. The development also accelerates the provision of affordable housing on the site, bringing forward affordable homes earlier than would be possible without intervention. The application is able to provide evidence of demand for that tenure within a strategic housing need assessment and/or reference to current planning policy, as well as evidencing that the stated provision of social housing is viable.”

Is there a date by when housing should be delivered?

No, but ideally house-building within two years of the land being released.

In the event that release of land does not take place by the deadline what are the consequences? Is the funding clawed back or is there a project review process?

Applications should aim to offer confidence in delivery. Any changes to project plans or project outputs during the delivery period must be agreed in writing by programme partners, the OPE Regional Team and MHCLG. If, after the award of funding and before the release of land, the scheme is no longer able to meet these criteria, MHCLG will consider whether it can continue to support the project. If MHCLG determines that it can no longer support the project, it will request the return of funding if unspent.

What do you mean by self and custom-build?

The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016) defines self and custom-build as “the building or completion by: individuals; associations of individuals; or persons working with or for individuals or associations of individuals, of houses to be occupied as homes by those individuals”.  It does not include “the building of a house on a plot acquired from a person who builds the house wholly or mainly to plans or specifications decided or offered by that person”. 

Guidance updated by MHCLG in July 2017 states that “ In considering whether a home is a self build or custom-build, relevant authorities must be satisfied that the initial owner of the home will have primary input into its final design and layout”.

What is meant by market failure?

Market failure occurs where the market alone cannot achieve an economically efficient outcome. In the case of BLRF, this will occur when there is a need to provide remediation works or infrastructure that no developers would be able or willing to fund to make the land suitable for housing. Equally, those works would have been deemed too costly by the (public sector) land owner creating a funding gap which leaves the site stalled and with no prospect of being released for housing. Through your answer, you should be able to clearly demonstrate how the scheme addresses an existing market failure and the economic rationale for government intervention.

What is not funded?

The following is not expected to be funded through BLRF/S&CB:

  • Revenue costs
  • Early stage feasibility studies
  • Community engagement
  • Off-site infrastructure unless directly related and proportionate to the scheme
  • Design/planning costs

This is not an exhaustive list.

What is meant by “homes unlocked”?

The proposed number of new homes to be delivered minus any homes replaced. For example, if demolishing 100 homes and building 120 homes, the number of homes unlocked will be 20.

Why are some parts of the basic details form locked? Why can’t I change them?

The basic details form will be used for internal processes which is why some parts are locked and cannot be updated. All parts of the form that you need to complete for your application are unlocked and updatable. Please contact OnePublicEstate@local.gov.uk with any specific issues.

When does my application need to be received by?

Applications for BLRF funding must be received by OPE (onepublicestate@local.gov.uk) by 2 June 2021 (23:59).

How can I be sure I have submitted all I need to?

There is a checklist in the basic details form. This should be completed before submitting your application.

What happens if my application is late?

Given the scale of the programme we cannot accept late applications.

When will I hear back about my application? When will funds be awarded?

Funding announcements are expected to be made in July 2021. BLRF grants (capital) are paid under The Local Government Act 2003, Section 31, and are awarded to the authority within which the project sits. Reporting is still carried out via the OPE partnership within which that authority sits.

Are there any reporting requirements if I am successful in my application?

Yes. All activity must adhere to reporting requirements. These will be set out in a condition of funding letter. Contact your Regional Programme Managers if you have any specific questions around reporting requirements before applying.

When does funding need to be spent?

As part of the deliverability assessment we will be seeking confirmation from local authorities that they will commence the process of releasing the land and spending the funding in the current financial year.