BuildStore CEO Raymond Connor says, “We need to review what custom build really means.”

Over the past 12 months, custom build has been a buzzword within our industry. However, not much has happened over the last year. This was down to the fact that there were very few companies within the wider property sector that knew much about the market’s potential.

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However, the recent Housing White Paper, which has effectively given government endorsement to custom build, has had an enormous effect and brought this route to homeownership to the forefront of people’s minds in the industry.

Since the Paper was published we, BuildStore, have had renewed interest from lenders who are attracted to custom build due to the assistance that professional developers can offer to purchasers.

We are in the process of speaking to a variety of lenders about what custom build entails, and the advantages of entering the market. However, the question always asked by lenders is: “What is the difference between self-build and custom build?”

Each month we seem to have a more firmed up view that custom build is all about developer involvement, with developers providing the opportunities.

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Fires, Flues & Chimneys: What Can Go Wrong?

Learn the questions you need to ask to ensure a successful installation, with surveyor Andy Butchers’ insider advice.

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Whether your taste is for a cosy inglenook with an open fire or an eye-catching modern stove, the right solid fuel heater can add style and panache not just to the room it’s in, but to the entire house. For many self builders and renovators, however, it’s not simply about aesthetics. Combined with other technologies, these can be genuine heat sources that form an important part of the overall energy performance strategy for your home.

The basics

As with most elements of a major project, it’s crucial you do your research before finalising the spec. What sort of fire do you want, and will it be used as a primary or secondary heat source? Do you want a formal fireplace and chimney or just a flue, and does the type of structure you’re proposing cater for the installation requirements? Check back with your local authority, too, as some restrict the use of open fires and the fuel types you can burn.

An important step is to hire a suitably-qualified installer – look for HETAS or OFTEC registration for solid fuel appliances, and Gas Safe for gas. They’ll advise on specifications and, on completion of the installation, will provide a certificate to show that it complies with Building Regulations.

A certification plate is often fixed to the flue to verify testing has been undertaken. A warranty provider won’t usually cover these appliances unless there’s a suitable certificate in place.

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How to Get Planning Permission First Time

Getting planning consent for the perfect scheme can be a major stumbling block on the road to a successful project. Mike Dade shares the secrets that will give you the best possible chance of winning approval.

Most self-builders and renovators, having secured a plot or building to convert or refurbish, want to get on with the build as quickly as possible. With planning applications taking at least two months from submission to decision, nobody wants to go through the process more than once if they can avoid it.

So, what are the causes of delays and refusals in the planning process – and what steps can you take to avoid them and give yourself the best possible chance of securing consent at the first attempt?

Common sticking points

The most frequent causes of delays and refusals can be grouped into three broad categories: content and presentation of the application; conflicts with policy and planning officers’ opinions; and political issues. Many applications are delayed on submission because the council won’t validate and register them.

Forms, plans, accompanying reports and information and the necessary fee must all be correctly presented. The eight-week period for determining the application won’t start until the council is satisfied that everything is present and correct.

Once underway, any conflicts with local or national planning policy (or the planning officer’s interpretation of those policies) can result in rejection – or at least a request for you to make amendments, which will have obvious ramifications for your schedule.

Finally, where the project is locally contentious, applications can sometimes be rejected at committee, even if you have the support of your council’s planning officer.Working with a specialist design and build company, such as Potton, can take some of the hassle out of the planning process. The company’s expert team came up with a sensitive plan to knock down the Kings’ existing 100m2 bungalow and replace it with a new, eco-friendly dwelling that was twice the size. Planning was quickly granted without a hitch.

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How new self-build duty will affect councils’ planning strategies

The government has proposed changes to the planning system to boost the number of self- and custom-built homes. However, the new measures could place new burdens on overstretched planning teams.

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Industry figures indicate that the UK is behind other Western nations when it comes to promoting new self- or custom-built housing and the new self-build planning guidelines aim to change that.

Figures from the National Custom & Self Build Association (NACSBA) also show that the number of self-build completions in the UK has dropped sharply from a pre-recession peak.

The government, however, is keen to see numbers rise again as a way of helping to ease the country’s chronic housing shortage. Planning minister Brandon Lewis has spoken of the government’s “commitment to double the number of custom-build and self-build homes by 2020”; the NACSBA’s current estimated annual figure for the UK is around 12,500. To achieve this ambitious aim, ministers have recently proposed a series of changes to the planning system.

In 2014, the coalition government launched a consultation entitled Right to Build: supporting custom and self-build – with “custom build” referring to homes built to owners’ specification rather than by the owners themselves.

One of the key measures, a requirement for local planning authorities to keep registers of those who express an interest in self- and custom build for their area, was introduced last March in the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015. The act places a duty on councils to “have regard to” their register when carrying out their planning responsibilities.

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NFB and RIBA respond to Budget 2014

Following on from the Budget statement 2014 which took place yesterday, here is a summary of the responses from both RIBA and the National Federation of Builders.

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The National Federation of Builders (NFB) welcomed the chancellor’s continued recognition of construction and house building in the 2014 Budget statement. The £500 million Builders Finance Fund aimed at unblocking finance for small developers should help support existing government measures to boost small business finance such as the British Business Bank and help small builders to build.

The extension of Help to Buy, new measures to support self-build and the announcement that Ebbsfleet is set to be the first modern garden city are positive signs that government is supporting the construction industry and therefore the wider economy. However, the chancellor shied away from taking bolder steps to get Britain building such as including major housing projects under the Nationally Significant Infrastructure Projects (NSIPs) planning regime.

Continued positive economic growth, as highlighted in the OBR forecasts, should help unlock further private investment and ensure a sustainable recovery in the construction industry but further planning reform and measures to boost retrofit were missed opportunities. The NFB hopes that all political parties will recognise the value of construction to the economy as they prepare their 2015 manifestos as it is a sector that generates £2.84 for every £1 invested.

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