Around 13,000 people successfully self build every year, so clearly the plots are out there. However, unlike the normal housing market, individual building plots are not so obvious to find – you have to work that much harder to secure a good one.


Where can I start?
There are many routes to finding a plot - we've picked out some of the biggest in the 'key plot finding routes' panel, right. A common mistake made when plot hunting is searching over too wide an area. Keep an eye on planning applications in your target region, too. Local authorities publish a register of these on their websites. It could be that the applicants are looking not to build, but to sell the plot on.
Write to the applicants and ask if they are interested in selling to you. If you are lucky you might just get a letter back inviting you to discuss the matter further.
Plots are relatively scarce in the UK, due partly to an abundance of protected areas compared to other European countries. Currently 90 per cent of land in England can't be built on, though organisations such as the National Self Build Association ( are working to secure the release of more sites for self builders.
Planning policies restrict most schemes to development boundaries around existing settlements. The government is trying to relax this under its Localism Bill, but building new houses (as opposed to replacement or conversion) in greenfield areas is still difficult.
New plots, then, tend to be within these development boundaries. But in high-demand areas the obvious sites have been picked clean by developers. The plots that remain are often brownfield sites – meaning it’s land that has been previously developed – and it’s here that the most opportunities will lie.
The trick is to see past what is there and spot the potential in the site. What looks like a tangled mess of brambles and rubbish at first glance can become a very nice plot after a few hours of work with a JCB. If you can realistically change what you don’t like then do so, but if the compromise needed is too much to bear, then move on to the next plot.


What are the main types of plot?
The government focuses much new housing on brownfield sites (previously developed land), so local councils should look favourably on plans for these plots. Services are likely to be already in place, too. However, you'll need to apply for a change of use

This term refers to land that's not been built on before - whether open countryside, gaps in rural areas, on the outskirts of villages or between existing houses. It's not impossible to gain planning permission to build on a greenfield site, but there's a distinction when it comes to fiercely-protected 'green belt'. 

Buy to demolish
Popular because it's usually cheaper than renovating an existing property in spite of the fact that demolition fees can run into £10,000s. You're less likely to encounter hidden costs by knocking down and starting afresh, and VAT is reclaimable on new-builds

Designated areas
Self building in locations with special designations - such as conservation areas - is subject to strict controls. You're very unlikely to be granted planning permission for a new house, or even a demolish and rebuild, in these cases.


Why are plots sold with planning permission?
Land is available with one of two types of planning consent in place - outline planning permission (OPP) or detailed planning permission (DPP). The former is consent in principal for development to occur, leaving some or all of the particulars to be established in a later application for DPP (you must apply for this within three years of OPP being given).
But don't dismiss a plot just because the permitted design doesn't suit you. Even if DPP is already in place, you can submit a new application for a different design without revoking the existing permission - so you don't necessarily have to stick to a plan that doesn't suit you.


More about how to find a plot ....