An ex­cit­ing plot

As the re­ces­sion bites, more and more peo­ple are turn­ing to self-build. AN­DREA WAT­SON looks at this grow­ing mar­ket

Daily Express - - PROPERTY -

THERE’S one way to get the be­spoke home you want without pay­ing a price you prob­a­bly can­not af­ford – build it your­self. Self-build­ing is catch­ing on fast as the re­ces­sion bites. Only 3,720 applicatio­ns to start new homes in the pri­vate sec­tor were re­ceived in Au­gust, and ex­perts es­ti­mate that as many as one in three de­tached homes is a self-build project.

Emap Gleni­gan, the UK leader in constructi­on in­for­ma­tion, recorded more than 19,000 applicatio­ns from self-builders in the first six months of 2008.

De­spite the im­ages con­jured up by the phrase “self-build”, not all of those in­volved are brick­lay­ers or join­ers. In­deed, many do no more than find a suit­able plot of land and then leave it to the pro­fes­sion­als.

There is no short­age of land in the UK, but build­ing plots have been hard to come by in the past decade. How­ever, the re­ces­sion has changed all that. Builders who have been ag­gres­sively land-bank­ing are beginning to dis­pose of plots. What’s more, land prices fall dis­pro­por­tion­ately in a prop­erty slow­down.

It is worth re­search­ing your area to see if any build­ing projects have been put on hold. Talk to your plan­ning depart­ment to see if it can sug­gest any leads.

The web­site www.plotfinder.net is an “ex­change and mart” for such land, and lo­cal news­pa­pers also carry ad­ver­tise­ments for build­ing land.

It is es­sen­tial to es­tab­lish a good work­ing re­la­tion­ship with plan­ning of­fi­cers from the out­set. Plan­ning is usu­ally some­thing of a has­sle, in­volv­ing risk, de­lays and pos­si­ble dis­ap­point­ment, but there are ways to “play the game”.

Get tips from books such as How To Get Plan­ning Per­mis­sion, by Roy Speer. There are also spe­cial­ist con­sul­tants but they charge sub­stan­tial fees.

If you em­ploy an ar­chi­tect, en­sure they have ap­pro­pri­ate ex­per­tise and ask ques­tions about lo­cal con­tacts and knowl­edge. Not all ar­chi­tects de­liver as much as they prom­ise, so keep con­trol of their fees and re­mem­ber that you can ob­tain plenty of free in­for­ma­tion from your own re­search.

The site you choose may, of course, be on your own land. If you plan to de­mol­ish your ex­ist­ing prop­erty and re­build on its foot­print, you will need to lodge a full plan­ning ap­pli­ca­tion. If you sim­ply want to build an ex­ten­sion, there may be no need for plan­ning per­mis­sion, as reg­u­la­tions have been re­laxed.

“Per­mit­ted de­vel­op­ment” now in­cludes par­ti­tion walls, loft and garage con­ver­sions, roof lights and roof ex­ten­sions, con­ser­va­to­ries and an­nexes. How­ever, be aware of the many reg­u­la­tions re­gard­ing size and po­si­tion, with con­ser­va­tion ar­eas and listed prop­er­ties sub­ject to to­tally dif­fer­ent rules.

Many self-builders are likely to have some­thing of the creative about their char­ac­ter. They do not want to live in a mass-pro­duced new home and wish to cre­ate some­thing

unique. This could be any­thing from an eco-home to an oak-framed manor house.

It could re­flect the ar­chi­tec­tural styles of New Eng­land, us­ing tim­ber frame and weath­er­board cladding, or a newly fash­ion­able build­ing ma­te­rial that is cheap and has ex­traor­di­nary in­su­la­tion prop­er­ties.

Most self-builders, how­ever, are likely to opt for one of two constructi­on meth­ods: brick and block or tim­ber frame, both of which have ex­isted side by side for cen­turies.

The first process, which is slower, in­volves stone, brick and con­crete, while the sec­ond, which is lighter and quicker, uses tim­ber as a frame, with a wa­ter­proof cladding.

From 2016, all UK homes will have to emit zero-car­bon out­put. Self-builders, how­ever, have a head start, be­cause they can in­cor­po­rate eco-fea­tures more cost-ef­fec­tively in ad­vance of this dead­line.

De­sign­ing an eco­log­i­cally friendly home is a bal­anc­ing act, with cost a fac­tor. Sus­tain­able ma­te­ri­als tend to be ex­pen­sive and skilled trades­peo­ple fa­mil­iar with new tech­nolo­gies can be dif­fi­cult to come by. Self-build spe­cial­ists such as Pot­ton have a stan­dard brochure of de­signs that en­able most peo­ple to find what they want. The com­pany re­cently launched a be­spoke de­sign ser­vice, al­though this will mean a higher bud­get.

Self-build can be an ex­cel­lent in­vest­ment, but it is es­sen­tial to con­trol costs from the out­set.

An ideal start­ing place is a home­build­ing and ren­o­vat­ing show. The next is in Har­ro­gate, North York­shire, next week­end. The show will host mas­ter­classes on all as­pects of the sub­ject and bring to­gether ev­ery kind of spe­cial­ist firm. You can take along full plans or just a sim­ple sketch and speak to one of the many ex­perts on hand. Some plot-find­ing firms even spe­cialise in lo­cat­ing build­ing land over­seas.

www.home­build­ing­show.co.uk

JOB DONE: Steve and Linda Wool­ley with their chil­dren Daniel and Vic­to­ria and the fam­ily’s self-build home

TAKE YOUR PICK: New-build homes range from the tra­di­tional look (left) to the ul­tra-mod­ern Tree House (above)

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