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Community self build

a self build house in the Field of Dreams, Findhorn Foundation
self build houses in the Field of Dreams at the Findhorn Foundation

There is a resurgence of community self build projects at the moment (also known as community custom build), most of which have a strong green flavour. These range from established communities such as the Findhorn Foundation with large development plans in the offing through cohousing developments such as Lancaster Cohousing GroupLILAC cohousing in Leeds to self build groups such Ashley Vale in Bristol

A whole raft of other schemes are at or near the planning stage. see –

There are other initiatives afoot which are more regionally based such as the Llandovery project which aims to tap in to the recently enacted Sustainable Communities Act
Questioning the whole basis of how and for whom land is used is the Land Justice Network.
The University of Sheffield runs the Collective Custom Build web site which has lots of useful links.


community wood chip boiler at Lancaster Cohousing

Community self build can have a number of strong ecological advantages over the traditional norms for house building. These range from the obvious energy saving reasons through to more esoteric aspects. They can include –

  • sharing communal facilities such as
    • shared heating systems and CHP.
    • shared energy harvesting.  (although the government have recently withdrawn pre accreditation for such schemes. see the EST article on this}
    • shared machinery / equipment
    • laundry facilities
    • shared visitors’ bedrooms
    • workshops / specialised tools
    • office space
    • sports / recreational facilities
  • reducing travel / transport
    • working from home
    • home education
    • shared transport
  • producing food locally
  • shared recycling
  • a shared knowledge base which makes use of local opportunities.

It can also offer a radically different type of ownership model

  • not everyone is totally enamoured of the British obsession with owning their own home. Many people would prefer to have control of their own house but not necessarily be burdened with a 20 year mortgage. After all, most countries in Europe are not so dependent on the ownership model.
  • many people see the home ownership / nuclear family model as being a bit stuck in the 20th C. and would like a bit more fluidity in their lives.
  • some people would like to make a political break from the capitalist model of housing finance we have now and be part of a more collective enterprise
  • the deepening entrenchment of the class system in the UK is leading to a division of the way people relate to each other around neighbourhoods and housing
  • many younger people are more mobile and are less keen to be totally sucked in to the long term ownership model
  • older people would often like to be closer to their families and community
  • there are many particular interest groups where people want to live close to each other
kitchen in the shared house at LILAC cohousing in Leeds

see also Global Ecovillage Network

Government stimulus

There are several  initiatives now in place which may favour community self build:

  • Community Right to Build. New measures to help with planning permission  “The new powers give communities the freedom to build new homes, shops, businesses or facilities where they want them, without going through the normal planning application process.” see more.
  • Community Land Trusts   “Currently, community groups in England (outside London) can apply for funding to help them to formally establish themselves, prepare their development proposals and submit a Community Right to Build Order under the Localism Act 2011.  see more

There is also a strong government stimulus in the form of the new housing strategy, Laying the Foundations. Local authorities are now supposed to actively assess the likely needs of local self build groups, identify potential building plots which are under their control and help make them available.

12 comments to Community self build

  • Stewart maxwell

    Anyone in the london area wanting to establish a community self buld group please contact me and lets get this rolling. Thank you

  • Debbie Wildridge

    Am looking to put together a register of people interested in self-build/co-housing in Ely. Am the CLT manager for the East of England and would be happy to help a group get started.

  • David Corry

    I am divorcing and have capital. I am looking for a self build co-operative in the Glasgow area.

    Is there anyone out there who can help or is interested.

  • Mark White

    Hello,i would be very interested in joining a self-build project/scheme in the Cambs/Ely area or if anyone has information that may help??.Would also be keen to join any schemes which are currently running and have openings for additional members.

  • mark brown

    hi im interested to find any potential self build groups in the midlands.I am an experienced plasterer and completed a successful self build group in 1990 Mark 07518543218

  • Stewart

    I am looking to set up a self build in London and need 6-8 interested people please contact me if you are serious about doing this ASAP please thank you. Stewart

  • mark brown

    hi anybody know of any self-build groups in the midlands? im an experienced self builder and plasterer by trade phone 07518543218

  • muriucha

    Want to find out about self build groups in leeds, Yorkshire.

  • Avionna

    Hello and good afternoon,

    I have been following developments on your website since I found you and I have moved one big step ahead since that day.
    Groups are sprouting up in the country and the idea of intentional communities is gaining ground.
    However, because many tend to be concerned with commandable ecological and environmental issues as their main focus I have not found what I have been looking for and have decided to “create it” : a hamlet where likeminded people are perenial students.
    Because at an incipient stage, all possibilities are considered, refurbishing or new built. is the website and it is the 1st step of a modest attempt at gathering likeminded people together and because your website offers a list of project , I would be most grateful if you could help in “all” the essential directions by :

    publishing the short advert (below in italic) in the appropriate section
    allowing me to quote excerpts of your website (with acknowledgements of source)
    allowing me to introduce links to your website´s relevant pages ( advice : admin/ legal/financial etc..)
    suggesting any form of help

    I would of course also very much appreciate any ” more personal” advice and positive criticism .
    Many grateful thanks – I look forward to your reply and wish you continued success.

  • Martin

    Possible opportunity soon for new low-impact, zero?carbon, self-build / co-operative enclave alongside existing hamlet in Wye Valley, mid Wales. Seems to be getting support in LDP. Will need pioneers, groups and would-be urban refugees. Contact me, Martin Golder, of the Calon Cymru Network 01497 821508

  • Nicki Catterall

    I’d also like to find out about more recent community self build projects. We are in Brighton area although not exclusively tied to staying here. My partner is a groundworker/builder with 16 years experience so maybe we could share helpful information?

  • Ken Tresidder

    Can you point me in the direction of more recent successful community self build schemes.
    Am trying to do my bit down here in property expensive Devon but everyone I speak to about community self build has a negative comment about it (maybe out of self interest or perhaps based on schemes 30 years ago which were of dubious and variable quality)
    Hope you can help.