How can I find self-build land to build my own home?
Whenever I mention to people that I built my own home, they always say “Oh, I would love to do that one day”. In the UK, this is a dream of many, and a reality for a very, very, tiny few. A recent survey by the Nationwide Foundation revealed that over 60% of us have the ambition to build our own home. In fact, less than 0.05% of us actually do so.
This is generally blamed on lack of access to land and problems with financing.
It’s little surprise then, that when I was presenting a few tips on how to get a plot at Grand Designs Live during the recent self-build and custom build week, I had a packed audience.
For those of you who were unable to make it, here is my advice.
In brief, this is a piece of legislation enacted in October 2015 which says that councils must provide enough plots with planning permission to meet the demand for self-build land on their registers. That doesn’t necessarily mean that they will give a plot to every individual who registers, but it does make it hard for them to ignore self-build and custom build.
So far, about 35-40,000 people have registered in the UK. While it’s a start, we think that it’s woefully low. To give you an example, only about 50% of that packed audience I talked about at Grand Designs had actually heard of the right to build legislation. Now this is 50% of an audience who have specifically started on their journey to self-build and come to London and come to my presentation on a Tuesday afternoon. This is not representative of the average person! I’d be surprised if more than 1-2% of people had ever heard of this legislation and what it actually means to them.
Unfortunately, while people want this to happen, councils aren’t so enthusiastic. I can’t really blame them, they have housing waiting lists that number in their thousands. So, even though most of us would like to build our own homes, most councils have this as a very low priority. This means, that they actively try to keep numbers on registers low.
So, to make those numbers as low as possible councils do the following:
1. They make it hard to find the register
2. They have started charging to go on their register and
3. Some require you to have a ‘local connection’ test which means you have to live (or work) in the area where you want to build a home.
These are all rather frustrating to say the least. Bearing in mind, that even if you are on the register, there’s no requirement that a council has to give you a plot of self-build land and it just has to note that there is a demand for one. What councils are effectively doing is setting you a challenge to find an online survey for which they charge you for taking part and you can only do it if you already live in the area that you’d like to live in. It’s hardly a surprise that so few of us have filled this out.
If this isn’t bad enough, in impeccably twisted logic, Richmond has secured an exemption from having to deliver the plots on the register, purely because there’s too much demand for them!
So, it may be a challenge which is worthy of The Krypton Factor, but it’s still worth registering with the local council and getting everyone you know to do the same! The more people who register, the more plots will get permissioned and the more likely you’ll be able to find a plot in your area.
Gus started in the property world over 20 years’ ago when he accidentally project managed his own loft conversion and then went on to do his own self-build home in NW London. He has been in property ever since. His believes self-build and custom build delivers better quality, better design, better value and is better for the environment. He sits on the national executive board at NaCSBA and chairs the custom build developer group. He is a member of the Expert Advisory Group and contributed to the Bacon Housing Review for Government. He is a frequent architectural judge and speaker and is a member of two design review panels.
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