Two builders on a partly built building and construction site.

Community Right to Build Orders are one of a raft of initiatives introduced by the Localism Act 2011.

What are Community Right to Build Orders?

This Act was conceived to fulfil the Government’s stated commitment to decentralising control over public services, assets and planning from central government to local government and from local government to local communities. It includes new community rights, including the Community Right to Bid, Community Right to Challenge and Community Right to Build. These give communities explicit powers in the areas of local assets, local services, planning and development. The Act also introduced neighbourhood plans, that may be prepared by parish or town councils or designated neighbourhood forums.

Community Right to Build Orders

If your community wants to construct or rebuild community buildings such as a community centre or community-led housing, a Community Right to Build Order could be the best route for you to take.

A Community Right to Build Order is a type of Neighbourhood Development Order and forms one of the neighbourhood planning tools introduced in the Localism Act 2011. It can be used to grant outline or full planning permission for specific development which complies with the order. For example: homes, shops, businesses, affordable housing for rent or sale, community facilities or playgrounds.

A Community Right to Build Order is put together by local people who can decide on the type, quantity and design of buildings they want, and in the locations they want them.

Once an order has been drawn up with the involvement of local people, it is publicised and consulted on before being submitted to your local planning authority. Your authority arranges for an independent examiner to test whether the order meets the relevant legal tests, such as ensuring it is in line with national planning policies and certain basic conditions. If the independent examiner gives their approval, the Order is put to a local referendum.

If more than 50 per cent of those who vote in the referendum are in favour of the Community Right to Build Order, it will be ‘made’ and planning permission will have been granted. What is important about this process is that the community gives permission for the building to go ahead – not the local authority as happens with a traditional planning application.

A Community Right to Build Order can be produced at the same time as a neighbourhood plan, or separately.

A particular advantage of using Community Right to Build is that where the community organisation decides to also undertake the development, then any profit generated by the project must stay within the community. So buildings constructed by the community organisation can only be disposed of, improved or developed in a way that benefits the community. The community organisation can also ensure certain provisions are put in place so that affordable housing remains affordable in perpetuity.

A Community Right to Build Order may only be prepared by parish and town councils and community organisations that meet certain legal requirements. For example those who live in the area must have a majority of the voting rights. This means it is under the control of people who know and care about the area.

Here are the key steps:

  1. Decide on the area relevant for your project (the ‘neighbourhood area’). If the site or area that you want your Community Right to Build Order to apply to is already in a designated neighbourhood area, then you don’t need to apply again for a neighbourhood area to be designated. Your local planning authority will be able to tell you whether the area has been designated. If it hasn’t been designated, you can apply to your local planning authority. Guidance on this can be found in the Government’s planning guidance. This becomes the minimum area in which people will be eligible to vote at the referendum. If you are not a parish or town council then you will need to demonstrate that the majority of members of your organisation live in the neighbourhood area.
  2. Carry out good quality publicity and consultation and make sure you give appropriate time and opportunities for everyone to put forward their views on the project. You will ultimately need to reach a separate legal agreement with the owner of the land or buildings you want to develop, so this is a good time to investigate that too.
  3. Present your proposals in the form of a Community Right to Build Order and submit it – and the other required documents – to your local planning authority for independent examination. An independent examiner checks to make sure the proposal is legal and that it meets certain rules and regulations. If it does, it will be approved.
  4. Your local authority will then arrange a local referendum. They will bear the cost. If over 50 per cent of those voting support the Order, your local planning authority will make it (bring it into force) and you will not have to seek a traditional planning permission. No building work can actually start though, until your agreement with the landowner is reached. (Land and building owners are not compelled to agree to your proposals.
  5. A successful Community Right to Build Order results in planning permission for development consistent with the Order. An order may be used to grant outline or full consent. If it grants outline consent, there would still be reserved matters applications to consider. Other consents, such as building regulations, must be applied for separately.

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