The architect and presenter of Channel 4’s Amazing Spaces and The Restoration Man shares his latest tips and ideas.
Britain should be a nation of self-builders. We are passionate about our homes, and thousands of us would love the opportunity to construct them ourselves. So it’s strange that so few landowners and councils release land for this purpose. The UK is near the bottom of the global league table for the number of selfbuilders per capita: the National Custom & Self-Build Association (NaCSBA) puts the figure at somewhere around eight per cent of new-builds, compared with almost 50 per cent in some European countries. Further afield, the market for build-ready plots is stronger – New Zealand, for example, is particularly encouraging of those who want to construct their own homes. The main issue in the UK seems to be availability of land. Planning consent is hard to come by, and in my experience, once people get it, they often sell to developers for profit. But there’s hope for budding builders out there. The NaCSBA’s self-build portal (selfbuildportal.org.uk/ needaplot) links those who want to take on a project with people in their area with land to sell. I think the best way to do it is to form a co-operative or community land trust, in which a group of self-builders come together to buy a large piece of land and build several homes on it. With more people involved, you’ll have more options when negotiating development funds from a bank. Plus, if everyone contributes to actually creating the homes, project costs can be dramatically reduced. At the moment, group self-build developments have far more chance of getting off the ground. I’d like to see a selfbuild revolution in Britain, but we would need to work together to make that happen.
Credit: Darren Chung, Jefferson Smith