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Planning A Self Build

A self build can be very fun and rewarding but can be incredibly, stressful.  Particularly if you take on the role of site manager too.  Before you make a decision on if you are to go into a self build or a renovation project, We have written a guide for you.  It should highlight at least some of the factors involved and how/when certain parts should be managed.

Your Budget

Your Build Budget

One of the most important factors that could make or break your big plans so should be your first big decision.

You should allow between £1450 and £3500 per square metre plus your land for your build.

The costs above are reflected by the following:

  • The location/area you wish to build

  • The amount of work your are able to and willing to do for yourself

  • The construction method being used

  • The ground type and therefore foundation type and drainage required

  • and so on...


​​According to at the time of writing this (18/08/21);

"Average cost of building a 3 bedroom house

The typical size of a three-bedroom home is usually somewhere between 90 to 120 m2, meaning the average cost of building a three-bedroom house can range from around £130,000 to £300,000."

Finding Land

Finding Land

Selecting a building plot

Because land with at least outline planning granted can equate to between 30% and 40% of a of the total spend of a new build, then this should be your first consideration within your budget.


Estaste/Land Agent Plots


Use these to find a suitable plot by all means because the land advertised will often state if change of use and/or planing permission has been granted and sometimes ground/soil surveys etc may have already been carried out.

Something to remember here is that an estate agent is charging a fee on any sales they make which is usually between 0.5% and 3.5% in the UK however most are just below 1.5%.


So lets say an estate agent is selling a plot of land that is valued at £100,000 and they charge 1% sales commission.  The owner would have to pay the estate agent £1,000.  This £1000 could be saved from your purchase price if you sourced the land yourself.

Sourcing Land yourself

Keep an eye out or scout around for suitable building locations, then speak to or write to the land owner to ask if they would consider selling.  Ideally the land should be close to services and amenities.  

The Ideal Site - an overview;

  • Should have a minimum of outline planning consent for the same use (meaning that it has been agreed for such a dwelling in principle at least).

  • Good proximity and access to public highway, particularly when considering access for large delivery vehicles (If you would require an entrance to a proposed property other than an existing one or an alternate safer access, your planing could be denied if it will affect current traffic by causing danger, congestion or obstructions).

  • Good proximity to other domestic dwellings (if other dwellings already exist and your proposed dwelling will not negatively affect them or the local environment, you are more likely to obtain planning permission).

  • No Overhead power or phone lines - not only can they run across the exact path of where you would like to build, they can cause an obstruction and with high voltage electrical cables, they pose a huge safety risk working below them, particularly if plant machinery are to be used.  (Moving such services can run into thousands, even tens of thousands.  Particularly if the electricity board or phone company need to re route cables under the ground).

  • No mains water, gas, sewer/drainage or underground power lines running across the plot in the direct location where you would wish to build. As with overhead cables - Re-routing of these can reach into tens of thousands or even more in some cases.

  • Easy safe and close access to any required services such as Gas, water, Electricity, sewage and drainage.

  • Loam type soil - this is the ideal type soil for foundations to be on as it is will drain steadily not retaining too much water yet wont completely dry out, go hard and crack, or be so dusty/sandy that the property will be prone to subsidence.

  • No restrictions such as tree preservation orders or covenants on the land, restricting what you do or put on the plot.

  • In an area of growth potential and within a reasonable distance from local amenities such as shops, Drs and schools

  • Has clear boundaries and no rights of way across it.

  • Access through others land not required

  • Low Water table - high water tables are normally associated with clay type soils  but can be within other types.  It can cause damp problems and flooding in some cases.  Consider this for home/content insurance and mortgage purposes as some lenders will not provide if such risks are involved.

Selecting the correct type of land for your build


Land is categorised into different areas and vary in price from around £10,000 to around £1,000,000 per acre and depends greatly on where it is in the country, what its current use is, its soil quality and its proximity to other important protected areas:


  • Green Belt - Very unlikely to get permission but not impossible - if it is granted it would have to be for very good reason and may very likely have many conditions and restrictions applied.

  • Green Fields - unlikely to get planing permission without good reason and conditions may be applied
  • Brownfield - Land that is more likely to get change of use and therefore planing as it is either not suitable for growing and/or has got/had previous use buildings on it.

  • Land With Outline Planning Permission - Likely for planing to be granted if certain conditions are met.

  • Land with full planning permission - Planing has been granted for a specific build (planing for a different structure would need to be re-applied for but would not normally be an issue if not drastically different from the one accepted).

Please also read our page "Finding A building Plot" for more details.

Factors that can affect planning consent

Planing Consent Factors

Soil types

These not only affect your chances for planning consent –  as high grade soils are unlikely to be viable building land as there are legislations to protect them from being built on.  But also some soil types could become an issues in the building process for example clay type soils and peat/boggy soils will retain water for long periods yet they can dry out very quickly in hot spells causing shrinking and movement

(also see "2. Assessing plot" under the "Pre-Build" section below).


The local planners may see poor ground quality or a plots previous use as a risk and may only grant permission if adequate works are agreed, for example; additional drainage and/or the need to use a raft foundation, piers or for existing buildings, underpinning may be necessary.

Any of these could significantly increase your build costs, not only by adding more excavation & disposal work, but also due to a greatly increased amount of materials required such as concrete, drainage pipes, soak aways/etc.   These additional works will also increase the build schedule and can cause additional delays, particularly if additional inspections are required before works can commence.


If the plot has a high water table and/or poorly draining soil, another factor that you should consider as it could be costly, is the possible need to hire or purchase water pumping equipment to prevent water pooling and sitting in excavations.​

Soil Composition.png
Soil Colour.jpg

For more about finding land, click here


  • Plot entry point can become an issue if it will cause danger, obstructions or slow a public highway down

  • Emergency vehicles should be able turn in and access new build properties unrestricted

Distance from services

  • Proximity to amenities and services can sway or divert  opinions for consent if it is felt the location could cause danger or disruption to other

Right to light

  • Every human has the right to natural light.  Planing can be denied if a proposed development will restrict a neighboring properties light.

Legal issues

  • Restrictions like tree preservation, orders or covenants (restrictions on the land uses)

  • Wildlife protection orders

  • European protected species

  • Protection of badgers act etc.

  • Protection of Bats - PSchedule 2 of the Conservation (Natural Habitats &c) Regulations 1994

  • Removing trees and bushes during bird nesting season.

  • If  a building is in a conservation area, certain restrictions apply to what can and cant be built.  Including permited/unpermited materials, styles and so on...

  • If you will be able to view/look over a wide area with your proposed development, planing could be turned down.

Click here for detailed information about the "Stages Of A Self Build".

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