Bacon Review: A step in the right direction

Deep dive into Richard Bacon MP's 'Independent review into scaling up self-build and custom housebuilding: report'.

Hew is facing the camera wearing a suit and tie.

Hew Edgar

Associate Director - Policy

Last updated: 1st September 2021

Richard Bacon’s Review into self and custom build was published last week and was “warmly welcomed” by the Housing Secretary.

In July 2021, Mr. Bacon was commissioned by the Prime Minister to undertake an independent review into scaling up custom and self-build housing (CSB), and following extensive research, the report outlined six recommendations:

  • A greater role for Homes England, with the creation of a new Custom and Self Build Housing Delivery Unit supporting the creation of serviced plots on small and large sites and delivery at scale.
  • Raise awareness and show by ‘doing’, including with a custom and self-build ‘Show Park’ and a more robust approach to legislation.
  • Support community, diversity and levelling up - and crucially by reigniting the Community Housing Fund and creating more opportunities for communities to build.
  • Promote greener homes and increased use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) - custom and self-build is a leading innovator in these areas, and could be used to signpost the future for government’s MMC and Net Zero Housing ambitions.
  • Align custom and self-build changes with planning reforms - in particular through maximising opportunities for permissioned land for custom and self build, across all tenures.
  • Iron out tax issues to create a level playing field between this type of homes and speculatively built homes.

Mr. Bacon – who has key-noted CIOB policy events in the past - is a strong and vocal advocate of CSB. Prior to this review he successfully steered his Self-Build and Custom House Building Bill through Parliament in 2015, and lobbied for amends to the Housing and Planning Act 2016 to enhance the provisions.

We were therefore pleased to be invited to provide evidence to the review, and used the opportunity to press our view that Government support in this housing arena could – through awareness raising and the greater use of MMC – bring numerous benefits (outlined in the recommendations above). 

Indeed, CIOB will always favour the exploration of additional, creative avenues for constructing homes, as these could widen the scope of development options available; at present, consumers do not turn to alternatives because those alternatives are not currently available to them . However, we made clear that CSB and MMC are not the panacea to the housing deficit, but greater support and use could lead them to making significant contribution to tackling the chronic housing shortages across the country. 

We do, however, have some reservations around CSB and MMC (which were made known in our review representations) that we want to see addressed.

Our concerns around mortgage finance have been addressed, in part, by the ‘Help to Build’ fund, but there are still gaps in issues surrounding insurance and quality. Latterly, we have concerns around a potential lack of quality control, and the potential for rogue builders – without qualification – undertaking works. This has been a priority concern of CIOB’s for some time. Since 2017 we have embarked upon an Improving Quality in Construction campaign; the outputs of which include the development of the CIOB Code of Quality Management and the establishment of our Quality Implementation Group.

Without due diligence or professionalism, CSB homes could be sub-standard, limited in protection(s) for the consumer, and risk reputational damage: one bad news story could undermine confidence in CSB and the aims of the scaling up programme.

Finally, it is important this CSB endeavour encompasses existing, as well as new, residential property. If we are to build back better, the connotations of which suggest an emphasis on reuse, the Government should find a way to tie CSB expansion to a national retrofit strategy

CIOB looks forward to working with Mr. Bacon and the Government to further the CSB scaling up programme.