Broadhempston CLT, Devon

KEY LEARNING POINTS

  • By opting for a simple, broadly identical house design across all the homes, and bulk buying the materials, significant cost savings have been achieved
  • Don't underestimate the support you may get from the local community on a project that provides homes for local people on low incomes – in this case the land was sold to the group at agricultural values and local people have volunteered to help with the construction work
  • The timber shell for each home cost around £25,000 each – the self builders felt it was worth paying for this to be built by an external contractor to give them a ‘head start’ and to ensure they could then work in all weathers
  • Check out the location of utility connections, and get them organised well in advance of the planned start of construction work
  • Because the slab and shell was built by contractors this gave the group a ‘head start’, and meant the homes could be realistically built within about nine months
  • People in housing need and on low incomes can use the planning system to help them to get planning permission on land that others would not qualify for. These ‘Exception Site’ opportunities come with some strings attached, but on balance they are a very effective way of delivering land for affordable homes
  • Expect costs to rise – so develop a design that is simple and buildable!

INTRODUCTION

This project was originally initiated by the Land Society (see www.landsociety.org) – a not for profit organisation that aims to help local people on modest incomes to build their own homes.

The Broadhempsted group was not convinced by some elements of the Land Society’s ‘model’ - particularly the cost of the load bearing straw bale house it was proposing - so it adapted the approach and re-engineered the house design.

The homes were built during 2015 (we visited the site in June), and were due for completion in April 2016.

The six families are working well together, the design of the homes is impressive and the quality of workmanship is good. This has been achieved in part by hiring an experienced site/project manager who also acts as a ‘mentor’ for the individuals who are involved in the construction work. Many volunteers have also helped with the building work.

The key to the low cost achieved has been the acquisition of the land at agricultural values, the simple design, and the decision to get the basic shell erected by external contractors. This gave the team a real ‘head start’, has ensured the basic structure is sound, and it has enabled them to work on the homes in all weathers

One of the homes being externally clad with timber

AFFORDABLE SELF BUILD / SELF FINISH

Planning permission to build on this former agricultural land at the edge of the village was only possible because the project was classified as ‘affordable housing’, so the development could be treated (in planning policy terms) as an Exception Site.

All the families are locally based and on low to modest incomes so they were all classified as being in housing need.
To keep costs as low as possible the families are all doing a minimum of 20 hours work a week on the project (they all work on each other’s homes, until all six are complete). Because they have had the slab and shell delivered by external contractors, the work has mainly involved roofing, cladding the walls externally and then all the internal fitting out works, electrics, plumbing etc.

Once complete the residents will own 25 per cent of the equity in their house by virtue of having put in the labour (sweat equity) to build it. They will then have the option to buy another 50 per cent on a ‘rent to buy’ arrangement, gradually buying further equity in the property up to a maximum of 75 per cent.

No rent will be payable on the remaining 25 per cent of the home, which is technically owned by the CLT that holds the land. If residents wish to move on, they will only be able to sell their equity to people meeting the local social housing allocation policies.

SUMMARY

This project provides six detached affordable self build homes in the village of Broadhempston, Devon.

The drainage, slab and basic timber shell has been constructed by contractors, with the homes being roofed, clad externally and fully fitted out by a group of local people who have all committed to work at least 20 hours a week.

The land was acquired at agricultural values, and is now owned by a Community Land Trust. To secure planning permission for the development the council treated it as an ‘Exception Site’, which means the properties are classified as ‘affordable’ and if they are ever sold the value is capped at 80 per cent of the market value.

The all-up cost of each home is around £140,000. This is about one third of the cost of equivalent sized homes in the village

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Initiator: Community

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Scale: Small

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Site: Rural

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Affordability: Low Cost

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Opportunity: Individual and Collective

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Built Form: Detached

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Country: UK

KEY STATISTICS

Completed: expected early 2016
No. Units: 6

Definitions

For the purposes of this Toolkit we have made the following definitions:

LOCATION

Broadhempston is a pretty village about five miles south west of Newton Abbot. The two acre site is on the edge settlement, off a lane called Lower Well.

The six homes are arranged in a gentle arc, broadly facing south. Each home has a private garden (front and back) and there is an area near the entrance set aside for all the parking. As part of the planning permission the group also has to provide a play space for the local community.

Site layout
3D impression of the completed homes
The homes nestle in a natural dip in the landscape

DESIGN AND CONSTRUCTION

Two of the homes are three bed, the others are four bedroom. They are all detached and have a very simple rectangular floor plan. At ground level there is a large kitchen/diner/lounge, with one or two compact bedrooms at the rear; on the upper level (which is partially built into the roof) there are two further bedrooms and a bathroom.

Typical home plans

The most distinctive feature of the design is the glazed sun room at the front. This absorbs the sun’s heat via a heavyweight rear wall, and this is then channelled into the main spaces of the house via ventilation windows on both the ground and first floor. 

The main site drainage and the slabs for each home have been installed by a local contractor – Brayshaw Developments. The six timber framed shells were procured from and erected by locally based All Timber Frames.

Construction gets underway on the shells

The houses are designed so they can be insulated using straw bales – these will be installed inside the timber frame on all the external walls, then lime rendered, and should achieve a U-value of 0.11. The roof is insulated using 350mm of sheep’s wool insulation to achieve a U Value of 0.14. Natural slates are fitted externally on the roof and the main elevations are clad with larch boarding at first floor, and lime render at ground floor.

Ground floor, showing the sun room on the left, and two bedrooms on the right
The sun spaces are a prominent feature of the homes as they near completion

All the double glazed windows and doors have been supplied by Devonshire Windows. Martyn Horn of Okehampton supplied the straw bales and Bartons Sawmill supplied the timber cladding.

The homes will mainly be electrically heated, but heating loads should be very low because of the high insulation levels. Some of the homes may also have a wood burner.

The self-builders work together to complete each other’s houses

Everyone works on each other’s house and has to commit to at least 20 hours work a week. In reality many are doing much more, friends and family are also pitching in and numerous other people have volunteered to help too.

The group’s mentor and site manager, Geoff Dowson, is also one of the residents and self-builders. He manages the site and also coordinates the architects, timber frame company and building control - and arranged the services for the site

A local builder has been hired to help the group with construction practicalities. Everyone seems very pleased with this solution as he is able to train/coach the families and ensure the work is up to scratch. He also seems to know everyone in the local construction industry, so he can recommend good sub-contractors, and negotiate best prices on materials.

The slabs going in
Four houses up and the foundations going in for the last two. The play area will be on the right
Homes nearing completion – the sixth is just out of shot
Roofing is a family affair

TOP TIP

Getting a watertight shell built for you speeds up delivery

By getting a contractor to lay the foundations and construct the waterproof ‘shell’ can help DIY builders get off to a good start; it also gives them a dry place to operate in

The biggest hiccup on the project has been a severe problem getting the utility connections on site. For most of the construction phase there was no water or electrical connection, so temporary hoses and generators were being used. And the anticipated cost of the water supply has soared, with installation delayed by many months. An innovative composting toilet was self built by the group to save costs hiring a portaloo!

One of the families is living in a caravan to help ensure the site is secure.

One of the families – all have strong local connections and modest incomes, so are classified as being in housing need
Homes nearing completion

TOP TIP

Talk to your utility suppliers well in advance

Delays and escalating costs – caused by problems securing service connections – have been the biggest headache on this project

TIMEFRAME

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LAND

The land was bought from a local farmer who supported the initiative as members of his family were among the six in the group. The price for the two acre plot was £90,000.

The group set up the Broadhempston CLT (as a company), and it borrowed money for the land and the construction work/materials – a total of £880,000 from Resonance. The CLT therefore now owns the freehold of the land, and when the homes are complete it will also have a 25 per cent stake in the value of each property.

 

PRICES AND FUNDING

The all up cost of the homes (inclusive of land, consultants fees etc) is likely to be approximately £140,000 to £150,000 each.

Broadhempston CLT initially obtained pre-development funding of £45,000 from CAF Venturesome’s CLT fund. This provided the resources to submit a detailed planning application and employ the relevant professionals involved in this process for example Architect, Ecologist, Engineer etc.

Once Broadhempston CLT had obtained planning it approached Resonance and applied to its Affordable Homes Rental Fund. In 2014 a loan of £880,000 was granted from Resonance, which enabled the construction of the six homes to begin. The residents make monthly payments to the CLT, which in turn then pays off the loan to Resonance. The best part is that the residents don't need to take out a mortgage as the CLT has done it for them!

The families can buy up to 50 per cent of the equity in the home (their ‘sweat equity’ building the homes qualifies them for another 25 per cent; and the CLT will always own the other 25 per cent). Everyone pays the same monthly payment. A portion of this buys a little equity, and residents can only buy extra equity (in one go) after living there for two years.

 

MARKETING AND SALES

Initially the Land Society presented an approach to the residents that set out how the project could be delivered by forming a CLT, securing development funding and getting planning permission in place.

The group initially followed its advice and managed to get the principle of planning permission secured.

Once planning was received, the original Land Society design was found to be over budget. The group also had some reservations about the design/specification (the original design featured load bearing straw bales, and involved lowering the roof on to the walls, which meant exposing the straw to weather – this raised concerns among the funders and insurers).
So the Broadhempston CLT group decided to adjust the design (the straw bales are now just to provide cost effective insulation and are not exposed to the weather at any stage), and it parted company with the Land Society and decided to complete the project on its own.

Little formal marketing was needed. Some simple posters were attached to lamp posts advertising the chance to build your own straw bale house, and inviting people to come to a meeting in village hall to discuss. And those that were interested pulled straws to pick plots!

 

PEOPLE AND DEMAND

The six families are mainly younger families, with a long-standing connection to the local area. Ages run from 30 to 50. Four of the six homes have children and the residents’ jobs include teaching, a shop manager, a trainee architect, a physio, a crane driver, a builder and an art student.

Some of the self build group with a group of volunteers that worked on the project

About 20 people were initially keen on being involved, but it took a long time to get from the early planning stages to finding a viable site, and some people consequently fell by the wayside.

A local demand survey was undertaken to work out how many affordable homes were required in the village. A new housing development elsewhere in the village was already partially meeting this demand, and the survey suggested a further six homes were required. So, when the land was identified, the planners limited the development to six homes.

The scheme was supported by the local planners, the local parish council and many local residents.

The allocation policy that was drawn up by the CLT required those taking part to be earning less than £60,000, and to be unable to afford a home in the normal way. The policy also required those taking part to regularly attend training sessions, and complete the construction of their homes within a set time.

This led to some of the original group not being eligible.

To qualify for one of the homes those taking part had to meet these criteria: -

  • In housing need because their total household income does not exceed £60,000 and with insufficient capital to allow them to reasonably afford to acquire a dwelling sufficient for their needs within Broadhempston parish on the open market
  • No member of the household could own another dwelling that they are reasonably able to occupy once they move into a BCLT home
  • That they either: -
    • have sufficient income and savings to be able to afford to buy and sustain a 50 per cent equity in a BCLT dwelling
    • or are able to afford the rent on 50 per cent of the equity in their BCLT dwelling (with the option to increase their equity up to a total of 75 per cent at any time)
  • Their commitment to regularly attend the construction training, complete stages of work promptly, assist others to build their own homes when required, and to follow the rules and guidelines of the self-build community
  • Their understanding that in the event they wish to sell their equity share of their house, it will only be offered to households meeting the Broadhempston CLT Allocation Policy, and that normally they will not be permitted to sell their equity for three years from the date of occupation
  • Having a qualifying local connection which means at least one member of the applicant household must fulfil at least one of the following criteria in descending order of priority: -
    • Have been ordinarily resident in Broadhempston parish for the last two years, or for a continuous period of five years in the past
    • Have or have had a close relative in Broadhempston parish i.e. guardian, mother, father, brother, sister, son or daughter who has/had been ordinarily resident there for at least five years

The six homes were eventually allocated (to those that qualified) based on these selection criteria: -

  • Currently statutorily homeless or inadequately housed (as defined by Bands A-C in Devon Home Choice) and to be prioritised in that order
  • Currently sharing with adult family (e.g. couple living with in-laws) or with another household (as defined by Band D in Devon Home Choice)
  • Currently a housing association tenant
  • Meeting both of the local connection criteria in preference to those only meeting one criteria
  • All members of the household meeting the local connection criteria
  • The applicant has/ will have pre-school children or children in the local school
  • Length of time (above the minimum times listed) that applicants have met the criteria
  • The applicant is employed on key/core roles e.g. fire-fighter, health care or education or in low-paid local work e.g. agriculture, or has been employed in a permanent job (more than 16 hours a week), based in Broadhempston, for a minimum of two years

TOP TIP

Encourage volunteers to get involved

Many affordable projects that benefit local communities are built with support from volunteers that can help with a wide range of tasks

PLANNING

Planning consent was granted under a Section 106 agreement negotiated between the local authority and Broadhempston CLT. This defines what is meant by “affordable” and “local housing need”. The agreement is also supported by The CLT’s allocation policy, which ensures that only local people with a housing need can occupy one of the houses.

The plot is considered as a Rural Exception site. The local council’s Exception Site planning policies permit small-scale developments where the homes meet a local need and the land is on the edge of (or “well situated” in relation to) the defined development boundary of a settlement.

The group felt the local council was very supportive.

The same cannot be said of the utility companies. In particular the group had a frustrating time getting SW Water to provide a supply.

 

THANKS TO… 

This case study was compiled with reference to the following sources:

Hugo Davies (Broadhempston CLT)

LED Architects (Architects)

Brayshaw Developments (groundworks)

All Timber Frames (timber frames)

Graeme Bell (consultant builder)

Resonance (main funder)

Dr Jim Carfrae (straw bale consultant)

Broadhempston CLT on Twitter - @BCLT_selfbuild

Broadhempston CLT on Facebook - www.facebook.com/BroadhempstonClt

Broadhempston CLT website – www.broadhempstonclt.com

 

Further Reading

CREDIT

The NaCSBA Research & Development Programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and aims to promote the self-build and custom build sector as an affordable route into housing for a greater number of people in the UK.

For further information, please visit:www.nacsba.org.uk or www.selfbuildportal.org.uk