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Size of the self-build sector

The UK has a much lower rate of self-building than other European countries. The sector currently accounts for between 7-10% of completions while in Austria it accounts for around 80%. There is some evidence to suggest that there may be significant unmet demand for self-build in the UK. A survey commissioned by the Building Societies Association (BSA), published in October 2011, suggested that 53 per cent of people in the UK would consider building their own home given the opportunity. Around 100,000 people subscribe to one of the main plot-finding websites.


Barriers to self-building have been identified as:

  • land supply and procurement;
  • access to finance;
  • the planning process; and
  • general regulation and red tape.

Government initiatives (England only)

In Laying the foundations: a housing strategy for England (2011), the Coalition Government set out plans to enable more people to build or commission their own home. Various measures were introduced to ease the path for those wanting to build their own home including (repayable) funding; an exemption from the Community Infrastructure Levy; amendments to planning guidance; and improved access to public sector land. 

Richard Bacon’s Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Bill gained Government support in the 2014-15 Parliamentary Session and obtained Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. Since April 2016 local planning authorities in England have been required to establish local registers of custom builders who wish to acquire suitable land on which to build their own home. It also requires local authorities to have regard to the demand on their local register when exercising planning and other relevant functions. The Act extends to Wales but has only been brought into force in England.

A Right to Build

A Government consultation exercise was conducted between October and December 2014: Right to Build: supporting custom and self build: consultation the outcome of which was announced in March 2015: Right to Build: supporting custom and self build: government response to consultation.  The Coalition Government said it would build on the legislative framework provided by the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 to introduce a Right to Build under which local authorities would be required to meet demand on the register by granting development permissions for sufficient serviced plots of land.

A desire to double the number of homes built

The Conservative Party’s 2015 Manifesto contained a commitment to introduce a Right to Build and double the number of self and custom build homes by 2020. Chapter 2 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 introduced the ‘Right to Build’ with effect from 31 October 2016. A custom and self-build toolkit has also been developed.

The Housing White Paper (February 2017) reasserts the Government’s commitment to support the self/custom build sector.


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