Using the planning system to help find a self-build plot 

selfbuildandplanningUnless you happen to own a piece of land that is suitable for residential development, finding a plot of land for your self-build project can be very challenging.

The traditional approach would be to contact local estate agents or spend your time scouring various websites, for example: auction houses, surplus government land databases, property search websites and bespoke plot finding websites.

However, the planning system itself can also be a useful resource for finding self-build plots. Each local planning authority has a wealth of information on their websites that could assist you in your search.

With this in mind, we have summarised some of the types of information resources you may find on your local council planning department web pages below.

Extant planning permissions

There are over 300 local planning authorities in England and each one approves planning applications for new houses every week.   Some of these sites may be available to purchase directly from the landowner and the majority of local planning authorities have easy to search planning application databases and planning registers, which contain the details of the applicants. You can therefore potentially use this information to contact the landowners directly to see if they are intending to sell or not.

To help focus your search on the most appropriate sites, narrow it down to schemes of 5 dwellings or less, but preferably single dwellings. Ideally it is best to search for outline planning applications as this will allow you more flexibility in the final design of the house, although if you find a scheme with full planning permission, then these types of schemes can be amended to your requirements with a revised planning application.

Replacement dwellings

These types of project usually involve the demolition of a smaller dwelling or bungalow, normally in a large plot, and its replacement with a larger dwelling.  You can search for replacement dwelling applications via a council’s website and planning register.

However you may go about finding a house suitable for replacement, it is worth bearing in mind that each local planning authority has a slightly different policy in respect to replacement dwellings. Some allow significant replacements, whilst others restrict the size of the replacement to a certain percentage increase over the original dwelling.

If you have found a house on a plot that you think could be knocked down and replaced, it is always worth viewing the council’s adopted development plan documents to check what policies apply. It is also worth checking their planning databases and registers to check what similar schemes have been approved and could act as a precedent for your proposal.


A council’s planning policy team normally produces a document called a Strategic Housing Land Availability Assessment (SHLAA). These documents set out all the sites in the local authority area that have been put forward by landowners and developers for consideration as future residential site allocations.

The range of sites can vary from very large strategic sites to small development plots. The Council will normally make an assessment of each site put forward and it is possible to gauge which sites they may consider favourable for development now or possibly in the near future, following a development plan review. It also provides a good indication of the sites that may have a landowner who is willing to sell. These documents do not always display the landowner’s details. Where this is the case, ownership details are normally available via the land registry’s website.

Potential site issues

Once you have found your plot, there are a number of common planning issues that will need to be avoided or mitigated as part of the design process for your self-build house. These can include:

  • Whether the house design reflects the character of the surrounding area – there are many ways of achieving this without creating a pastiche dwelling;
  • Sufficient car and cycling parking provision will need to be ensured, to meet local standards;
  • The provision of safe access to the site and that the plot is reasonably accessible to the emergency services and refuse collectors;
  • To ensure that the dwelling does not affect the amenity of any neighbours through overlooking, loss of light, noise and so forth.

How Plainview Planning can add value

Self-Build is an exciting prospect for those interested in creating their own home. Whilst the government seeks to encourage self-build as a more mainstream housing option, it can still prove a complex process.  It is certainly likely that as a self-builder, you will have to positively engage with the planning system during the process of creating your own home.  We have wide ranging experience in the self-build sector assisting architect’s in an advisory role, right through to providing full planning consultancy support on self-build schemes from initial idea through to full planning approval.  If you feel your scheme would benefit from professional planning consultant input, contact one of our experienced and knowledgeable planners to see how they can best assist you in your aims at .