One Public Estate: Brownfield land release fund - Self and custom build workshop - a transcript

This webinar took place on 29 April 2021


Transcript

Moderator: Right. So, I think we can start. It's 3 o'clock. Good afternoon everyone, welcome to our One Public Estate Brownfield Land Release Fund, Self & Custom Build Workshop. I'm joined today by colleagues from the One Public Estate team and also the national Right to Build Task Force. Could we move to the next slide, please Kate? Now, as you may be aware, last week, the One Public Estate programme launched the Brownfield Land Release Fund or BLRF, as we call it. This fund comprises up to £75 million of capital grant available to eligible English local authorities. The fund is made up of two parts, so £50 million for local authority Brownfield Land Release for housing and 25 million for local authority Land Release for Self & Custom Build housing delivery.

 

Now, as the name suggests, today's workshop will be very much looking at how local authorities can deliver self-build. My colleague, Abby, will give us an overview of the Self & Custom Build Fund and colleagues from the national Right to Build Task Force will take us through the different types of self-build and look at how local authorities have delivered self-build in different locations. This will be followed by a question and answer panel. Due to the number of attendees today, could I ask that you post your questions through the Zoom chat function? You can do this by clicking the speech bubble at the bottom of your screen. Just to emphasise too, today we will be specifically focusing on how local authorities can deliver self & custom builds. We ran a bid writing workshop yesterday which looked in more detail at the fund, the criteria, top tips, how local authorities can apply. If you missed that workshop, it was recorded and we will be sending out links soon. Today's workshop will also be recorded and the link shared with attendees and One Public Estate partners. Next slide, please Kate. So, without further ado, I'll hand over to Abby Raymond, the One Public Estate regional programme manager for London, who will give us a brief overview of the Brownfield Land Release Fund, Self & Custom Build Fund. Next slide, please Kate. Over to you, Abi. You're on mute, Abi.

 

Abby Raymond: Thank you. Welcome everybody, and we're very excited to share with you the details of the Self & Custom Build programme. Can you move to the next slide, please Kate? As Belinda mentioned, this is a £25 million ring fenced pot for self & custom builds and as well as applying to brownfield lands, it also applies to greenfields, so that's a key difference from the main fund. Funding can be used to-, or should be used to fund abnormal costs that most of us will recognise such as infrastructure, environmental costs, contamination works, etc. They-, the addition for Self & Custom Build is that funding can be used, also, to service plots. Applications must demonstrate that funding will address the market-, a clear market failure and there's a definition for that in the FAQs. Now, we won't be able to go into all the detail today because the focus is on the actual delivery and the advice from our specialists, panel speakers on self-build but you will find, if you look at the combination of products, the prospectus, the application templates and the FAQ hopefully, most of your key questions will be answered.

 

Sites must release by 2024 and we'll come onto, in a minute, how we hope-, how we're really looking for evidence of that in your submission and in terms of what release-, land release means, there's four definitions. One is around the disposal, straightforward out and out disposal. One is a transfer to a delivery partner or housing (mw 04.07) , housing company and if the local authority is delivering itself, it could be starting site. There is an additional definition for customer self-build and that will be at the exchange of first plot, recognising that for self-build, local authorities may need to be involved to a later stage, to get them in the position that they can actually be released for self & custom build. Next slide, please Kate.

 

The assessment process has six key elements. So first, is the gateway criteria. I won't go into details on that now, that's fairly obvious on the slide but the actual criteria that I would be able to give to be assessed on are, value for money, which is 40% and that is identified using the technical annex. That's a combination of a business cost ratio, BCR and also DBA (ph 05.08) will also be included in that and again, I won't go into the detail of that but you are allowed to include non-monetised benefits if you are only able to get to 1, a BCR of 1 and you need to get to a BCR of 1.5 to progress. So, you can use non-monetised benefits of around 0.5 to improve the score but again, there's more details of that in the FAQs. The strategic case is really important, that's 30% and that can include consideration of government policy such as the Levelling Up agenda, economic recovery but also need. It's important, I think, with certain custom builds to think about, 'How are you going to evidence a need,' and that might be around your self & custom build register or other evidence in terms of your housing demand and supply analysis.

 

We are also encouraging applicants for self & custom builds to set out-, I froze, that's okay. Come back. Come back. To give an indication of why your scheme (mw 06.15) been exemplar, because the government is particularly keen to use this programme to demonstrate how a self & custom build can be delivered to, by other partners not just participants. I would be looking for your commitment to share learning and experience but also, through the programme, we are wanting to demonstrate how customer self-builds can be delivered in different settings, so high and low density, urban and rural settings. The other-, the next key criteria to deliverability, that's around what-, understanding your key milestones, where are you with planning, don't necessarily have to have planning in place but we would want confidence that your-, you've got an understanding of what the planning risks are and it'd be at a reasonable, advanced stage in those negotiations or maybe having local (inaudible 07.09) allocation but the details, these are probably best to discuss with your original programme managers.

 

Moving on to innovation, that-, we think-, we think about this is gonna be something like a customer self-build applicants should be able to score well on because you use SMEs as (inaudible 07.28) SMEs. Modern SME construction is another score-, is another consideration in innovation and obviously, in terms of the zero carbon credentials, your schemes and finally, it's really important there's a public sector equality duty. It's a fairly-, it's only-, 5% is the overall score but it's important to make sure your application addresses that. I think the-, it's fair to say that, actually, the criteria for both BLRF and custom self-build are the same but the evidence you will-, will be looking for you to draw on, you'll probably be subtly distanced with that as I've referenced. I think, that's probably all I was going to say but I have to answer any questions. Page one, thank you.

 

Moderator: Thank you very much Abby and just a reminder to folk as well, if you do have any questions, please put these in the chatbox and we can pick these up in the question and answer panel, a little later. I'm pleased to welcome today, Mary Elkington, the acting Head of the national Right to Build Task Force. Mary will give us an-, give us an introduction to Self & Custom Build delivery. Mary, over to you.

 

Mary Elkington: Thank you. Kate, if you wanna start of with this slide. I'm going to try to not repeat much of what I did yesterday. Again, it's gonna be a very abbreviated look at some of the features of custom self-build. I'm gonna go through a little bit of the basics and show a few examples and typologies and then our-, my colleagues Tim Moon and Adam Broadway are going to go into two specific, kind of, case studies and share some of the lessons learned on the detail. The Task Force is funded by MHCLG to help councils and other stakeholders to roll out a self-build. We're also part-funded by the National Custom Self-Build Association who is, more the industry facing side. Kate, next slide. Thank you.

 

The-, this fund. The self-build fund is part of what is the government's self-build action plan, which was announced on Monday, which includes a help to build scheme which has been announced, the final details on how that's gonna work are still coming through the Treasury but should be out soon. Richard Baker MP is doing a review into the sector. The Task Force will be able to keep councils for another year, which is good. They've-, you will have seen a few weeks ago, the CLG published their first set of the self-build data because they've-, you know, they've been collecting this from councils through the data returns for a few years. So, it's all go for custom & self-build. So, next slide please.

 

Just to, real briefly, kind of, set the stage on the key driver, if you're looking at the lower right corner, the new homes and number of-, that's SMEs, small builders, where the big green bars are your housing delivery, left hand side and then the red line is your number of SME builders and what you can see there is actually, the number of homes being delivered stays fairly constant. You know, bouncing around 200k, up and down but-, whereas the number of small builders has continued to fall. It took a big hit during the credit crisis and it doesn't bare thinking with what some of them have faced during COVID and-, and essentially, this is an issue for a variety of reasons but primarily throughput. You know, we've-, the volume builders have such a large market share, I wouldn't call it a monopoly but, you know, they have taken over the bulk of the housing delivery.

 

So, self-build-, customer self-build is a way of bouncing that delivery up and then the right-hand corner chart, the international comparison. You'll see that U.K is really, internationally an outlier because we have so few individually commissioned homes and it's not strictly a question of wide, open spaces because if you look at places like Belgium and, you know, the dense, urban areas around Austria, they're primarily delivering through individual commissioned homes. You know, self-build and custom build. It wouldn’t be-, it's not a problem in itself that we're not doing it like the rest of the country-, the rest of the planet but if our housing system was working brilliantly, it wouldn’t be an issue. However, I think we all agree that there's things that need addressing in the housing system. So, this again is a new opportunity. Kate please, the next slide.

 

And I just wanted to share this, it's a little anecdote, as it were. So, around a third of the population say they'd be interested in custom and self-build but to me, the really interesting thing there is it's the younger generation. So, if you look at number two there, half of the people between 18 and 24 want to do-, would like to do a self-build. So, there's a bit of a disconnect between the only people who can do it now are the people with the very deep pockets and I know you've seen them all on the telly. It's usually a retired couple with a lot of money and so there's a bit of a disconnect. So, that's again something else that we want to address. Next slide.

 

And we talked about this yesterday, so I don’t want to overdo it but just to confirm, self-build is directly commissioned by an individual or a group of individuals. They hire the architect, they may do some of the construction or some of the internals. Custom build, there's an enabler or a specialist developer and again, this is a spectrum where some custom build enablers will just create a service plot and take that to market and then it's over to the builder. Some enablers will do all the planning and design code and essentially just offer a small range of things for customisation. So, it is a spectrum. That's fine, next slide is good. So again, it's not just large houses in the country. It's-, you can have terraces and flats and these can be done by individuals or cooperatives, collectives. So, next slide. I'll be onto the examples in a second.

 

And just to remind everybody, the statutory duties that councils have, that we're trying to help councils manage are the having to keep and publicise a register of people and have regard to that register and then a further duty to grant permissions in line with the number of the register but not the individuals. And I think, Abi's comment about the assessing need, obviously, your register is one measure of need. The Task Force on our website, we have some information how to do a strategic assessment of ned or a broader assessment of need and again, that's something we can help you need. The people doing examples today will-, it will be interesting to hear from them but it's certainly everything I'm aware of when people do advertise plots, they're more than over-subscribed so the demand is there and-, so that's something to consider and we can help you with. So, the next slide. I won't belabour this. Just to go through, you know, so many reasons we're all behind this and this really is a-, it's sort of a cross-party thing that predates the coalition and it's something that-, it's a new housing supply, it's a new economic opportunity for some. For individuals, it can help with community building and affordability. So, that's all I'm gonna say about that.

 

Kate, if you could do the next slide and go on to the next-, the first example. And I'm not gonna talk a lot about this, this is Graven Hill which some of you will be aware of which is the Cherwell council's 1,900 homes that they've done with Home's England and it's on former MOD land. And it's, you know, the biggest at scale self-build that, that we've done. And a brilliant example, and some of you will, will know all about it and their local development orders, and how it's all streamlined. But the reason I wanted to show this is because if you look there, you've got flat roofs, you've got mono-pitched, you've got gables here and there, you’ve got different types of homes. But actually, it does work, it holds together so well, it's really beautiful place with a great sense of community, and the other thing you can see here is you've got people living in homes and, you know, two doors down you've got scaffolding. Now, a, a lot of these are, are kit homes, panel systems, so the, the actual build is a lot quicker and, and the build is a lot less intrusive then what you'd see, you know, there's not a bunch of cement batching and the kinds of things you'd see on a-, on, on a volume site of the same size. But it works and, you know, the council's learned a lot about site management, and I'll talk about that in my second bit. So, if we could click through. Just a few examples showing how on urban infill and, and brownfield land schemes can come forward. So, this is-, and when you get the slides you'll be links on some of these, so. This is in, I believe it's Lewisham, I can't quite remember. So, within this development, they have six homes that are, are custom self-built. If you click on the next. These are-, were designed as terraces then once they started marketing it and they, they got the demand, some of those, if you see in, in this example here, one of them was redone as two flats.

 

And again, you say self-build flat, 'Well, how does that work because you can't specify, you know, the fenestration or specify what you want it to look like?' But you can get a shell and make it your own from there, so that's what we call shell finish. Next slide. And this is another example and this is-, this is Islington. So, it's, it's very deep pockets but it, again, it just shows what can be done on a fairly small parcel of land. This is again, the applicants came forward with this as like a cooperative, collective self-build with six families. Next slide. And what they've done is created six, you know, nice sized family homes, you know, they're not overly large but really nice sized family homes. And they have some, some collective outdoor space, amenity space. And, again, it works really well on a, a tight site because you're, you're just filling in there. Can you go to the next slide? So, the GLA has a small sites team that some of you-, those of you in London will be familiar with which is, you know, great, it's helping with identify potential land supply for schemes. Next slide, next-, thank you. But if you're not in London, you do have a brownfield register and I know planning colleagues who are-, who are very busy with things may not have time to, to engage with this quite so much. But it-, the brownfield land registers a great source of potential sites and I'd encourage you to, to maybe keep that in mind as well. Next slide. These are just some of the-, I mentioned enablers which with the brownfield fund a lot of the schemes might be where the council will be the enabler but if you are looking for JV partners or when you want to-, if you have a site that you want to take to market. Over the past four or five years, these custom build enablers have really picked up the market's growing and, and there are people out there. Next slide. This one Tadpole Garden Village, Crest Nicholson, and it's just a-, an area of about fourteen plots that they've put forward.

 

If you want to skip forward a couple, slip, and then one more, thank you. Okay. Back one, I just want to mention this real quick, almost done. And this is when I talk about spectrum of homes, this is, sort of, the, the, the far end where this is in Basingstoke. It's called Squirrel Wood. And these, these are homes that's funny because they don't have on site, it's not called a show home, they have a plot design centre, or a home design centre. So, you walk in and obviously, these are-, these are terraces and this-, and most of the scheme is, is terraces. There are some flats and some detached plots as well. But the-, when you go in to buy a home, you're actually specifying what you want, do you want open plan, do you want it laid out this way? And if you think about it, if you went into a volume builder's site and said, 'Well, I don't want a small rooms and an en-suite, I want two big rooms and a family bath.' They wouldn't-, you know, they wouldn't know how to cope with that. Whereas, you know, this is something designed for you to lay it out how you want. Next slide. Skip over again, thank you. And just to, to mention that customer self-build can be affordable housing and that includes things like discount market sale. The legislation is clear, it's about the occupant, not the owner, so it-, you can have a rental scheme that is custom self-build. Obviously, you have to do a, a bit more thinking about, about how one does this. And I think you can have, you know, the idea of having a first homes or discount market sale is, is certainly compatible with self-build. And one or two, two more for me, slide please, Kate? And that's just an, an example of-, this is a Space ND Assess Compliant one bedroom affordable home that's going to someone on the housing needs register, built with the panel system, assembled on site in five days.

 

And it, it just gives you a sense of how with some of these schemes you, you can-, you're not looking for huge tracks of land, they do slot in really nicely on, on some of the, the council sites. And how that can be done as custom. That's fine, go on Kate. And also, affordable exception sites which some councils have done quite a bit of work on and it-, if you're going for this for the brownfield fund, you're probably will have thought a little bit more about planning. But it's, it's certainly a-, one route. So, I'm gonna-, I've just given you an, an idea of the range and now we're gonna-, I'm gonna turn it over to Tim. Or, back to Belinda.

 

Moderator: Thank you, Mary. Thank you, Mary. A really interesting presentation, so I'd now like to welcome Tim Moon from the City of York Council. And Tim's going to be talking to us today about a self-build scheme in Lowfield Green. Over to you, Tim.

 

Tim Moon: Thank, thank, thanks Belinda. And welcome to everyone. So, yes, I've been asked to talk about our first self-build scheme which is also part of a larger development. So, if you could go to the next slide please, Kate. So, this is-, this is our site. So, Lowfield Green is a former secondary school that was closed in 2008. A year later, a number of the buildings were set alight and it then sat empty until 2016 where the site was then wrapped up within our, our, our first major housing development in York since the 1970s. So, it's part of a wider development story as well, being the first of eight sites that will see us delivering somewhere in the region of 600 new homes, of which 40% will be affordable through either shared ownership or social rent. And as this is our first site, the decision seems to be have been made to throw everything at it, so we have 140 homes with fourteen different house types, ranging from one bed flats to over 55-, for over 55s to four bed town houses. Which we're building out. We have an extra care plot that we're out for procurement, public service building, a community-led housing plot where nineteen homes are going to be delivered by a co-housing group called Your Space. And then, the six self-build plots. So, as this site's completely surrounded by houses, our first task was to create a new entrance through the garden of a small block of council flats that we owned. So, kind of, looking at what we've done, so we've got six self-build plots that have probably got one of the best locations on the site, so they overlook the village green, they've got south-facing gardens. They're on fairly-, they're on reasonably generous plots, so each plot was either nine or seven and a half metres wide, and somewhere in the region of 24 metres deep. Which then gave a build zone of either 67 or 85 square metres, depending on the size of the plot.

 

This build zone was controlled by the Outland Planning consent that we got with it having to start five metres back from the front edge, seven metres in from the rear, and one metre from either side. So, with a maximum height on 9.7 metres, that meant every house could be three storeys high, which is the, the potential for some really bug houses, especially considering the largest house we're building is around 125 square metres. Which in hindsight, we should have possible looked to control that through the design code. But with hindsight, there is a number of things that we should have done differently. And I'll come back to that a little bit later. So, all this information about the build zone was-, alongside material choices, ground conditions which are blancmange (ph 24.40), service connections and other rules of the build were all detailed within the design code and the plot passport which we had put together by our consultants, Custom Build Homes. Who also then operated as a sales agent for the plots. So, in November 2019, we started marketing these plots with four site viewing days spread across four weekends. We initially decided to go with a, a sealed bid process because we weren't 100% convinced by the values and so just a few numbers. We've got roughly 420 people on our self-build register, we had 80 expressions of interest in these six plots, 40 separate viewings across the four weekends, and then ten confirmed bidders. So, the smaller plots were advertised for 85,000 the larger plots for 95,000. And the bids that we-, that we had in were, were significantly above that. Unfortunately, before any planning applications came in, a global pandemic hit which we didn't quite foresee. Which cost four of the six confirmed bidders to get cold feet and pull out, so those four plots were then re-marketed and all sold within six weeks. So, even at the height of a pandemic, we still had bidders for these.

 

So, five of the six plots now have planning permission with the sixth expected any day. Planning had the additional challenge of our local plan going through it's first examination between the design code being written and the applications going in. So, due to this, planners were then keen to apply certain new policies that enforce stricter sustainabilites-, stricter sustainability levels then we'd detailed in our design code. On the plus side though, this did allow me to build some great relationships with our planning team to the point where I think I'm-, I could well be invited to the wedding of someone I didn't even know six months ago. All of our six self-builders are using local SME contractors and five of the six are using modern methods of construction. With the sixth going for a standard block and-, block and brick build. But they are using a builder who went to school on the site when it used to be a school which is a-, which is a nice story. There's a drainage and services both temporary and permanently going in shortly, we hope to have the first self-builder on site by the end of May. So, kind of, going back to that point I made earlier about hindsight, this is the first-, our first attempt at bringing self-build plots to market and from the outside, it looks like it's all gone rather swimmingly. And on, kind of, behind the scenes, we've all been paddling like mad to try and get this through because there was a number of things that we, we didn't foresee and we overlooked. First being planning, make sure they are fully onboard with any scheme and liaise with them at every single step. So, we, we had a text version of our design code approved. And our final all-singing, all-dancing version that went out to the, the people who ended up buying the plots had images in it which are consultants who had interpreted the design code one way and our planners had interpreted it a slightly different way. Which just led to unnecessary delays in the process.

 

So, if we'd got that, that final design code signed off and had planning, planning had bought into that then I think it would have all run a lot more-, a lot smoother. Location of the sites. This is really important and something we didn't-, we didn't-, we didn't give a thought to, we just thought, 'What's the best place for them?' And they're in a great location but they're not in a great location if the entire site is a closed off building site and you're trying to get in the people who have bought, bought these plots of land that they own. And they just can't-, at the moment, they just cannot access them without growing through our contractor and getting their contractors on site is, is then-, is then challenging. We could have resolved some of this by delaying when we'd sold the plot so that actually we, we'd known our site was going to be more built out but by the time they came onboard. But we were just too excited and wanted to get it underway as quickly as possible. Contractors-, contracts, sorry. So, there are various things to do with the self-build plots that we-, that just didn't go into our tender document, therefore didn't go into our contract with our main contractor. So, it's been a bit of a slog trying to get our contractor to do things that we need them to do but it isn't in their main contract. And they're, they're looking to build out a £25 million contract for 140 houses. These six self-build plots are just a bit annoying to them. If we'd got all this in the contract to begin with, then it, it would have all run a lot smoother. Now, we are now at the point with a, an awful lot of meetings, an awful lot of hand-holding and I think we're, we're, we're now in a good place. But it, it's been a bit of a challenge. So, I've ended up being in, in-, the middle man between six self-builders who are pouring their heart, soul and life savings into this project, and a main contractor who's just not that interested.

 

So, it's, it's been a challenge and this could have been resolved if we'd had this stuff within the contract in the first place. Final, final learning really is about being really clear about what your providing and what you're-, and more importantly what you're not providing to the self-builders. Because there are assumptions that have been made by self-builders, sales agents, and contractors, and it's just led to unnecessary conflict. And, and challenges that we just didn't need to have. So, yeah, just kinda, to finish up, it's not been an-, it's not been an easy process but we've learnt a lot and we're doing it again. So, we've just had planning, we've just received planning for our next sight at Burn Home, it's going to have self-build plots alongside 85 passive house, standard houses. I just realised I have some other slides, could we just flick on two slides, please, Kate? Yes, ah, so this just shows the-, some CGIs of the six houses that we've had put together. And we always knew-, because our design code was, was fairly loose, it detailed the size and, and not a lot else really. A bit of a sustain-, a level of sustainability but what we've-, we knew we could have had a mock Tudor at one end and a white cube at the other, and everything in between. What, what we've ended up with is six distinct, well, five distinctly different, two are designed by the same architect, so there's a definite style there but five distinctly different houses that are all built to a really high sustainability level. Because everyone who's, who's, who's had them designed is going to be living in them, so they design it with an eye on the-, on the-, on the ongoing running costs. And the one in the middle, the, the square box climbing rusty steel is, is challenging. But I think they all add to the local vernacular. Yes, that's, that's, that's me done, thank you very much for listening. And hopefully, I haven't rambled on for too long.

 

Moderator: No, thank you, Tim. That was a great presentation and it looks like a really interesting scheme there. So, I'll now welcome Adam Broadway from Instinctively Green and the Right To Build taskforce, and he'll be looking at community-led housing. Thanks, Adam. I think you may be on mute, Adam.

 

Adam Broadway: Damn, it always catches us out, doesn't it? Good afternoon everybody, I'm going to give you an overview of the, the benefits of community-led housing. Give you, kind of, flavour some of the issues you need to consider in trying to pull these types of schemes together. And use the 1 Marmalade Lane as, as the main case study. Thank you, Kate. So, I think the principle to understand straight away is the community-led housing is about a group of people coming together to commission and, and design their own place, their own community of their own home. It’s a fantastic way of doing things but it is complex and it needs to be done in a-, in a-, in a particular, kind of, way and order. And I think what, what really needs to be understood and we'll use this as-, in the case study is that to get it off the ground, you need to be really clear about a, a clear marketing campaign. That campaign needs to draw together the initial group, the, kind of, early adopters and it's really sense in getting them together in a-, in something like a foundation group. You know, get them as the core people who meet regular to, kind of, set the agenda. But one of the lessons learnt from doing these types of projects are in a number of situations across the country at the moment, is that we have to help these individuals who are not going to be necessarily experts in the field to operate, like, in a business structure. So, you need to encourage them to have regular meetings, have a board, have a decision making process because that way they will move the project on quicker. Clearly, the site is crucial and if they haven't-, a number of groups I'm working with a couple, I'm working with a group in Cirencester and Sheffield at the moment who have both now identified their sites. But I know of other groups who haven't got a site, so finding a site is crucial and hopefully, this initiative led by the government and colleagues on this call will hopefully, kind of, identify some new sites which we can bring to the market.

 

Having got the site, you then need to start thinking about design and viability, and one of the crucial things in here is that in working with a group, they need to quite quickly articulate in a document what their brief is. Something I call the client brief and I think it is the most important piece of work that the group will need to do. When it comes to the scheme itself and the site, then one of the things that I, I plan-, local authority colleagues need to seriously give consideration to is about the joint engagement between planning, housing and other colleagues, councillors, etc. Because in that way, the message can be consistent and you can get a number of the issues resolved at an early date. But all of this, absolutely can only really take place if it's facilitated and facilitated in a continuous way, not in an ad-hoc way which we had to experience in, in, in Cambridge. And that means putting somebody who understands the process, who can work with the group, in between those parties to enable the thing to move forward. Thanks, Kate. So, benefits to the group. So, looking at it from the group's perspective, what this, the community-led housing group brings is choice. In a-, in a-, and often, if you look at the, the market at the moment, and, and Mary articulated this, is that choice is very difficult at the moment. And if you want a really good and affordable product, what the house builders are offering us at the moment, and is arguably just not good enough to meet the, kind of, modern standards of modern day life. Affordability is also a crucial thing and by getting engaged and getting in early, it allows people to buy something which is basically, could well be if it's offered on the open market out of their reach. The other point is about the adaptability of the home, the Marmalade Lane scheme you'll hear in a minute and the picture on, on your screen shows quite similar looking, kind of, house types.

 

But I can tell you virtually all of those had adaptations etc, which met the individual's requirements. And so, you have that ability by commissioning something to get something that really does suit your needs at your present time but also your future needs. I don't know a single group that I've spoken to who do not understand and want to deliver something really sustainable and everybody is talking about trying to reduce costs, reduce environmental impact, and create a, a fantastic social community. And they-, that is the key part of this, this-, by building this scheme, by working together, you're creating a, a, an-, a new community very quickly. And that has huge benefits particularly at those organisations and authorities who have got very large strategic sites, you create the early adopters and bring them to the market very early by taking these concepts forward. Next slide please, Kate. So, what's the benefits to a council? So, one of the, the beauties of this-, these models is this in an opportunity to sell land, you, you might not have been able to sell before and it will produce a capital receipt. That will clearly vary and I know colleagues on the call may, may say that's a challenge. But that-, there, there are opportunities to create value back for the council. And as I say, it can often be utilised to use stored or difficult sites. It also, most importantly as you can probably gather that community-led housing falls beautifully under the new customer self-build policy and government direction, and it's a really good model. The other thing I would say as, as for a council, those of you who are starting to consider this and, and you're looking to produce sustainable developments in the future, these schemes are, are a really good way of providing exemplar sustainable housing developments in a variety of different ways.

 

I've said already that one of the other benefits is creating a cohesive community from the start, that's really important in today's society because that in it's turn can reduce impact on other services which are extremely stretched as we know. Things like childcare, mental health services, etc. As I always say, when you look at these particular schemes, on one site you have your childminders and your carers all living in the same place. Next slide, please. I just referenced that K1 is not the only scheme, there are a number of co-housing schemes around and a great example for-, particularly for older people and downsizes is the-, is the OWCH scheme in High Barnet and there's a fantastic video TV programme produced which gives an example of that. And the beauty again about that scheme is it's not just all for sale, there are actually social housing, and I mean proper social housing, council target rents are being charged on that particular scheme. It's a really good example. Next slide, please. So, community-led housing in it's reality. So, some of you may have heard about Marmalade Lane. It was originally called K1, K1 forms part of one of Cambridge's largest first urban extensions to the north of the city, a thousand homes. This site was owned by the city council and was, was caught in the 2008 recession in that a developer was going to buy it and pulled out. So, with my colleagues, Stephen Hill, who some of you may know, he put a, a scoping paper to the council to say, 'Why don't we do try and do something different.' And we did. We did it by actually convincing the council not to, to utilise their marketing budget in selling the site but to provide it for facilitation money, a seat core (ph 40.09) money, to help us test the concept. A long story which we don't have time to go through here. A lot of work, probably about four years, five years work of working with the group, setting the group up.

 

We got to the point where we had a, a, a, a concept, a deliverable plan, a, a client brief and we were then able to go to the market and to, to find a developer partner. And we selected TOWN, Trivselhaus, consortium to be our development partner, they employed Mole Architects. And for those of you who've been following the awards, you'll see that a significant number of awards have been awarded for the architectural merit. And well as the, the well-beings of the-, of the occupants. Member in this scheme own the houses are on freehold, freehold, and there are-, the flats are held on a long lease with the estate being held by the company itself. Next slide, please. Here's some images. So, some of the key features of a co-housing is this utilisation of space for the community. So, whereas on the right-hand side, some of the, the houses have small private garden space, but it's not fenced in. There's on the left-hand side you can see part of the, the, the major open space which is south-facing and has some existing trees. And that's utilising a whole a variety of different ways, like, allotments, a play area, just general, kind of, space and calmness within a, a site which is-, has a couple of busy roads either side of it, north and south. And on the left-hand side, you can see a block of flats. The other key feature, this photograph's taken from the thing called a common house. The common house is a functioning building which basically where people meet and greet, have functions, has a kitchen and a laundry, and some guest bedrooms. And that's a-, the, kind of, the heart of the project, was critical in, in actually bringing the soul scheme together. The other thing is a thing called the Lane where there's a, kind of, walking area with-, between blocks of homes which is bluntly used by anybody who wants to use it, but is full of children's play kit, it becomes a brilliant playground. Next slide, please.

 

The other thing I'll say, this is Jan, Jan Chadwick who's one of the founders and members of the group, she came in about three years into the project as we were forming it. But what was crucial here was getting people who really were the advocates of the scheme and they could talk to people, bring in new members and actually also a real treasure for the scheme, and great to work with. Who absolutely, kind of, embodied the whole principle community-led housing. Next slide, please. So, what are the lessons. So, the key message I would say to anybody that facilitation, to get these schemes together, it, it, it's well worth investing in having somebody who, who gives dedicated time to setting it up. Early engagement with planning. There's a long discussion which I have no time for I'm afraid on this to explain but engaging your planning colleagues as you can all probably experience is really key, getting people to understand that. I've mentioned the client brief, that is the crucial document which sets the tone and the agenda for the development. Taking a business approach to-, within the group is, again, really important, get the group focused, get them working in a very professional way so that they can give a professional exterior, a message to all the professional teams that they're working with. And that makes it a much better solution. And crucially, these projects don't happen overnight, development doesn't happy overnight, but time and patience is critical to this and if you can dedicate that to it, then you'll create places like Marmalade Lane and, and all the architects and all the designers will claim all the awards which come, come with it. Next slide, please. So, finally, I think that's my final slide, is just to, again, give you an example that this, this place was-, has come about by teamwork, getting the right professionals around you to not only work the scheme up but to deliver it. So, TOWN, Mole Architects, etc. Are all crucial in getting the scheme to be able to be an exemplar of community-led housing and it can, can be done. And what I would say is that the health and wellbeing benefits of this are, are immeasurable in many ways. And I'm, I'm looking forward to seeing the research which comes out of it to demonstrate how important these type of community-led projects can be for our, our environments. Thank you, I think that's my last slide.

 

Moderator: Thank you very much, Adam. That was a really interesting presentation and some really good advice there as well. So, I'll hand you back to Mary, who's going to look more now specifically at self and custom-build delivery. Thanks, Mary.

 

Mary Elkington: Okay. Thanks. Yes, I'm certainly inspired. I, I find it very inspirationally but also, I think you need to go into it with a, a pretty realistic picture. So, Kate, if we could, could kick off, I've just got a couple of slides. Now, apologies if I step on one public estate's toes here because I'm not-, when I did the slide, I haven't had a chance to discuss with them but let's use non-monetary in the general sense here. These are examples of things that self build, custom build can-, can really deliver. Which include things like looking at a housing mix that you're just not gonna be able to deliver on a commercial side. If you-, If you turn over a side to the market, you may not get, and-, and that includes smaller plots or homes that are targeted to certain sectors of your housing market. And when I say soft affordability, there has a tendency sometimes to build the executive detach of the overly large, and this is a chance for an intervention to, kind of, address that market mix. And the way local authorities are doing it, these-, this is, I'm not necessarily advocating it, but it's just an example of the, kind of, tool you can use, is setting a maximum internal space standard.

 

Several councils use the NDSS or say, you know, no more than 15% or above, for example. Some councils will have income caps on bidders for plots and, again, this is where what you're trying to deliver is not necessarily the biggest capital recede. I saw a question and I guess and I-, I guess I'll ask Tim later about if they were satisfied with the capital return they got. Similarly, you-, there's nothing to stop a scheme coming forward in the fund, to-, to bid for the fund for something that will be delivered by a private sector or, you know, commercial JB partner or taken to the-, to the market as a commercial scheme. Again, you can have private, affordable housing such as someone who's will to undertake a-, a discount sale and local connections clauses. Those will have mortgage implications, so the number of potential self builders is somewhat more limited in that case.

 

And again, councils often have policies and something that-, that is a key issue or a key driver around customer self build is looking for things like the-, the, near-, near-, sorry, nearly zero energy or equivalent or specifically requiring PP or MHVR or something. And next slide. So, managing the delivery and the planning, it-, the-, a lot of you I know have-, you know, have-, have engaged with this, so you're familiar with the idea of design co site, design codes, I'm not talking about the-, the new MPVG, NPPF version but the site design codes and plot passports. And ultimately, these really are designed to make it easier on your planners and DM colleagues. I think the commends that both Tim and Adam made about engaging with planning are important and as-, as you said, you don't have to have planning in place, you need to be able to demonstrate that-, that there is a very good prospect of planning and if what you've got is a-, an infield development or a-, a, you know, demolition and rebuild of some kind of building or brown field. Well, that-, that's-, that will be policy compliant and you-, you do have a reasonable prospect.

 

But be mindful that where you do have things, and I'm thinking, for example, like, the Essex design code which has really specific issues about the size of rear gardens and I-, I-, I did a scheme there where it-, it was custom build and they wanted to turn it on its head. So, you had almost no, you know, tiny little rear gardens and a big communal green space in the space for your front gardens and we ran right up against the Essex design code. So, again, these are, kind of, things you-, you do want to do a bit of work with your planning colleagues on-, on that for-, for design issues. Planning conditions and obligations, you-, you will want to think these through, particular if you're going to be taking a multi plot scheme to market in terms of how you're portioning it in a planning obligations requirements restrictions and such. This will have a-, you will need to think about it carefully in terms of how you organise your section 106, when you do get the permission, in terms of how you're delivering it or selling it on. And the good news is self builders has bedded in now that a lot of councils have learnt lessons the hard way, so this is something that the task force does have some guidance on. Now, we can help with, you know, model 106s and thought through, but this is something that you'll need to consider in the delivery of your project.

 

And also be mindful again that the self regulations, if you are still charging authority, self build scheme, something that meets self build definition is exempt from CIL, the CIL regs impose a three year principle of residency clause and so that's something to be mindful of as well. And if-, you want to go to the next slide, please. When you're with a self build scheme, you often get a lot of what abouteries, so what about if the sub builders drop out or if, you know, do you get death and divorce and you've got a self build plot, who-, what happens then? And you know, every single case is going to be different and you have to work through the-, the-, the specific circumstances and merits and-, and I thought it was interesting to note, Tim, talking through with the-, the process they-, that they went through and again, everywhere that I've seen that-, that has done a plot offering has been oversubscribed. So having-, having the market, things don't always run smoothly, but-, but all the evidence we have is that markets are there. But, you do need to think about things like stepping rights, long stops or clawback clauses in your sales agreement. These can have all kinds of contractual and, like, I'm not one to give legal advice, but they're things that you do need to think through. You know, run it through when you're setting up the scheme as if you're-, if you're taking a scheme to market in particular.

 

Equally, you need to think about exclusion of any types of development, and so, just be clear, when selling it on, you-, you need to organise the sales contracts and consult our-, sorry, your build contracts so that you can be sure you're not going to end up with-, with just a speculation housing being introduced where you had anticipated having self build. The health and safety I mentioned in retrospect, in respect of the Graven Hill, and that's something that, again, it-, it's-, it's seems to be very manageable, we have colleagues who are putting together some advice on this. You do have issues where you've got, you know, matching deliveries and-, and big equipment and cranes, but again, because these are generally more modern methods of construction or panel systems or-, they're gonna be a quicker build and a much lighter build. So, as you know, people don't like living next to construction, but self build construction tends to be of a different flavour than having mister on big building, 400 homes next to you. And-, and again, the-, the implementation and monitoring is something that you need to work in from the beginning, both from your delivery scheme and in-, in contracts. And that's it, I think. Yes.

 

Moderator: Thank you very much, Mary. So, I've seen that we've had a number of questions come through the chat function, so without further ado I'll hand over to my colleague, Jez Dyer (ph 53.25), who is the One Public Estate Regional Programme Manager for London and he'll be running today's question and answer session. Over to you, Jez.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Belinda, and thanks for your questions that have been coming in throughout the presentations today, they're really helpful. The first one that I'm going to go to is just to confirm that the land ownership, we've had a few queries around OPE encouraging engagement with community land trusts in support of self and customer goal projects. And just to confirm that the land should be in the ownership of the local authority at the time that the bid is submitted.

 

Following on from that, Tim, I'm gonna come to you first and you might not want to get into the detail of any, sort of, profit levels, but there's a question on financial return for the self build projects and I wondered if you could share anything in terms of how you have made viability stack up on those schemes, and whether you've considered those plots separately or as part of a whole of the rest of the development?

 

Tim Moon: Yeah, so these have been considered as part of the whole development, which certainly helps them stack up. Now, we also already own the lap-, the land, which again, obviously helps from a financial point of view. I guess, because we've-, I mean, I don't know all of the numbers, I haven't been that involved in-, I've, kind of, said, 'This is what I want to do,' and our finance team's gone away and worked some wizardry on a spreadsheet and come back and said, 'Yes, we can do that.' But because we're already on site putting in roads, putting in infrastructure that-, that, actually a lot of those costs are, kind of, a shared between whole developments. So-, So, doing them as part of a larger development actually makes them more feasible from a finance point of view.

 

Jez Dyer: Okay, thank you. And-, And a query around development timelines and whether the-, we get to the point of land related-, within the March 2024 timescales and whether the funding might need to be returned if that's not achieved. I think applicants should aim to offer that confidence in delivery and applications, but we do recognise that each site comes with its own risks. And if there are changes to project plans or outputs during the delivery period, we expect those to be agree-, agreed in writing by the programme partners, which is all explained in-, in the conditions of funding letters as well as the OPE regional team and MHCLG. But, if after the award of funding but before the release of the land, the scheme is not able to proceed then we'll consider that point, whether we can continue to support the project, depending on the timescales and the criteria. And if we determine that we can't support the project any further than-, at that point, we may request the return of the funding if it hasn't been spent.

 

Mary, I'm gonna come to you next, we've had a query around the use of shipping containers as a modular build method and I think the-, the definition of the set up from custom build is outlined in our FAQs which I'll post a link to in our chat. But, Mary, I wondered if you'd mind providing some comments on the types of self and custom builds and other build methods that might be considered here?

 

Mary Elkington: Shipping containers, per se, I know one thing that we're-, we're clear about is a caravan shouldn't be counting as a custom or self build because of the definition of development and the planning act. So, it-, it-, if it's, you know, a caravan, that's not development. Shipping container, again, might fall under the same definition. If you're using-, if you’re integrating shipping containers just as if-, if you're integrating in a panel system or a form based-, form based MMC, they're, sort of, logically the same thing, so it depends on how you're using it. I think if-, if-, again, I'm sorry, so many of these you really have to consider the details, and-, and one thing we did say yesterday and when we-, we've said, offered to OPE. Because of this, such a large, grey area and such a large spectrum of housing, the-, the task force is-, is happy to speak to people about the nature of the build in terms of the who and how and who the intended occupants are, to confirm if it matches. If it's just putting a container or a few containers on a, you know, in a car park, that may not, but I certainly now that-, that some of the-, the urban areas are looking at and using car parks and-, and the second part of this. Meanwhile, use for the-, what are they called, the community right to regenerate, so if you-, you're doing it as a meanwhile, you're-, it's a very-, it's a good thing and it is housing, they are, but whether or not their customers self build would have to depend on how it's organised.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Mary. And I think we recognise that there are so many variables with this fund that, equally, our-, our regional programmes managers that happen to have conversations with local authority offices, if you have any more queries specifically about the funds. Abby, talking about the criteria, we've had a query around whether all of the units on the site have to be self and custom build or whether there can be market on there too, and I wondered if you'd mind mentioning something around schemes?

 

Moderator: I think you're on mute, Abby. I think we've had a connection problem there, Jez, shall I pick that question up?

 

Jez Dyer: Yeah, please do. Thank you.

 

Moderator: Yeah, so in terms of-, so, if you remember we do have a larger pot of funding, so it's £75,000,000, 25,000,000 is reserved for custom-, self and custom build, and so those homes do have to meet a self and custom builds criteria. And then £50,000,000 is for brown field land release, and that's for local authority owned sites that deliver housing, and that can be any type of housing, whether that's private, affordable, etc. Hopefully that answers the question.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Belinda. Another query around criteria is if-, whether the land-, if the land has been transferred by the local authority to a wholly owned development company, would it still qualify as local authority owned land? Local-, wholly owned housing companies are eligible to apply to the fund and we'd welcome conversations directly with regional programme managers to talk about the specifics of each site and to-, to make sure that they are eligible to apply. We'll post-, again, post a link to all of the contact details for regional programme managers in the chat to make sure that all of those specific site queries can be answered. Tim, I'm gonna come back to you, you mentioned thinking about things in hindsight and those things you might do differently if you could do it again, would you mind expanding on that a little bit?

 

Tim Moon: Yes. So, our architects who designed the site never actually put any services on the tender drawings to go to the self built plots. And it was just overlooked and no one was looking for it, so consequently, we went out to Tender with a set of drawings that didn't show services on them. So, when I then came to our contractor and said, 'Look, we need to have services going here, we want-, there aren't-, well, it wasn't on the Tender drawing, it's not in our contract we don't have to do it,' and that just then put me and-, on the back foot in a very difficult position, very awkward conversations. And then going back to our finance team and saying that I need some money to put this in, they were like, 'Well, well-, we can't give you any ore money on this project,' it was like, 'Well, we're selling these plots and they're not going-, service plots that aren't going to have any services,' so yeah, there was an awful lot of awkward conversations set around that. It was also-, we didn't have anything in there about fencing the self build plots, even levelling the self build plots. So-, So, everything we had to negotiate with the contractor once they were already in contract. Of course, they just charged us extra for-, for everything as a commercial contractor does. So, yeah, it was-, it's-, it's been challenging, but I think we're there now.

 

Jez Dyer: Yeah, it looks like an impressive scheme, so looks like you are-, Abby, I-, I hope you're there now. We've had a questioning around the funding, whether it would cover planning conditions, on outland planning consent provided that they're capital costs. And I wondered if you could just outline a little bit what the funding is intended to be used for.

 

Abby Raymond: Thanks, Jez. It's-, It's difficult to get into specifics of this-, of this particular scheme, so I think that it-, that might need to take note of the individual regional programme manager. But, generally speaking, they are meant to cover abnormal costs and-, for-, for ordinary BLFs-, BRLF schemes, that would be things like contamination, infrastructure and environmental costs. But, for self build, it can be servicing the plots and-, I'm not sure where planning conditions would fit into that unless there was something in some way abnormal, so-, but that-, I wouldn't much rule it out, I think it would be a-, I would suggest a specific conversation.

 

Mary Elkington: Can I just-, just interrupt 'cause I know that one of the questions that-, that we've had from some-, various people are things like flood works and, you know, kind of, extra on your sustainable drainage systems and such, which can be a planning condition but also an abnormal, is that correct?

 

Abby Raymond: Yeah. Well, I think if they're abnormal, then yes, but obviously not all planned conditions are abnormal, so I think it would depend, I think is the-, is the answer.

 

Jez Dyer: Thank you. And we've had a-, another query which followed on from the session yesterday around the eligibility of local authorities. And again, this is linked in our FAQS so I'll post-, post that into the chat, the eligibility is the same for both funds, there are seven now combined authorities who are not eligible for funds because they already have the opportunity to benefit from the £400,000,000 brown field fund which came before it. So, those are all listed in the FAQs. Mary, I wondered if you'd mind just expanding on some of the challenges that you see for local authorities in delivering or enabling self and custom build sites to come forward where they have the demand, what you think could be done to overcome those challenges in this context?

 

Mary Elkington: The challenges, as with everything, will be money, officer capacity and land, so three simple things to address and-, so, obviously, you know, the money and-, and making something viable and financially stack up, that-, that's what we're here to talk about today. That this fund hopefully can-, can be something to push some of the schemes over the edge. Having officer capacity, I-, I know when the self build legislation came in, every council was given 90k in extra burdens funding and some councils used this to fund a-, a self build officer into-, to do various things. Others didn't need to prioritise it that way or didn't choose to. So, again, this is something that-, that your-, your assets team, your housing team, you planning team, it-, it intersects with all of those things. And you are going to have to have whoever the project manager is will need to commit-, you know, commit to not just preparing a bid but bringing it forward.

 

And that's what-, what makes the difference, so having, you know, remarkable officer like Tim is the difference in-, in making these things happen and-, and as he probably gets from his comments, it does take a lot of, you know, take a fair bit of effort. The lands supply and the-, land supply in general is something that you can address or planning policy, and that includes, you know, looking for more, custom build it as part of larger and strategic sides. You know, a whole variety of policy tools that-, that planning policy tools one can do to-, to bring forward size. But again, I heard the phrase somebody said the other day about sites that are hiding in plain sight, and that's, I think, where this opportunity for councils to have a think about what they're got in the way of assets, don't forget your brown field land register, you know, anything in there that doesn't have permission might be worth a think, and that's, you know, the big challenge is-, is, you know, getting the landing. But again, I think if you look, even councils that don't think they have a lot of assets might have a redundant toilet block or a, you know, a surprising-, especially with some of these being small scales where you an bring forward a-, a cluster of custom build homes, self build homes.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Mary. Tim, Adam, is there anything you'd like to that from your experiences with the schemes that you've presented today?

 

Adam Broadway: Picking up, well I-, I think the-, the-, the key thing is, I think it's just being stretched, is that this is an opportunity. I think, you know, the land is always in-, often in scarce supply, but it's-, is that, kind of, (inaudible 01.07.41) looking up, kind of, land which might have some issues and so it's great to hear that the government's recognised that and this fund is hopefully a one way, kind of, resourcing it. And what we're trying to say on the custom self build route is that there are a range of options which can be considered under that definition to, kind of, bring forward those sites. Which actually, we think can, you know, provide additional homes for people in a housing need of some form. And importantly, hopefully some of that can be affordable housing to, kind of, meet those-, those other issues. But the end result is significantly better than what is often-, often made-, offered by traditional house builders.

 

You know, we have a climate change crisis, and as I said in my speech, in the, you know, number of people who-, who look at this, I don't know anybody who's come to me and said, 'No, I do not want to deliver a sustainable development or sustainable home.' And this is a really good way of showing to the housing world, you know, that we can build really, really good, energy efficient, you know, and sustainable, modern homes for-, for those individuals and for the future. So, I think it's a fantastic opportunity and encourage everybody to really grasp it.

 

Jez Dyer: Thanks, Adam.

 

Tim Moon: Yeah, I'd-, I, kind of, just like to echo what-, what-, what Adam said in-, in-, I-, I mean I'm looking to put in about eight or nine applications for this bid, and I do encourage-, for this fund and I'd encourage everyone to-, to-, to-, to do the same. You know, there's the-, there's land out there, there's-, there's a demand for it, lets just see if we can make this happen.

 

Jez Dyer: Great, thank you. I'll just answer one final question and then I'll pass back over to Belinda. So, one of the questions that came in was around whether it's feasible to submit a package of infills, self or custom build sites that could see individual plots releasing one or two homes. There's no minimum in terms of how many homes could be released per plot but it is a separate application for each individual site. Thanks for all your questions, I'll pass over to Belinda.

 

Moderator: Thank you very much, Jez, and also thank you to everyone for your questions, lots of interesting points raised. So, the questions from today's session have been captured and we will be updating our frequently asked questions page on our website after the-, after the workshop. And Kate, could we move to the next slide, please? If local authorities do have further questions or would like to discuss potential project opportunities, please get in contact with your regional team. The details are shown on the slide here and they're also available on our website, if you have any questions about how to deliver stuff and custom build, please get in contact with the right to build task force. So, finally, I'd like to thank you all for attending today and also a big thank you to all of our presenters, and we look forward to receiving some exciting One Public Estate brown field land release funds, self and custom build applications. And just a reminder the deadline for applications is the 2nd of June, so thank you very much everybody and have a lovely afternoon. Bye, then.