How to find a plot: the complete self build guide

Finding the perfect plot to create your own self build can be achieved with this no-nonsense guide.

By Paul Oneal | 29 May 2019

Ensure you source the best site for your self build with our no-nonsense, in depth  guide to finding a plot for your self build project.

Harlosh house on Isle of Skye by felix mooneram

Image: Felix Mooneram

Finding the ideal site is crucial to a successful self-build, but it can also be one of the most difficult and stressful parts of the process. There are clearly plots out there: there were 12,800 self-builds in the UK in 2016*.

But a good site is not necessarily easy to find so you may need to think outside the box when you begin your search to ensure you source. Some self-builders have spent years finding the ideal location, especially those who have a specific idea of what they want.

If time is not on your side, you might need to revise your initial wish list.

Different plot types

A high percentage of land in the UK can’t be built on due to protection imposed by the Government. Planning policies restrict more schemes to development boundaries, so building new houses in areas that haven’t been built on before, such as greenfield areas, is difficult. New plots tend to be in these development boundaries and are often brownfield sites, meaning land that has been developed in the past. It’s here that most opportunities can be found. If you find a plot and are unsure of its potential, contact the local planning department.

Also check out the local authority’s land-use developmentplan maps online, which will indicate the classification of the plot.

Planning Portal and your local council’s website will offer unitary development plans (UDP), which provide guidance on development, conservation, regeneration and improvement activity in your area.

When you think you’ve found the right plot, you need to check if there is any planning in place. Be wary of plots that have planning permission close to expiry – six months can be too short – as planning departments can take up to 12 weeks in considering applications. If preparatory work or investigations are needed this could substantially delay the process.

Equally, if  you’re a plot owner and hope to sell your land some day, it’s crucial to keep the planning consent up to date. Saying that, if planning has been approved on the site before, the chances are it will be approved again – although not guaranteed.

If you find the perfect plot and are haggling over the price, bear in mind that the cost is dependent on the classification of the land (ie: what it can be used for), the location, size and potential. Unfortunately for self-builders, residential or housing land is always going be the most expensive.

Agricultural or grazing land sells for a fraction of the price and is sometimes misleadingly advertised as available with planning permission. However, this is highly unlikely so steer well clear.