What is self-build?
Many of the new homes developed each year in the National Park are self-build projects. Self-builders create their homes through a variety of methods. A few carry out the construction work themselves. Others employ a local builder. Most self-builders will manage the project and deal directly with planning officers, tradespeople and suppliers. There are two further alternatives to self-build:
- Custom build, which involves working with a specialist developer to create your own home. Some custom builders offer the option of a serviced plot where you can design and build your own home as part of a larger scheme;
- Self-conversion, which involves converting an existing building into one or more dwellings.
Self-build and self-conversion can be a more affordable path to homeownership. The hours put into construction may help to offset the cost of engaging a builder, while self-management of the project can save what would otherwise be a commercial developer’s profit margin.
The Government wants to increase self-build and self-conversion by providing a supply of suitable ‘serviced plots’ across England. A serviced plot is land with vehicular access, a water and electricity supply and waste water treatment. The intention is that Council land, or other publicly-owned sites, will be made available as self-build plots. In the National Park, however, there is very little publicly-owned land. So, a supply of suitable plots, or buildings to convert, will depend on the willingness of landowners to sell them. The Authority publishes annually a list of all sites with a ‘live’ residential planning permission or Local Plan housing allocation, so that those interested in developing can see what already has consent. All enquiries about the availability of these sites for self build or any other form of development should be made direct to the landowner.
Self-build and self-conversion require planning permission in the normal way. In the National Park, planning applications will need to meet the criteria in Local Plan Policy C1 (new-build housing) or L2 (conversion of a traditional building to housing). These require new housing to be located on sites inside towns or villages, or to involve the conversion of a suitable traditional building. Planning policy for new build housing and barn conversion is also supported by the new National Park Design Guide.
The Self-Build Register
The Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 requires all local planning authorities to maintain a register of people who wish to acquire a serviced plot for self-building. The purpose is to release appropriate opportunities and increase awareness among landowners, builders and developers.
Who can go on the Register?
Each applicant must be aged 18 or older and be seeking (either alone or with others) to acquire either a serviced plot of land on which to build a house, or a suitable building to convert. The dwelling must be for a sole or main residence – not a second home or holiday property.
In the National Park, planning policy for small sites gives priority to people in ‘local housing need’. Eligibility, which is not limited solely to people already living in the National Park, is defined in full in Appendix 5 of the Local Plan, and includes:
- Existing residents of the National Park establishing a separate household, purchasing a property for the first time, downsizing to a more manageable home or requiring more space for a growing family;
- A head of household who is, or whose partner is, in or is taking up, full-time permanent employment or self-employment, within the National Park;
- Former residents of the National Park (or of another part of a parish split by the National Park boundary) whose case is accepted in writing by the Authority as having a need to return to the National Park.
How will you use the Register?
The National Park Authority will use the register to calculate unmet demand for self-build housing. It will provide information on the number of people interested, their circumstances, and the type of self-build project to which they aspire. This evidence will influence planning decisions. The Authority will also explore ways in which it might be possible for people and plots to be brought together. Registration does not, however, guarantee that a suitable plot will be identified, or become available.
The Authority will not pass identifiable information from the Register onto anyone else, without the written consent of the person who registered their details.