Buyer's and community perspective

Self-build for you and me and everyone else too

Neighbourhood plans are in some disarray. Successive governments have seen them as a sign of perfect democracy and at the same time, a way to persuade communities to accept more new houses.

Sadly, many enthusiastic communities have seen them as a way to avoid all new houses or at least to push them into unsustainable locations.

This is a problem of perception. Volume house builders build to the “volume market”. To sell what they build they must listen to the market and build what people can afford. Inevitably, that means tried and tested designs and materials. So no matter how hard they try to construct attractive homes, the outer appearance of a 200 house estate is of . . . well, a 200 house estate. No-one wants that at the bottom of their garden.

However, we ask you to consider how you would feel about four small sites of 20 self-build plots each. Self-builders stay for 20 years in their house, as against an average of five years in an estate house. A self-builder chooses your community because she wants to become part of it for a long time. Self builders make an investment of love and time and work, as well as money. So the end product tends to be more attractive.

Finally, self-build is not going to go away any time soon. Successive governments will favour it for many years - because it is so obviously part of the solution to the housing crisis. That means a neighbourhood plan which provides self-build is more likely to be supported by your LPA and by central government, both at its creation and ever after.

Why we are interested in self-build

Our business is to obtain planning permission. However, we are passionate about self-build as a concept for these reasons:

  • We want to help you to experience “ultimate” satisfaction and security. Homo sapiens may have been around for only 200,000 years, but our ancestors further back have been creating and protecting their breeding places for millions of years. The instinct is hard wired.
  • We don’t build our own houses in the UK. Here is a league table.

Self-built houses as percentage of all new houses (date not known)

  • Austria 82%
  • Germany 62%
  • Ireland 58%
  • Australia 35%
  • UK 14%

We want to lead a new revolution to change this.

  • We are concerned at the designs of new large estates today. Despite the enormous effort of the companies and of local planning authorities (“LPAs”), at the end of the day, most large modern estates are instantly recognisable as collections of what we call “red boxes”.
  • For good business reasons, we have chosen the niche of working on small sites. Large self-build sites are simply impractical. You cannot have forty plot owners (and their contractors) working at the same time off the same short stretch of estate road.
  • Central government is behind us 100%. That is not exactly a reason why we are passionate. It is more a reason why we shall succeed.

What government is doing to help

They started with the 2014 act at Self-build and custom housebuilding act 2015 . It has now been as now been given its baby teeth. It has been amended twice already.

Regulations have been made to compel all LPAs to mention their new obligations on their web sites. The Act obliges LPAs to find sites. Because many LPAs took precious little action after the Act was published, the government has now beefed up the pressure on an LPA, not only to be more active in finding plots, but to tell us all what they have done.

However, it is actually unrealistic and difficult for an LPA to find sites. Most do not own “spare” brownfield land. It has already been developed. No local councillor is likely to vote for a proposition that her council should start to compulsorily acquire green field sites in her ward - even for self builders.

There is mention of insisting that volume builders allocate parts of their sites to self build. They will be reluctant. They make money because they use detailed systems and repetitive designs. Can you imagine the chaos that would result if a woman arrives at the site entrance of a 200 house scheme in an elderly digger and says she has come to start work on plot 64? The site manager would pull his hair out. It will not happen.

The only solution is for LPAs to accept that their planning teams will have to work even harder to accommodate small sites like those that we shall promote. Everyone wants houses fast. There are no prizes for guessing whose houses will be occupied first - 500 plots on a single estate, or 500 self-build plots on 20 sites. But spare a thought for the poor guys processing all those additional applications.

Even small sites need services

We are all used to seeing single houses going up in the spaces on our streets. Many are self-built. All the services are right there, in the road. Connection costs are minimal; delays are minimal; disruption is minimal. Now consider a site for 20 plots.

  • Even at that small size, there will be roads or driveways; every service will have to be organised, surface and foul water drainage must be provided.
  • There will be no buyers for the plots unless the planning conditions have been met already or can be met with certainty and ease. No-one wants to worry about the cost and delay of a team of archaeologists digging out a hoard of gold coins or Natural England specifying protection of the annual migration route of the lesser blue-eared snatterjack!
  • A successful small development of self build does require that someone has already set up the service connections to each plot. Roads must be designed and built, drains must be laid. Utility services must be provided. External features must be in place: the entrance, provision for sight lines, sewerage, tree planting, and more.

VAT

VAT on all of the construction costs only of self-build can be reclaimed by the self-builder. Form VAT431NB comes with extensive explanations and notes. The rules are drawn very tightly, so it is essential that a self-builder is aware of the pitfalls before starting any work.  The basic information is provided at: VAT: refunds for DIY housebuilders - claim form for new houses (VAT431NB) 

Capital gains tax

Capital gains tax is not payable on the sale of a property which has been you personal residence. There are exceptions, all clearly identified on the HMR&C website under HS283 Private Residence Relief (2016).

If you have land

If you are a land owner hoping to build on your own land, we shall be happy to treat it just as for any other land owner. However, if your site is suitable for only a single house, it is likely that your best route would be via a planning consultant.

This website will provide an ever expanding self-build “resource”. Bookmark it and see us expand with third party articles and links and eventually a directory of useful suppliers to self-builders.