An average of 13,000 people successfully self build every year, but unlike the normal housing market, individual building plots are not as easy to find and a lot more work goes into securing the right one.
In certain instances, finding the right plot could take years and if you are after particular elements such as size and the amount of work you’re willing to take on the process could be prolonged even further.
If your search for the right self build plot is not going according to plan, it might be time to revise your goals. Flexibility, combined with the ability to concentrate your time and energy on the search will improve your chance of success.
Routes to finding a plot
A common mistake made when searching for a plot is conducting the search over an area that is too widespread. One can benefit greatly if the search is done in a specific and manageable geographic location.
Another tip is to keep an eye out for planning applications in your target region. Local authorities publish a register of these on their websites and in certain instances applicants are looking to sell the plot and not build.
The main barriers
Due to the large quantity of protected areas in the UK, 90 per cent of land in England can’t be built on making plots relatively scarce. Organisations such as the National Self Build Association are however working towards releasing more sites for self builders.
Planning policies also restrict schemes to development boundaries around existing settlements. The government is attempting to lessen these restrictions under its Localism Bill.
The plot will be the biggest purchase you make for your project. In areas where plots are scarce and prices are high, land may account for more than 50% of the total value of the finished project.
It is important to be realistic about what you can obtain within your budget.
The perfect plot is likely to be elusive and expensive and for the most part some form of compromise will have to be made, in this instance seeing the potential in a site is key.
The main types of plots
Brownfield: A Brownfield site comprises land that has been previously developed. As such services are likely to be in place already. There may be a need to apply for a change of use, and design restrictions may be imposed, such as maintaining the previous building’s outline.
Greenfield: These sites refer to land that’s not been built on previously. It’s not impossible to gain planning permission to build on a Greenfield site and opportunities for a completely new home in green belt are uncommon.
Garden grabbing: Infilling and small scale development on gardens is still possible, and one-off houses are likely to be preferred over compact development.
Buy to demolish: This approach is popular because it usually proves to be cheaper than renovating an existing property. There is also less chance of encountering hidden costs by knocking down and starting from the beginning .VAT is also reclaimable on new-builds but not refurbs.
Designated areas: Self building in locations with special designations – such as conservation areas – is subject to strict controls. You’re very unlikely to be granted planning permission for a new house, or even a demolish and rebuild, in these cases. Renovation opportunities are a better bet, but you’ll find that permitted development rights are often severely restricted.
Why are plots sold with planning permission?
Land is available with one of two types of planning consent in place – outline planning permission (OPP) or detailed planning permission (DPP). Outline planning permission is consent for development to occur, leaving some or all of the particulars to be established in a later application for DPP (you must apply for this within three years of OPP being given).
A new application for a different design can be submitted in instances where DPP is already in place without revoking the existing permission.
Building plots are expensive due to their scarcity and there could be a significant difference in cost between land with and without planning permission. Land without planning permission should never be bought so avoid purchasing a cheap plot of land on the basis that ‘it will get planning one day’.
If it’s a feasible plot, the question as to why outline planning has not already been obtained should be asked.