Self-building advice and inspiration

This could be the ideal time to start planning that Grand Design. Sharon Dale reports on National Self-Build Week.

Kevin McCloud and Channel 4's Grand Designs series have helped popularise self-building.
Kevin McCloud and Channel 4's Grand Designs series have helped popularise self-building.

National Custom and Self-Build Week starts on Monday May 7 and one of the key aims is to help more people understand that there are a number of ways to get a “Grand Design”.

They range from buying a plot and constructing your own home to organising a community-led build or working with a custom build developer who allows you to choose a design, layout, fixtures and fittings.

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The first step, according to the National Custom and Self-Build Association, is to sign up to local authority Right to Build registers, which you can access via

The government now requires all local authorities to maintain a register of those who want to build their own home. Recent legislation places a duty on them to grant sufficient development permissions for serviced building plots (land with connections to utilities) to meet demand on a rolling three-year basis.

Over the last two years, more than 33,000 people have signed up to registers. NaCSBA wants to grow this number as it holds the key to more plots and sites coming to market. Local authorities now have until October 31, 2020, to give consent for 33,000 serviced plots, with around half of these to be granted by October 31 next year.

Michael Holmes, NaCSBA’s Chairman, said: “Custom, self-build and community-led housing will transform how housing is delivered in the UK. Signing up to the Right to Build registers through the Right to Build Portal is a starting point in a journey that will give homebuyers a choice of serviced plot and the freedom to design the home they want to live in.”

NaCSBA estimates that more than 13,000 custom and self-build homes were built last year, which is a 20 per cent increase on 2016. It shares the government’s ambition to deliver 20,000 a year by 2020 but this target won’t solve the supply and demand issue.

Building Societies Association research found that 53 per cent of people have the ambition to design and build their own home at some point in their lives but the chances of them finding the perfect plot is slim.

If you are hunting, then it pays to be creative. This Property Post supplement often carries adverts for building plots. Subscribing to specialist databases, such as Plotfinder,, is also worthwhile. It costs £60 per year.

Signing up to alerts from property auction sites for land and buildings in your search area is useful. This often throws up opportunities for homes with no architectural value that can be demolished to make way for a new-build. D

David and Elizabeth Rodgers spent years looking for a plot before taking a different approach that led to success.

David says: “If the plots were big enough to squeeze a few houses on, then we couldn’t compete with developers on price or they weren’t in an area where we wanted to live.”

Instead,they began to hunt for existing properties for sale with a view to demolishing them and re-building. They also searched for homes with large gardens that offered “plot potential”. The plan paid off when they found a tired detached house in Rotherham that came with planning permission for a bungalow in the garden.

They bought it in the hope that they could get permission for a two-storey dwelling and, with the help of Ossett-based Transform Architects, they did.

Those keen to follow in David and Elizabeth’s footsteps should know that self-building is often time-consuming, stressful and more expensive than you budgeted for. Having a good architect will help, as will a seasoned project manager who is used to dealing with tradespeople and sourcing materials.

You could also minimise the hassle by buying a kit house, which is prefabricated off site. This leads to a quicker build process and more certainty when setting the budget. They range from contemporary homes to timber chalets and barn-style properties. Well known suppliers include Potton,; Baufritz,; Facit, and Oakwright, If you fancy a straw bale home, then Yorkshire-based Sam Atkinson is a specialist and his own home is proof of his prowess. Prices start at £180,00,

Finance can be a big issue for would-be self-builders. You can generally only borrow about 75 per cent of the land cost and 60 per cent of the build cost and some lenders are not keen. Yorkshire-based Ecology Building Society is supportive.

* National Custom and Self Build Week events include Grand Designs Live at Excel in London, May 5-13. Useful Resources: NaCSBA’s website for more information on building a home For inspiration, case studies and good advice subscribe to specialist publications. Homebuilding and Renovating magazine is a favourite,, as is Build It magazine,