The Self-build Guide Part 3: Finding Land and Planning Policy

Planning Policy will impact your self-build project from an early stage. An understanding of the basic principles will enable you to determine quickly whether a potential plot is viable for planning.

Planning Policy is something that will impact your self-build project from an early stage. It’s a tricky area. An understanding of the basic principles will enable you to determine quickly whether a potential plot is viable for planning. If you are unsure about aspects of planning policy, it’s worth seeking professional advice from experts who will be dealing the processes and applications on a daily basis.

The National Planning Policy Framework

The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) was initially published on 27 March 2012 and was further revised on 24 July 2018. In its original incarnation the NPPF comprised over two dozen different documents called Planning Policy Statements (PPS) and Planning Policy Guidance Notes (PPG), all compiled into one document.

Over 1300 pages have been condensed into a 65-page document and a 27-page Technical Guidance document. It sets out the government’s planning policies for England and how they are applied. The NPPF outlines a framework within which locally-prepared plans for housing and other developments can be produced. It has to be considered when preparing the development plan and should be included in planning decisions.

Local Council Plans

At a more parochial level, Local Council Plans are local plans prepared by the Local Planning Authority in conjunction with the NPPF. They set out their vision for the future of each area and a framework for addressing housing needs and other economic, social and environmental priorities. The requirements of each area will be different, but in more and more cases developments in the countryside are being permitted on a larger scale, as the need for more housing has become a major issue. Idle land – for example former farmland – is being utilised for this, while in cities former industrial or other areas, referred to as brownfield sites, are also being developed. 

Neighbourhood Plans

These have become particularly important for developments in villages and towns and consider the population, the parish boundaries and the needs and desires of the local people. They assess the amenities that are already present and the ones that may be needed with future growth. They are plans developed by neighbourhoods or communities where they can set out their vision for their neighbourhood and how they see future development happening in their area. These plans have to be created in line with the Local Plan and NPPF. If adopted, they form part of the Local Plan. They enable local communities to have a much stronger say in the future shape of their community. 

When you are searching for a plot, it’s very useful to understand which Local Planning Authority (LPA) and neighbourhood boundary it falls under and if they have a Local Plan and/or Neighbourhood Plan in place. These should be available online on local council websites and even though they are hefty documents, it’s worth reading the main points in summary, in order to understand the development framework in place for that area.

It’s also worth considering the following key aspects of planning policy when plot searching and bear them in mind when identifying a suitable location – though they may not apply in all LPAs.

Where is development focused?

For the majority of Local Plans, development is focused in urban areas. This is where the majority of a region’s resources – jobs, services, amenities, facilities etc – are based. Increasingly, some Local Authorities are allowing more development in smaller towns and villages. Is your plot in an area which promotes development?

Settlement boundaries

Depending on the area’s classification, it may have a settlement boundary. These boundaries determine where towns and villages end, and where the countryside begins. Development is likely to be more feasible if the plot is within these settlement boundaries. However this is not always the case in some smaller villages and boundaries can change over time, to broaden the potential for development.  

Infill development

In the majority of cases, infill development is classed as a ‘small gap or space in an otherwise built-up road frontage’ which could allow the construction of one or two houses. Keep on the lookout for these opportunities in towns and villages, but be aware that not all these gaps are available for development, as whether it is defined as infill depends on certain criteria and the location.

Replacement dwellings

These are becoming increasingly popular in areas where land prices are high. They entail demolishing the existing property on the site and rebuilding a new one. However, there could be restrictions in conservation areas or for listed buildings. It is also important to note that in many cases, you cannot build a larger dwelling and any newbuild has to be in keeping with the surrounding properties.

Barns

Depending on the structure and the location of the barn, it may be possible to convert or re-build to a habitable dwelling, but some LPAs are now restricting these in current Local Plans.

Brownfield land

This is land which has previously been developed and is not currently in use. Many LPAs actively promote the re-use of brownfield land for development, as in some cases there will be existing infrastructure or services onsite. Depending on its location, however, there may still be restrictions on development. It is also worth checking whether there is any contamination.

All this information is useful to assess the viability of sites for development. Each site presents its own unique characteristics and we therefore always recommend getting sites appraised by professionals, who are fully compliant with current polices.

CB Homes offers FREE planning advice, so please get in touch today to find your perfect plot.

Your best laid plans for a new-build

What do Building Regulations mean you can and can’t do when you are building a house?

Building Regulations in the United Kingdom are an essential part of any construction development. What is deemed permissible and what is not has a huge impact on the extent to which properties can be altered. It also covers new-build properties with the most up-to-date legislation. 

Building Regulations, or Building Regs, are amended every few years, as new technologies and regulations come into play. They cover almost every aspect of a building, its design and its construction components. They range from glazing safety, structure and sound transfer to ventilation, sanitation, hygiene and water efficiency. One notable exception is gas supplies to properties, which is dealt with under separate legislation.  

Digital communications

In 2017 a section was introduced to cover ‘High Speed Broadband Infrastructure’, which acknowledged the rise in prominence of digital telecommunications at home and at work. From 2005 ‘building work’ now includes any work on household electrics. Many changes have been made in the last two decades on how energy loss from properties impacts on the environment. This shows how construction experts, scientists and engineers have become more aware of how energy can be conserved (more efficient methods of heating within properties) and retained (with better insulation included in the building fabric).    

Getting planning permission

For planning permissions to be granted, plans will have to be submitted to the local council’s planning portal and building control, to be assessed and either passed or refused. During the work being carried out, a building control officer or building inspector will visit the work at various stages of completion. This is to ensure the workmanship and materials meet the quality and standard required. For example, foundations or footings will be checked. This is to make sure they comply with the depth and strength required for the base of the building and that the ground quality is strong enough to support the building load.

What’s exempt from Building Regulations?

There are some exemptions from Building Regulations. These include buildings not frequented by people. Other exceptions to the rules include buildings that are dealt with by other legislation (i.e. building used for the manufacture of explosives, or related to nuclear power), greenhouses and other agricultural buildings, small detached buildings (such as garages and garden sheds, that are less than 30 square metres and don’t include sleeping accommodation), temporary buildings erected for less than 28 days. Even some extensions may be exempt, such as conservatories and porches less than 30 square metres in floor area.

Approaching any building project is best done with the collaboration and advice of experts. Whatever the size of your project, CB Homes will be able to steer you in the right direction. The team will tell you who to contact, when, and help to define what is and what’s not allowed.

Starting from the ground up

When you’re choosing the location to build your ideal home, there are a variety of factors to consider.

What do you need to consider when choosing the location of your new home?

When you’re choosing the location to build your ideal home, there are a variety of factors to consider. Obviously budget is key. The extent to which your finances will stretch sets the boundaries to your ambitions. The best way to avoid any disappointment is to be realistic. Talking to design and build specialists early on in the thought and planning process can set achievable, manageable goals from the outset.  

Land can be less expensive in urban areas, but has far superior basic infrastructure in place – bus and rail links, internet and Wi-Fi, shops. The gulf between town and country has never been so wide, in terms of amenities and services. But country living offers its own appeals too – the healthy rural environment, a lack of noise and air pollution, a safer environment to bring up children and a more relaxed, sedate pace of life to the hustle and bustle of the city.  Or perhaps the suburbs are where you’d be happiest, with easy access to the city, but a stone’s throw from the countryside.    

Location, location, location

When you are looking at locations, particularly for new build, beware of any Conservation Area restraints on the neighbourhood, as this may restrict your ambitions should you want to build, alter or extend the property. If you’re looking at land to build on, basics like topography and the logistics of access – for builders and suppliers – can be major deciding factors in which site you choose. Lots of trees with preservation orders, for example, can be costly, as can resident wildlife such as bats and newts.

If you already know the local area well, you’ll be fully aware of where is value for money, where is overpriced, up-and-coming, or best avoided. But if you’re new to the area, do your research thoroughly. This is another area where companies such as ours can help clients find the area that is ideal for them. Add up the various factors – location, value-for-money, scope, personal preference – and make a judgement that will stand you in good stead in the future.

How not to break the bank. Top tips on budgeting.

Many different concerns need to be considered when you begin to look at self-build projects. Setting your budget early on and sticking to it is easier said than done. If you have a self-build project in mind, we can help you manage the turnkey project, from land acquisition and planning permission, through to design and construction.

Bespoke homes to meet your requirements

One of the attractions of employing CB Homes to manage your project is that we offer a free, no obligation design meeting as part of our design consultation. This can begin the creative process towards making your home a real project. You’ll have the option to design your self-build to your own specific concept, working with our design team, or choose from one of our signature designs. If you have a specific budget in mind, we can tailor the design to your vision, to make the most out of your investment. Your personalised plans will be prepared with a fixed-fee quote.

Managing the planning process

Gaining planning permission is one of the key hurdles in self-build developments. You know what your dream home would look like, but does the local planning authority agree? Is it in keeping with the surrounding area, or does it adhere to any conservation area stipulations or limitations on size and style? Again, your allotted budget is a vital part of this process. As part of your bespoke self-build package with us, all planning submission documentation is prepared and submitted by CB Homes. We’ll also manage your application, and any appeals or modifications this entails, through to the planning authority’s final decision. We are proud of our planning credentials and have built long-standing and reliable relationships with local authorities in the region.

In case of emergency

Keep an eye on your budget at every stage of the planning, design and building of your project. Making the most of your available budget will ensure that you won’t overspend later. However, it’s also worth having contingency funds, in case of delays or unseen challenges which arise, outside the parameters of good planning. CB Homes can help you budget realistically and make sure that every penny can be seen in the ‘final product’ design of your project.  

If you would like to discuss what sort of budget would make your turnkey project a success, then email or calls us today or visit our website and try out our cost calculator.

What makes the perfect plot for self-build?

If you have ambitions to develop land by building a property on it, when it comes to finding the perfect plot, it’s important that you bear some simple rules in mind. Sometimes the plot can already have development approval and planning permission in place. While others will simply be a plot of land, a blank slate with development potential.

Planning for the future

If the plot has planning permission already granted, make sure that the plot is available for residential development. Residential plots tend to go for the highest prices. They will often have a better standard of infrastructure.  This makes it easier for the property to be incorporated into the wider network of services and amenities – for example the sewer system. In a more isolated rural location, the land prices might be cheaper. However, a development may have to have its own septic tank for wastewater disposal, rather than be part of an integrated drain system.

Nowadays, essential services such as broadband and Wi-Fi are also important to daily life.  The availability of these services can have a real impact on the appeal of living in remote county locations. Even if it’s not required for working from home, then it’s a crucial part of recreational home life. Services such as streaming are now part of many families’ entertainment menu. 

Where are you?

It’s a cliché, but location is everything when it comes to buying a plot. The logistics of carrying out the work, the site’s accessibility and locality to building suppliers all feed into the budget and need to be taken into account. They will also be reflected in the asking price for the plot in the first instance.

The perfect square footage is dependent on budget and requirements. One aspect of modern housebuilding that does seem to be at a premium is garden space. Most people would like a decent-sized garden and off-road parking.  However, when it comes to making the most of a plot, this is sometimes seen as a waste of valuable land resource.  However, landscaping, garaging and outside space can make all the difference when it comes to making the most of a development opportunity.  Getting the balance right between indoors and outdoors is absolutely essential.

Investigating the possibilities for a perfect plot

If you’re on the lookout for a specific location and type of building plot, scour the local listings of land for sale. Alternatively, make enquiries about parcels of land that are not being used or buildings that have fallen into disrepair. Sometimes a bit of investigative work can pay dividends. There are also many online land-finding services, such as plotfinder.net, primelocation.com or even on online marketplaces such as gumtree.com. 

If would like to explore the options regarding land purchase and development, get in touch with CB Homes today and make your self-build dreams a reality.

Architecturally, how much have things changed?

Cheshire is a county known for its rolling plain, natural hedgerows and woodlands. Its picturesque towns and villages are a fundamental part of its charm. The countryside is steeped in history. Architecturally it has a vivid and distinctive atmosphere. It’s not a place you can erect blocks of concrete and glass. However, modern innovations can still form part of the wider design process, to position country living firmly in the 21st century. 

Self-build for new-build and conversion

Here at CB Homes, we encounter a mixture of new-build and conversion projects. Conversion projects, sometimes of old or redundant farm buildings or barns, can create something innovative within the existing shell or layout of a standing structure. It’s crucial when repurposing existing structures that points of interest and unusual architectural features are retained. These are often what makes the building what it is. They give it character and a sense of style, place and period. Over the centuries, housing materials have advanced massively, but the basic design, particularly in rural areas, has remained essentially the same. Slate, timber and brick persist as the most predominant external features. Although the interiors reveal the most ultra-modern innovations.  

Period charm, modern world

With new-build projects, the sky’s the limit when it comes to imagination and design. We firmly believe that it’s of paramount importance to retain rural aesthetics in even the most modern of designs. It’s essential that any project we undertake makes the most out of the property’s location and geographical features. For example, at our award-winning development at The Mill Pool near Eaton in Cheshire, the two newly-built properties maximise the setting of their lakeside situation with windows and balconies overlooking the water.   

The heart of the home

Traditional should never mean ‘boring’ and architecturally, many of our clients imagine their perfect property as a combination of ‘the old’ and ‘the new’. Also at The Mill Pool, we have combined the convenience and technology of underfloor heating with a fireplace in the lounge. This is still the focal point of any cosy family gathering, as it has been for centuries. And CAT6 cable points have been installed at all TV points in both properties. This is exceptionally practical if you want to hardwire a PC into the homes’ networks. These innovations are 21st century technology, but located architecturally within an external design of brick, timber and slate. The overall emphasis remains quintessentially rural in its visual impact.

If you have ambitions to build your own home, or want to explore the options when it comes to conversion or renovation, please contact us today on 01829 730244 or email us via our website.