Planning Practice Guidance on self-build and custom housebuilding updated 

The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government has published an update to the Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) on Self-build and Custom Housebuilding. This is the first update since the legislation was passed in 2016, and clarifies and strengthens custom and self-build from a planning perspective. 

The guidance sets out ways in which the April 2016 legislation (previously updated in July 2017) is implemented in practice, with suggestions for who local authorities can work to fulfil the duties placed on them. 

Helpfully, the guidance now recognises the spectrum of projects that can be custom and self-build. The update also confirms that: 

the off-plan sales of homes is excluded from the definition of custom and self-build,

custom and self-build can have role as a route to affordable home ownership,

the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) exemption can be applied to multi-unit and communal schemes,

self-build registers are more likely to be a material consideration in planning matters, and

councils must consider the demand the registers represent, more robustly, and make better use of data to support decision making, including using demand assessment tools.

The update also touches on the role of public land in bringing on sites together with improved rules around planning policy and custom and self-build registers. 

In addition, new data around the Right to Build registers has been published, which adds to the body of evidence around demand and activity. 

Mary Elkington, Acting Head of the Task Force, said:  “It is now five years since the Right to Build legislation came into effect and we are starting to see its impact, with registers helping to open new and more diverse options for providing high quality housing. This guidance update is a welcome strengthening of the tools that planners have to support delivery and increase capacity.”

The Right to Build Task Force will be publishing a short paper about the guidance and the data. 

Chief planner singles out custom and self-build in newsletter

Chief Planner Joanna Averley gave an update on the valuable role that custom and self-build can have in meeting wider housing strategy goals. 

In the February newsletter to chief planning officers she sets out how custom and self-build can support greater housing diversity by giving more people more choice.

“Self and custom builders are well placed to build high quality, well designed homes that are energy efficient, accessible, affordable and welcomed by their communities.”

Averley reiterated government’s commitment to the sector, referencing recent initiatives: 

a review of the Right to Build legislation, and whether it is having the desired impact in supporting delivery,

an update to the Planning Practice Guidance for self-build and custom housebuilding, and 

a commitment to publishing the data returns filed by local authorities when reporting on self and custom build locally.

Importantly, she emphasised the role the Right to Build Task Force has in providing free introductory workshops for English authorities to support custom and self-build delivery, funded by the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government. Over the past 12 months the Task force has provided bespoke briefings to more almost 40 local authorities.

Mary Elkington, Acting Head of the Task Force, said: “The Task Force’s role in building capacity in custom and self-build delivery is strengthened by the funding from MHCLG, meaning that it has national reach that can really make a difference at a local level.

“The Task Force is well positioned to support this activity at a local authority level, whether with an MHCLG-funded introductory webinar or by more targeted consultancy support.  The Chief Planner’s comments supports this activity, taking our message directly into the heads of planning across the country.”

Online Right to Build workshops - free of charge for local authorities

The Right To Build Task Force can now offer a tailored workshop, free of charge, to each local authority in England. These workshops help councils understand and take action on self-build and custom build housing, in line with their statutory duties.

The workshops are funded by MHCLG and are delivered online, usually via Zoom. A bespoke session is prepared for each authority, by an expert and is tailored to the specific needs of that organisation. They can cover topics like different development models for custom and self-build with rural and urban examples, how to monitor permissions in line with the legislation, insight from recent appeal decisions, examples of good policy practice and what other councils are doing to bring forward custom and self-build housing. Webinars are 2.5 hours long (which includes discussion and Q&A) and should be attended by elected members as well as officers from housing and planning.

For more information or to book, please email us.

One in three people are interested in self-building, finds new research

New research into self-build aspirations found that one in three people are interested in building an owner commissioned home. However, despite more specialist mortgages being available in the market, access to finance remains the biggest barrier to most people progressing to build.

Commissioned by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) and the Building Societies Association (BSA) the research marks Right to Build Day on 30 October, the annual close of the self-build registers

The survey asked people about their homes, and found that experiencing lockdown in 2020 had made:

  • 48% want more space in general, with 36% wanting more indoor space and 37% more outdoor space
  • 39% want a home office space
  • 31% consider home improvements as a result of lockdown
  • 5% consider designing and building their own home

With regards to custom and self-building

  • Nearly a third of GB adults (32%) said they were interested in designing and building their own home.
  • 9% of people said they were likely to build their own home at some point in the future - this compares to around 5% of new homes currently being built as custom and self-build annually.
  • The younger generation were most keen, with nearly half (48%) of 18-24 saying they were interested in self building. This decreased with age, with less than 1 in 5 (18%) over 55s interested.
  • 74% said the main benefit of a self-build is the ability to design a home to their exact specifications, while half said the ability to build a home that adapts to meet their current and future needs was important.
  • For most, the biggest barrier remains finding the money to finance the project, (59%). People also said the following were issues that would keep them from building: 49% said planning permission; 47% said lack of knowledge; and 42% said finding a plot.
  • In terms of energy efficiency, self-build offered a route to a greener future, with a third of people wanting to live in a home that had less impact on the environment.
  • Nearly 9 in 10 people (89%) said energy efficiency was important, were they to build a new home.

Download analysis of the findings

Self-build aspirations

NaCSBA and the BSA welcomed the news that almost a third of those surveyed said they were interested in having a house built to their own needs and specifications.

However, the data shows that it is the youngest generation of 18-24 who are most interested in self-building (48%), but it is this age group that tends to have the least amount of savings and less earning potential due to their age. This marries with the perception that financing the build project is the most significant limiting factor preventing people from self-building. 59% cited this as the most significant barrier.

To help meet the deposit gap, the 2019 Conservative party manifesto promised that the Help to Buy scheme would be extended to the sector, which NaCSBA continues to push for. Having a smaller environmental impact was also a key factor behind the ambition to self-build, with a third (33%) of people identifying it as a core benefit of building a home. Almost 9 in 10 (89%) of people said it was important that their newly built home was energy efficient, when asked to envision building their own home.

Housing diversification is a core part of the Government’s wider housing strategy, as England has the lowest known rate of self-commissioned homes in the world. The Right to Build legislation requires councils to grant sufficient planning permissions to match the demand evidenced on their registers. However, despite legislation in 2015 and 2016, the survey found that 83% of people had never heard of the registers held by local authorities of people who would like to build their own home.

NaCSBA urges all those looking to self-build to sign up to their local Right to Build register via

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA’s CEO said, “The current lack of choice in our new homes market makes it different from every other country and every other consumer market. Only when there is diversity of choice will we get the diversity of homes that we want and need.”

Paul Broadhead, Head of Mortgages and Housing at the BSA said, “It’s great to see that there are so many aspiring self and customs builders, particularly among the youngest generation (18-24yrs). Increased levels of home working this year have led many to realise the importance of future proofing their homes to suit their individual needs. Mutual lenders are leading the way to help these self-build dreams become a reality, with 21 building societies currently lending to people building their own homes, they are the clear choice for many and are leaders in this space.”

Building societies offering self and/or custom build products:

Bath Building Society Beverley Building Society
Chorley Building Society Darlington Building Society
Buckinghamshire BS Earl Shilton Building Society
Dudley Building Society Furness Building Society
Ecology Building Society Ipswich Building Society
Hanley Economic Building Society Mansfield Building Society
Loughborough Building Society Penrith Building Society
Melton Mowbray Building Society Saffron Building Society
Progressive Building Society Scottish Building Society (Scotland only)
Stafford Railway Building Society Swansea Building Society
Vernon Building Society