Land – God isn’t making any more of it! – goes the old saying. And in the UK a huge amount of the available building land is already in the ownership of the large volume builders, ready for the day they want to develop it. Also the social landlords such as housing associations tend to own a lot of land for redevelopment in their land banks, usually in urban areas. There are very few small plots of land for sale.
The recent minister for Housing, Grant Shapps has been supportive of self build and the government has plans to make more plots of land available on a ‘build now, pay later’ basis. Depending on how things pan out this could be a major stimulation for self build and custom build as there would be less of a financial burden during the period of building through to completion.
The government self-build and custom house-building bill has now received royal ascent (26th March 2015) so local authorities are now obliged to keep registers of those interested in acquiring land for self build (and custom build) and to help make land available.
NaCSBANational Custom & Self Build Association. formally called Nasba has produced an interesting report An Action Plan to promote the growth of self build housing which covers the difficulty that self builders have in getting access to land and what can be done about it.
However the individual self builder is sometimes at an advantage here because the larger developers tend to avoid small sites, particularly if they have some peculiarity such as steep slopes, strange angles, or protected trees. This can sometimes be turned to the advantage of the self builder and actually create a more interesting result, albeit with a bit more effort and cost.
Land normally accounts for a considerable proportion of the total cost of building a house, depending very much on the location, and a crucial factor concerning a particular building site is to do with how much of the land the planners will allow you to build on. The British build by far the smallest houses in Europe at present (BBC article) and this is closely linked to the cost of buildable land which in turn is linked to the high density of the UK population and the strong planning laws which protect a lot of the land such as green belt and national parks from being built on.
So how to decide on location?
Apart from the obvious matter of being in the part of the country you want to be, check out the non-car access to the following :
- transport connections
- entertainment / leisure / the countryside
- health facilities
- friends and family
If you can reach these by public transport, bike or walking then cars will not be necessary for every journey.
Look out for sites which enjoy good year-round sunlight. This may help with solar heating, particularly if you want to attempt a PassivhausSee more on the Passivhaus standard. The PassivHaus Institute has pioneered a standard for low energy buildings. It includes very low energy usage and ways of achieving this. The word is derived from the idea of buildings which are fundamentally low energy and passive solar heated rather than using extra gadgets to heat them. See Passivhaus for the UK branch of the organisation. standard. Try to use a brown field site rather than green field.