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Finding Plots for Self-Build Projects

Unlike the mainstream housing market and just picking up a ready built home off the shelf, finding individual plots for a self-build project is not so easy. And when you do find a good one, securing it can be even tougher.

Thousands of people self-build in the UK every year, so the sites are definitely out there. Be aware that if you have particular requirements in terms of size and location, finding a plot can take years. Flexibility, along with dedicated time and energy, will improve your chances of succeeding.

How to Start

There are many ways to locate a suitable plot.

Online: The internet is hands-down the most comprehensive source of available land, with sites like www.plotsearch.co.uk featuring thousands of listings.

Estate agents: Approaching estate agents in the areas that interest you often yields results. You can also contact local architects and other land specialists because they’re among the first to know about new plots.

Auctions: Plots are regularly available as rebuilds and demolitions at auction.

Tour the area: Exploring the locality allows you to get a sense of what’s available and find potential plots before anyone else does.

Monitor planning applications: Local authorities publish planning applications on their websites. It sometimes happens that the applicants intend to sell the land, not build on it.

Main Barriers to Self-Build Projects

The biggest barrier is the relative scarcity of plots in the UK. Planning policies also make it difficult to build new homes in certain areas, such as greenfield and conservation locations. In desirable areas developers grab land as soon as it becomes available, with leftover plots tending to be in brownfield sites.

Amount to Budget for Land

The biggest single expense for a self-build project is buying the plot. In areas where plots are less common and prices are higher, the land purchase can account for upward of 50% of the total value of the completed property.

To avoid breaking your budget, stop looking for perfection and seek potential instead. An ugly mess of rubbish and dead bushes could turn into a nice plot after a thorough clean-up.


Specialists in Construction Insurance

Main Plot Types

Brownfield: Brownfield sites, which are previously developed land, tend to be more affordable upfront. If you purchase a brownfield plot, you’ll have to apply for a change of use, and the previous building’s footprint may have to remain intact, limiting your design options.

Greenfield: Gaining planning permission to build on a greenfield site (land that has never been developed before) is possible but difficult. If you’re seeking to live on highly-protected green belt land, you’re more likely to be granted permission for a buy to demolish or an extension.

Buy to demolish: This option is usually cheaper than renovating an existing property, and VAT is reclaimable on new builds. Be aware that you might be required to build a home with similar dimensions to the previous building.

Additional options include building on gardens in residential areas as well as in conservation areas and other locales with special designations, although obtaining planning permission for the latter is highly unlikely.


There are two primary types of planning consent:

  • Outline planning permission (OPP): consent in principle for building to occur, with some or all of the details to be settled in a later DPP application
  • Detailed planning permission (DPP): must be applied for within three years of OPP being given

If there is an existing permission in place when you inquire about a plot, you can always submit an application for a different design within invalidating the permission. This option prevents you from being stuck with a plan you don’t like.


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