One Public Estate and Self and Custom-Build FAQs

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One Public Estate Phase 9 (OPE9) FAQs 

Who is eligible to apply for OPE9?

Applications should be submitted by the lead local authority for the OPE partnership. Each project application should include at least two public sector organisations – one central government and one local government partner. The fund is open to all local authorities and public sector partners across England. Please contact [email protected] if you have queries about eligibility.

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).
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 [email protected] with any specific issues.

If applying for both OPE9 and S&CB2 do I need to submit separate BDF forms?

Yes, please submit one BDF for OPE applications and one BDF for S&CB applications.

When does my application need to be received by?

Applications for One Public Estate must be received by 23:59 on Monday 8 November 2021. Please submit to: [email protected].

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

There is a checklist in the basic details form. Please complete this checklist before submitting your application.

What happens if my application is late?

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

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.

Who is eligible to apply for OPE revenue grant?

OPE funding is available to all OPE partnerships. Local authorities and public sector partners who are not part of an existing partnership should liaise with their regional programme manager.

What is a sustainable grant?

In 2017, the OPE programme implemented a new funding model in order to support more projects to come forward in future years. The intention was for ‘Sustainable Grants’ to be recycled into new and innovative OPE partnerships and projects in future years.

The point at which partnerships will be expected to recycle a Sustainable Grant award back to the OPE programme will be determined by relevant project milestones, such as a disposal, the end of a lease term, or a co-location. In cases where projects are unable to proceed, and the relevant milestone is not able to be met, partnerships will not be expected to recycle the Sustainable Grant back into the programme.

What has changed about the OPE9 approach to sustainable grant awards?

Key changes include:

  • 75 per cent of the total funding available will be awarded as Sustainable Grants under OPE9;
  • In their applications, OPE partnerships will need to clearly articulate how the projects they are applying for will meet the 75 per cent sustainable grant requirement;
  • As long as the partnership’s overall application meets the 75 per cent threshold not all projects are required to request 75 per cent sustainable grant;
  • Recycling of a sustainable grant will be triggered by a relevant project milestone, such as a disposal, the end of a lease term, or a co-location: a ‘success trigger’
  • The success trigger will not be time-bound;
  • Where the success trigger cannot be realised, the recycling of funding back to the OPE programme will not be expected.
Should I include sustainable grant in my application?

All partnerships are expected to include a minimum proportion of 75 per cent Sustainable Grant within their applications, however the level of Sustainable Grant may vary by project within the partnership application, as appropriate.

Do I have to recycle sustainable grant back to the OPE programme as a lump sum?

If your application is successful, a payment schedule can be discussed and agreed with your Regional Programme Managers.

Can Sustainable Grants be recycled back into our local OPE partnership?

No, partnerships are expected to recycle a Sustainable Grant back into the central OPE programme once a project is delivered and an agreed milestone is met.

How much funding can an OPE partnership apply for?

We are not limiting the value of applications. Regional Programme Managers can provide guidance on appropriate bidding amounts depending on your proposed ambitions/planned activity should you need guidance.

OPE will award a minimum of £50,000 per project. This project de minimis will allow OPE to optimise programme investment and support, and reflects the large majority of projects under phases 1-8.

What must my application contain?

Please complete the application template and basic details form fully, providing any other essential supporting documents.

For any application to be considered, the partnership must agree to meet the stated pre-selection criteria, including approval by the OPE Partnership lead authority’s CEO or S151 officer.

Can I submit extra documentation to support my application?

The assessment is based on the information provided within the application form and checklist. Whilst assessors will look at additional information submitted if this is relevant, you are advised to keep this concise and put all key information regarding your bid into the application form. Maps and plans of locations and assets are helpful in conveying information concisely.

When and how will funds be awarded?

Funding awards are expected to be made by the end of the current financial year. Grants are paid under The Local Government Act 2003, Section 31, and are awarded to the authority within which the project sits. Reporting is a requirement of our funding awards, and is still carried out via the OPE partnership within which that authority sits.

How should capital receipts be expressed?

Your capital receipts should include values generated from:

  • Disposal of freehold or leasehold land and property
  • Land entered into a Joint Venture in return for equity shares
  • The sale of a managing interest in a property function or organisation.
How should running costs be expressed?

Annual gross running cost reduction data should be capable of being evidenced and should include:

  • Hard and soft facilities management and life cycle cost savings relating to the OPE project
  • Lease exit/rent savings
  • HR/procurement/ICT/administration savings etc.

Running cost savings should be forecast for a 10 year period unless there is a specific reason why they might apply for a lesser time period, in which case an explanation should be provided.

What should be considered when calculating jobs created?

When calculating the number of jobs created, partnerships should consider:

  • The construction pipeline and supply chain of projects
  • New inward investment e.g. new retail or start-up space
  • The employment status e.g. short or long term contracts.

Partnerships are not required to differentiate between temporary (e.g. construction), and longer-term job creation (e.g. retail jobs). For those jobs relating to the construction of homes, and where a local assessment is not available, you may wish to refer to the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities standard assumption of 1.5 jobs per dwelling.

How should benefits be reported when my project has completed?

Reporting is a requirement of our funding awards. When your project has completed you will be required to provide evidence of benefits realised (capital receipts, running cost savings, homes, jobs). Your Regional Programme Managers can provide you with examples of ways in which project benefits can be evidenced.

Can I apply for funding for programme management?

Yes. OPE recognises the critical importance of strong and dedicated programme management to OPE partnerships, to support the successful delivery of their programmes of projects. We strongly encourage local contributions to cover/match fund this and many partnerships have already put this in place. Where this is not possible, partnerships can make the case for funding support in their applications, however, any underspend from previous awards would be expected to be used first and foremost. Partnerships should discuss their plans with their OPE Regional Team in the first instance. Sustainable Grant is not available for programme management awards.

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 [email protected].

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

Not directly. We expect applications to be coordinated via an OPE partnership. If you are not already part of an existing OPE partnership, please contact us at [email protected].

What types of activities are / are not funded by the OPE programme?

The OPE programme provides early stage capacity revenue to support collaboration between local public-sector partners to achieve public sector priorities including housing, health and social care integration, joined-up public services, town centre revival, and regeneration.

Typical types of OPE funded activity, including sustainable grant are:

  • masterplanning
  • feasibility studies
  • business case development
  • options appraisals
  • surveys, valuations and design work
  • specialist expertise, for example concerning financial, investment, or delivery options
  • project management
  • post-feasibility delivery costs
  • local OPE programme management costs, where there is a strong supporting case

Costs not usually funded include:

  • planning application fees
  • community consultation
  • marketing and promotion
  • legal fees
  • capital works

This is not an exhaustive list so you should contact your Regional Programme Managers for any clarifications required before applying.

Who needs to sign off my application forms?

If you are applying for the OPE 9 fund, you do not need your Local Authority Chief Executive or Section 151 Officer to approve your application, because your application is being endorsed by the OPE Partnership who needs to seek approval and sign this off (from their Section 151 Officer or Chief Executive). However if you feel like obtaining approval from your respective Chief Executive or Section 151 Officer adds additional support for your application please do seek to include it.

If I would like to apply for both the Self and Custom Build 2 and for OPE9 funds, do I need to submit more than one BDF form?

Yes. We require one BDF for all SCB projects and another for all OPE projects.

Q. Do I have to complete the pre-selection criteria section for each application form?

Yes. We require all sections of the application form to be completed for each project.

Q. Can the return of the 75 per cent OPE grant be amortised over the 10 year OPE project period for RRC outputs. i.e. return of 75 per cent of a £100k grant at £7.5k per annum?

It may be possible, however it is important to have a discussion with regional teams before submitting an application in order to work through the best method to recycle Sustainable Grant back into the programme.

Self and Custom-Build FAQs 

Who is eligible to apply for the second round of Self and Custom-Build (S&CB2)?

S&CB2 applications are open to all local authorities across England. 

Are Mayoral Combined Authorities (MCAs) eligible to apply for S&CB2 funding?

Yes. The second round of S&CB2 applications are open to all local authorities across England.

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 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (formerly 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 must my application contain?

For S&CB2, you must complete an application template and a technical annex for each project, as well as a basic details form detailing all projects which the partnership submits.

Can I submit extra documentation to support my S&CB2 application?

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

Would a portfolio of small sites be eligible for S&CB2 funding?

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

When does my application need to be received by?

Applications for SCB funding must be emailed to OPE at [email protected] by 23:59 on Monday 8 November 2021.

What happens if my application is late?

We cannot accept late applications.

Is a scheme still eligible for S&CB2 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 S&CB2 fund 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 per cent p.a.

When and how will funds be awarded?

Funding awards are expected to be made by the end of the current financial year. Grants (capital) are paid under The Local Government Act 2003, Section 126, 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.

When does funding need to be spent?

As part of the deliverability assessment we will be seeking confirmation from local authorities that they will be able to spend, or commit to spend, the funds in the current financial year (21/22).

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.

Is greenfield land eligible for funding?

Yes, both greenfield and brownfield land are eligible.

Are building works eligible?

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

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.

Does S&CB2 only apply to land, or could it be used on a site where buildings already exist & may need demolition?

Both are eligible.

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 for S&CB2 homes.

What is the minimum BCR a project must achieve for S&CB2?

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 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 Technical Annex calculates this for you automatically. It is the ratio of the quantified outputs to the grant being sought. If you require assistance in completing this form, please contact [email protected].

What is not funded?

The following is not expected to be funded through S&CB2:

  • revenue costs
  • feasibility studies
  • community engagement
  • off site infrastructure unless directly related and proportionate to the scheme
  • design/planning costs.

This is not an exhaustive list; please seek guidance from your regional programme manager if you require any clarification.

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 per cent 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.
Examples of non-monetised benefits

The HMT Green Book (Annex A1 non-market valuation and unmonetisable values) and Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (formerly 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.

A hypothetical example 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 sizable community.”

Is there a date by when housing should be delivered?

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

What is meant by market failure?

Market failure occurs where the market alone cannot achieve an economically efficient outcome. In the case of S&CB2, this will occur when there is a need to provide remediation works or infrastructure that no house builder 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 meant by “homes unlocked”?

The proposed number of new homes to be delivered minus any homes replaced. For example, if demolishing 2 homes and releasing land for 12 homes, the number of homes unlocked will be 10.

Who needs to sign off my application forms?

If you are applying for the Self and Custom Build 2 Fund, your application form must be approved and signed off by your Local Authority Chief Executive or Section 151 Officer. Your application should then be sent to the your OPE Partnership so that they can send your application with other local authorities applications, as part of one overall return.

Are community-led approaches to housebuilding able to apply?

The community-led approach to housebuilding involves community-based groups (such as community land trusts or housing co-operatives) taking responsibility for instigating and driving forward housebuilding schemes. Notwithstanding the definition of self and custom build above, round two of the fund will further consider applications for community led self and custom build schemes. Schemes should be able to demonstrate in the application the level of input a future occupier or owner of the home will have into the layout and design of the home and/or the wider scheme. Schemes that can provide clear links will be scored more highly but all community led schemes will be assessed on a their own merits. Schemes that were rejected in round 1 may be re-submitted for consideration. The scheme must be delivered on local authority-owned land.