This takes a great deal of perseverance because we live in such a close packed country where land prices are relatively high. Alongside this is the Green Belt planning policy which makes it very difficult to get planning permissionthe legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building RegulationsThese are the mass of regulations that cover safety, health, welfare, convenience, energy efficiency etc. in the way buildings are constructed. Not to be confused with Planning consent (which is more to do with whether you can put up the building in the first place) which are all about whether the building is properly constructed). see more on Planning the legal basis for being allowed to do some form of development such as building a house. (not to be confused with Building Regulations which is all about whether the building is properly constructed). see more on Planning in areas which are not already built up
- Avoid locations which involve long journeys for commuting, shopping, schools, etc. Try to find a plot of land close to good public transport services. Many are the arguements about when the world hits ‘Peak Oil’ or whether that point has already been passed. Either way the results of reaching peak oil are likely to make commuting long distances from the countryside into town a much more expensive business (though possibly more pleasureable for those who can aford it). There are more deep reaching consequences for those who don’t own vehicles in terms of shopping, health care etc and also for the general cultural welbeing of rural areas.
- Go for a brownfield site or previously used land. See Habitat protection and land remediation. The book A Pattern Language has a section on remediationthe term applied to the method of dealing with pollutants and contaminants in the ground. The Building Regulations cover this in detail. See info about Approved Document C – Site preparation and resistance to contaminants and moisture and building on the worst land rather than on beautiful countryside or environmentally sensitive areas.
Finding Sites For Sale
Whether you are an individual self builder or part of a group, finding plots of land can be an extremely hit and miss affair, mainly because it is hard to know when land is coming up for sale in a locality you want and at a price you can afford. The ways of finding land are:
- Local newspaper adverts. This is still a common way for people to advertise land although the ad will probably pop up in the local estate agent as well. Some local newspapers have listings of properties and land on their web sites. UK newspaper links can be found at British Media Online
- Estate agents. Land adverts usually show up with local estate agents because prospective buyers will want to come to the area and view the land. However, estate agents are in something of a dilemma at the moment (a bit like travel agents) because the Internet is making information much more widely available. For this reason various companies are setting up web-based land finders. Find lists of estate agents here.
- Local authorities. A bill has now gone through parliament which puts an onus on local authorities to keep a register of people interested in acquiring land for self build and help make land available
see summary of the bill
Summary of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015
A Bill to place a duty on local authorities to keep a register of individuals and community groups who have expressed an interest in acquiring land to bring forward self-build and custom-build projects and to take account of and make provision for the interests of those on such registers in developing their housing initiatives and their local plans; to allow volume house builders to include self-build and custom-build projects as contributing towards their affordable housing obligations, when in partnership for this purpose with a Registered Social Landlord; and for connected purposes.
Internet Plot Search sites
- PlotSearch is the scheme run by BuildStore
- Needaplot – the Self Build Portal plot finder
- Greenshifters lists smallholdings for sale, for rent and wanted
- Buildstore have an interesting service called Plotshare whereby a large chunk of land can be split down into smaller individual plots if several people are interested at the same time.
- A couple of companies in Bristol have recently emerged from the Ashley Vale development.
- Ecomotive has been set up to support sustainable communities, especially in terms of accessing land and building sites. They run ‘The Local Self Build Register, connecting self builders and local councils“
- Bright Green Futures which has been set up to create eco self build communities
- Zoopla can tell you what houses have been selling for in any particular area. They and similar sites link to the Land Registry
- Homes and Communities agency. The government has stated its aim to make more land available for self build and the agency lists considerable areas of land which are on the market. In April 2012 ‘Neighbourhood Planning‘ was introduced and it puts an onus on local authorities to assess the local demand for requirements such as self build.
- Word of mouth. This can be a surprisingly effective way of finding land, especially if you are acquainted with a few people in the area of interest. Potential vendors may be approachable and may be keen to know who might be a neighbour and what kind of building is proposed, rather than putting land up for sale on the open market.
- Walking and cycling. For some strange reason you often see more when you are moving slowly. You might spot buildings that need renovating or bump into people who have something for sale. It’s often walking around and chatting that pays off.
The government has recently launched the Self Build Portal which has a page on finding building plots and it has also announced an increase in its ‘Right to Build‘ scheme in certain areas of the country. So the following areas have been awarded vanguard status:
- Cherwell District Council
- Exmoor and Dartmoor National Park Authorities
- Oldham Metropolitan Borough Council
- Pendle Borough Council
- Sheffield City Council
- Shropshire Council
- South Cambridgeshire District Council
- South Norfolk District Council
- Stoke-on-Trent City Council
- Teignbridge District Council
- West Lindsey District Council