Self Build Homes - What is the Right to Build?

8 min read
Self build homes are increasing in popularity in the UK bolstered by the Government's Right to Build scheme and can be a way to get on the housing ladder - and sometimes for considerably less than you'd pay for a pre-existing property.

In this article we examine:



    What is the Self Build process / how does the Government's Right to Build scheme work?

You can choose to lay the bricks of your house yourself, however most self builders don't; they manage professionals to do so for them or commission a custom build house from a house building company.

Sign up at the Right to Build Portal

First, you should register your interest with the councils in the areas you think you'd like to build a property - you can do this by signing up at the Right to Build Portal, which is run by National Custom & Self Build Association (NaCSBA).

NB Right to Build legislation only covers England at present (i.e. not Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland)

You can then search for Right to Build registers near you - the results list the registers near to the location you've entered for your search, telling you how many people are on those registers. From here you can link directly to that council's register and register with them.

What legislation ushered in Right to Build?

The Housing and Planning Act 2016 required local authorities to make more individual and serviced plots (see below) available to self builders.

Local authorities must now also maintain a register of people expressing an interest in self building. Taken together these measures constitute the Right to Build.

The legislation was, at press time, only in force in England, although there are signs that the devolved governments of Wales and Scotland will follow suit.

In Northern Ireland, land supply is less of an issue and 15 percent of all new homes are commissioned by their owners, compared with eight percent or so across the UK.

Do you have to sign up with the Right to Build Portal?

You don't have to, but you might find it easier to locate the information you want this way - registers can be hard to locate on individual councils' websites.

Do Councils charge for signing up to their registers?

All councils can charge you when you sign up to their right to build registers, however regulations say that their charges must be reasonable. If they are not, you have the right to complain.

As of February 2019, the following councils charge in some way for signing up:

Allerdale, Ashford, Basingstoke and Deane, Bracknell Forest, Broadland, Camden, Cheshire East, Cotswold, Daventry District Council, Derbyshire Dales, East Cambridgeshire, East Riding of Yorkshire, Fenland, Forest of Dean, Gravesham, Guildford, Hart, Horsham, Islington, Mole Valley, North Norfolk, Norwich, Peterborough, Purbeck, Ribble Valley, Runnymede, Rutland, Scarborough, Shropshire, South Staffordshire, Spelthorne, Stevenage, Stroud, Tandridge, Wandsworth, Waverley, Welwyn Hatfield, West Lancashire, West Lindsey and Wyre Forest.

Do you have to have a local connection with the area to proceed?

Some councils might insist that you have a local connection with an area if you intend to self build there, however if they do, they have to run a two-part register, with Part 1 containing this criteria.

Councils then legally have a duty to this Part 1 list in providing plots. Anyone without a local connection will join the Part 2 list, which means the council may use the list to inform policy, or even supply plots, but there is no duty to do so.

You can register with more than one local authority.

Some councils use a third party company to host their register, such as The Local Self Build Register.

Who is eligible?

  • Local registers are open to anyone over the age of 18 who is either a British Citizen or national of another EEA state or of Switzerland.
  • You can apply as an individual, a couple or an association.
  • Any house you build has to be your primary residence, i.e. you can't build a holiday home.
  • Housing developers (companies who build homes with the primary intention of selling them on) are excluded.

Once you've been accepted onto a local register, by law, the local authority involved have a 3 year deadline from the date you join the register to granting planning permission for a plot.

What kind of plot will you get?

This depends on whether you're applying as a group or an individual/family unit. If the former, you might be offered a co-housing project/community self build, which will be a plot where several homes can be built.

The council does consider your wishes for your individual plot as stated in your application form, however it will be limited by what it can make available - in an urban environment, for example, plots might well be brownfield or infill sites.

Many plots will be available as sites of several serviced plots (with utilities connected - water, gas, electricity, mains sewage, high-speed broadband and telephone as well as access from the highway) - you might consider this a real advantage, particularly in cost terms, however if you were particularly wanting an individual, isolated plot, this might not suit your exact plans.

Serviced plots will generally have at least outline planning and most likely detailed planning permission. Probably a condition of buying a plot will be that there are some parameters that you will have to work within, so you won’t have complete freedom. You have to make sure that the planning conditions attached to the design on that site allow you the level of freedom that you would like. Quite often there will be an imaginary box within which you can create anything you want, subject to using an approved palette of building materials.

More on Serviced Plots...
Serviced plots, because they involve bringing in vital infrastructure that wasn't there already, generally cost more but on a large site for many self-builders, these costs lower relatively.

Some landowners leave you free to build how you like on a serviced plot whereas some might insist on a particular design code and impose a quality control - this might mean that you have to work with a particular designer/builders.

You can have plots where houses have been built at least to the foundations stage - in order for the landowner to recover VAT they often need to have started the house.

Serviced plots and future resale value
The good news is that insurers and lenders don't generally distinguish between a house built on a serviced plot and one built on an unserviced plot - it's the design of the estate itself and matters like coherent design codes which count more.

What happens next?

This depends on whether, as previously discussed, you've opted to employ a company to 'do the rest' or whether you've chosen to lay each brick by hand yourself. 

Companies offer a great variety in terms of how much work you'll have to do (if any), ranging from just building the shell which you fit out yourself to the complete package (turnkey) where you just wait to be handed the keys when your home is fully built.

If you're employing a company, it will most likely cost you considerably more than if you completely self-build, however the advantage of employing a building company's services is that they take care of matters such as complying with Building Control regulations and getting appropriate sign-offs and you'll have a warranty to reassure you.

Completely building a property yourself could be the cheapest option, however you would be placing much more work on yourself - excellent if you are already a builder or can easily call in supervision/advice from builders but dangerous if you aren't/can't - and you won't have the luxury of a warranty to call on and you'll have to bring yourself up to scratch regarding compliance with Building Control regulations.


    What are the Pros of Self Build?

The Right to Build means that councils have to give planning permission for plots to match the number of people who have registered an interest in building their own home, helping you in your search for a plot.

Did You Know?

Self build is zero rated for VAT(!)

Additionally serviced plots are also free of the Community Infrastructure Levy and Section 106 agreements, as long as the site will have 10 homes or less. Each of those savings is individually worth anywhere between £15,000-£30,000.

Arguably the greatest advantage of self build is the savings you can make compared to buying a pre-existing house which can run into the tens of £1000s or more, depending on how much you pay to outside parties to do all or some of the work, which reduces this.

That said, many also benefit from the huge sense of satisfaction they get from researching self-building, finding a plot where they'd like to live and then building a house from scratch, even if they've chosen to use a building company for the actual build.


    What are the Cons of Self Build?

Clearly self builds require work, even if this falls far short of actually laying bricks. 




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