Richard Bacon, MP for South Norfolk, has published his Review of Custom and Self Build, which identifies a ‘missing market’ of owner commissioned homes, that could deliver between 30,000 to 40,000 self build homes a year.

The report was commissioned by Prime Minister Boris Johnson in April, as part of the Custom and Self Build Action Plan to look at the ways in which custom and self build could help provide the extra homes that government needs to help it reach its target or building 300,000 homes a year.

Bacon Review

What’s in the Bacon Review?

Richard Bacon was tasked with looking at the entire sector, including examples of how owner commissioned homes are built abroad in countries where the model is common.

One such example is Germany, where 55% of new homes are commissioned by their owners, with large show parks dotted across the country where you can go and experience houses built and designed by a range of companies (have a look at Musterhaus for a German example).

The result is a comprehensive overview of the sector, together with the barriers to growth. The report is respectable 114 pages and includes new economic analysis by Chamberlain Walker that identifies the sector as a ‘missing market’ in the UK.

This is due to a combination of reasons, such as planning and the dominance of the mainstream housebuilders, but is largely attributed to the lack of land available to build self or custom build homes on.

What are the recommendations?

To remedy the findings, Bacon puts forwards six strong recommendations for creating a new system that would support activity.

  1. A greater role for Homes England, with the creation of a dedicated Custom and Self Build Housing Delivery Unit tasked with creating more serviced plots, through the provision of more small sites and as part of large sites.
  2. Raise awareness of self build and show by ‘doing’. This involves the industry showcasing its activity, with the request for government to support the creation of a ‘Show Park’ of owner-commissioned homes that people can buy. In addition, government should support the wider publicity of the Right to Build registers.
  3. Reignite the Community Housing Fund. This promised to deliver up to 100,000 new homes in England, but was not renewed in the 2020 Spring Budget. Renewing it would enable more communities to build.
  4. Promote green homes and increased use of Modern Methods of Construction (MMC) Self build champions sustainable and innovative building techniques, and could be an exemplar for mainstream housing.
  5. Align custom and self build changes with planning reforms – to ensure the changes work with the proposed planning system changes, and by improving the Right to Build legislation.
  6. Iron out tax issues This is important to make sure there is a level playing field between self built homes and speculatively built homes.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said: “As we build back better, we want to help more people build their own home, making it an option for thousands who’ve not considered it or ruled it out before. This will help get more people on to the housing ladder, ensure homes suit people’s needs whilst providing an important boost to small builders and businesses too.

“I warmly welcome Richard Bacon’s report which matches our ambitions for the custom and self-build sector. We will consider it fully and respond to the recommendations in due course.

“The launch of the Help to Build equity loan scheme will be a game-changer to the self and custom build market and will allow individuals to borrow with lower deposit mortgages which will go towards the design and build of their new home.”

Mr Bacon said: “At no other time in our history would new housing be thought of as a form of pollution, creating a monoculture to be resisted from villages to towns. The central problem is that most customers have almost no clout when it comes to buying a home. 

There is a “missing market”. Instead of customers who are able to choose for themselves what they actually want, which of course will vary hugely – just as people vary hugely in their tastes, preferences and lifestyle choices – in practice most customers have very little say. Indeed, for the very item on which customers spend the largest proportion of their incomes – their homes – they hold the least consumer power.”

“Those who have managed to step outside this prevailing framework and commission or build their own dwelling see a result that is to their own taste – greener, better built and more welcomed by local communities. And while thousands of people have succeeded in doing this – often with the help of NaCSBA members – it is still difficult to do, whereas it needs to become normal. Indeed, it should be no more difficult than ordering a new car.”

“There is a solution. It involves creating the conditions in which customers are treated as if they matter the most, rather than – for the most part – scarcely mattering at all. And this is what happens when people themselves commission the houses they would like to see. Homes England, whose remit includes making markets, has a key role to play in kickstarting this market including providing land and investment and helping to streamline planning – and my core recommendation is that a Custom & Self-Build Delivery Unit should be established with a mandate to deliver the required changes, staffed by skilled professionals with deep experience of delivering custom and self-build projects for customers across all tenures.”

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO said: “There is clearly something wrong with any market where customer choice is so notably absent, in particularly where such choice so demonstrably leads to better and greener homes. At the heart of the challenge is a planning system that appears hard wired to produce a product that most of us do not want, and which fails to reflect the diversity of our communities.

“Yet there is a proven viable solution. One that works everywhere else in the world, the question is not whether change is needed but how that change happens. To make that change we must ensure that sufficient land comes forward on which people can chose the home they want to live in. We must also open the eyes of the public to the possibilities that are out there. Both these aspects require the leadership of Government to address the failures in our current market.

“The recommendations in this report, which include the review of the Right to Build and the rapid launch of Help to Build have the capacity to positively transform our country’s relationship with the new homes market.

What is the Custom and Self Build Action Plan?

The Self and Custom Build Action Plan includes:

  • A Prime Minister-commissioned review of the custom and self build sector, including challenges and opportunities
  • A review of the Right to Build legislation to improve how it is applied in practice
  • A Self and Custom Build Land Release Fund for local authorities to bring forward plots on land they own
  • Funding for the Right to Build Task Force so it can continue to work with English local authorities to advise around delivery and policy
  • A Help to Build equity loan scheme.
Image credit: Completed contemporary home by MBC Timberframe,

Anyone wanting an owner-commissioned home within commuting distance of London will be pleased to learn that Ebbsfleet Garden City has got the green light for a new custom build community, Alkerden Gateway.

Over the summer, Ebbsfleet Development Corporation’s planning committee granted planning permission for new development, made up of 67 homes, 17 of which are affordable. Purchasers at the site can select from a choice of layouts, materials and fixtures and fittings on each home. Other options include choices around parking spaces, solar PV panels, trees and bird or bat boxes.

Designed by award-winning architect BPTW, construction on the homes has started already, with developer Westerhill Homes building the homes.

Alkerden Gateway is the first key development parcel in Alkerden Village, and is surrounded by parkland, an education campus and other residential developments. In time, Ebbsfleet Garden City will have 15,000 homes

What is a garden city?

Garden communities, which include Ebbsflett, garden towns and villages, have their roots in the Garden City movement that originated at the end of the Victorian era. They were originally envisioned as a new, self sustaining communities that were carefully planned, often like a cartwheel, with concentric circles of housing, gardens and allotments and work spaces radiating from a central hub.

The idea was to capture the best of the city and countryside, while avoiding the worst of both. At their best they were designed to be local, and largely walkable, although the principles involved in the originals at Welwyn and Letchworth Garden Cities were not always applied. There are now many garden towns and cities planned across the country, as the idea has once again come into fashion.

Julian Moat, Planning Director at Westerhill Homes said: “As a Kent-based housebuilder, we are delighted to have secured planning permission from Ebbsfleet Development Corporation for the delivery of our exciting, bespoke custom build homes at Ebbsfleet Garden City.

“By working with an outstanding project team – including BPTW Architecture, LUC landscape design and Knapp Hicks engineers – we have developed an innovative six stage customisation process for all private market homes. This will allow individual purchasers to make a series of external and internal choices to their homes at the point of reservation, meaning the homes can be tailored to suit their design preferences and lifestyle choices.

“We anticipate a strong market demand for customisation in the new build market, and coupled with the strong pull of Garden City living, we fully expect these new homes to prove popular as we now commence on the marketing and delivery aspects of the site.”

Chris Bath, Partner, Architecture at BPTW, said: “Marking the only custom-build phase in the wider Whitecliffe masterplan, for us, Alkerden Gateway, presents an exciting opportunity to design an innovative community that both speaks of its setting, and embraces the full potential of a homeowner-led, organic variety across the scheme.

“Over the past few years, we’ve been proud to be involved in projects at Ebbsfleet Garden City and across the South East, and this development demonstrates our continued commitment to delivering high-quality new homes and transformative new places for the area. We’re delighted to see Alkerden approved at committee and look forward to seeing the next stages of the project come together.”

NaCSBA spokesperson Duncan Hayes said: “As large-scale planned communities, garden communities have the scope to include a diverse range of routes to housing, and NaCSBA would like to see custom and self build included in all garden towns and villages. Alkerden Gateway is a welcome addition to Ebbsfleet Garden Village, and addresses the lack of supply of custom build homes in the market locally.”


Trinity Mews is a new custom build development of nine 3 to 5-bedroom bespoke homes in Durham’s most desirable DH1 postcode. Brought on by Custom Build Homes (CBH), in partnership with Durham City Council (DCC), the development offers homeowners the chance to have input into the design and layout of their new home, to suit their needs. Each home is detached, and comes with a garage, and plots come with all services on site. Prices start from £180,000.

Custom Build Homes has organised viewing days on Friday 6 August, 2pm to 4pm, and Saturday 7 August, 9am to 11am. This gives would-be builders the chance to explore the area and discuss their plans with custom build experts, to help them understand the technical process of building their own customised home, covering everything from the design and planning packages to finance.

Book your viewing

Homes at Trinity Mews

As part of the process, CBH takes buyers on a design discovery process to help them understand what they need to consider to create a home that works for them. As part of the process the homes are created digitally for a fixed cost, which includes design, planning and technical design.

Purchasers have the opportunity to design their house with award-winning Chartered Architect and Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine Expert, CBH Head of Architecture, Allan Corfield, working to create designs that meet their aspirations, such as an environmentally-friendly home.

CBH supported Durham City Council (DCC) to help it understand the demand in their area, drawing on data from DCC’s self build register and CBH’s dedicated self build register, as well as wider demand data.

Tom Connor, Founder of Custom Build Homes, said: “We’re really excited to launch the development to market. Trinity Mews offers people in Durham the unique opportunity of creating a new home exactly as they wish it to be while being supported by the experts at Custom Build Homes.”

Trinity Mews Custom Build Homes

Super sized custom and self build development Graven Hill has teamed up with Iconic Development Group to offer would be self builders the option of building a turnkey ICF-constructed home on the site.

Iconic offers a unique one-stop shop service, offering self-builders everything they need to build their insulated concrete formwork (ICF) home. A turnkey home refers to the fact that the self builder commissions the home, and then it is entire built and fitted out by the developer, and handed over as a completed home. The owner simply ‘turns the key’ and moves in!

Iconic can take projects from the earliest stages of financial planning, offering expert advice that continues right through to construction.

Founded by Dheeraj Malik and Sanjeev Basra in 2018, Iconic Development Group focuses on providing high quality homes at competitive prices.

The pair already built their own homes  at Graven Hill, an experience that adds to their decades of knowledge and skills in construction.

Iconic Development Group is building six homes at Graven Hill, and plans to build  20 houses at the site in the coming years.

In addition to working with self-builders more generally, they work with a range of developers using ICF, and are able to offer fixed price design and build service.

Gemma Davis, Customer Experience Director at Graven Hill said: “Over the past 18-months, we’ve seen people rushing to adapt their living space to home working. Realising that this ‘new normal’, is here to stay, many now feel these temporary solutions aren’t suited to post-pandemic life.

“Working with suppliers like Iconic is so refreshing; they share our belief that everything in your home should be designed and optimised based exactly on how the individual or family like to live. Our partnership allows us to ensure each self and custom build project is tailored to an individual’s lifestyle, environmental objectives, and budget.”

Dheeraj Malik, Co-founder of Iconic Development Group Ltd said: “Our initiative was born out of a desire to help others, based on our personal experiences of self-building at Graven Hill. Through our partnership with GHVDC, our experience, skills, and knowledge allow us to provide fixed price design and build services, which help self and custom builders achieve their dream homes.”

Malik continues, “We foresee a greater demand for bespoke properties in the next decade, especially in towns like Bicester. Not only can people have easy access to major cities like London, Oxford, and Birmingham, but they can also hand-pick elements for their dream home without paying hefty city prices.”

ICF block

What is ICF?

ICF is an easy system to build with, that involves using large hollow blocks that are stacked to create walls. The expanded polystyrene blocks interlock to create a formwork with a cavity that flows around the entire building. Once built, this is then pumped full of concrete, which, once dry and shuttering is remove, creates a robust structure with great insulation values.

Self-builders may be able to get involved – should they wish – with a bit of training from your supplier. The finished building can be clad in render, or a material of your choice. 

Find out more about different build methods for your project

The National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) welcomes today’s launch of the £150 million Help to Build equity loan fund. Research in October found that 1 in 3 British adults were interested in a self build, and this new fund will help make this dream possible.

Announced by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick, Help to Build will transform the sector, and reflects Government’s confidence that more custom and self build homes can be delivered.

Help to Build will help those with smaller deposits access a self or custom build home, and will provide access to additional funding and a lower mortgage rate than would otherwise be the case. A dedicated scheme was necessary because almost all custom and self builders were unable to access the existing Help to Buy Equity Loan Scheme.

In addition to the benefits of having a home built to your own designs and specifications, the scheme is based on the cost to the customer of building their home, and not the price for which a completed home is being sold.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA CEO said: “There has been a long-recognised need for greater diversity in our new homes market, and the Help to Build scheme is an important step towards greater customer choice for those with ambition, sound plans and smaller deposits. Help to Build is about increasing choice for the homebuyer.

“Contrary to common perception, in most cases custom and self build is not about people undertaking the build themselves. Rather, it is about the homeowner having control over the design and specification of their project – enabling them to create the home they want, rather than the one someone else believes they would like. It means that new homes will now be part of the solution for the large numbers of people whose cultural, ecological, physical or emotional needs are not currently met by the new-build market.

“In addition, there are many areas where speculative builders are choosing not to build at the speed and scale that is needed, that will benefit from the new housing that Help to Build will facilitate. Custom and self build is common everywhere else in the world. Were we in this situation we would be delivering over 100,000 homes each year via the route.

“This scheme is all about delivering more and better homes, that more people aspire to live in and that communities are happier to see built. This is part of a wider set of changes from the Government to improve diversity and access in our new homes market including the Right to Build. This is an important day for the sector and an important part of building better and beautiful.”

Get started on your own self build project

For anyone thinking of self building, NaCSBA has this advice:

Sign up to your local self build register in the area where you would like to build – find yours at

  1. Work out your build budget. Help to Build may help you access a mortgage with a smaller deposit
  2. Research how to build – check out our advice section. Will you follow a self build or custom build route?
  3. Choose a build method, such as brick and block, timber frame or a modern method of construction
  4. Look for a plot – check out local council and specialist websites* and
  5. Commission someone to design and build your home.

For help with plots, check out:
PlotBrowser from the team at SelfBuild & Design magazine from the team at Homebuilding & Renovating magazine
PlotSearch from BuildStore

Image: A self build by English Brothers Limited, built using pre-insulated timber frame panels and includes an insulation ‘wrap’ which makes for a cost-effective way to achieve a u-value of just 0.14 W/m2k.

Anyone interested in building in East Sussex will be interested to learn that Leaper Land Promotion has submitted a planning application for 22 serviced plots at Horam.

The proposals, which include eight affordable homes, were submitted to Wealdon District Council following consultation with local residents, and has now been validated. You can see the application on the council’s website.

Anyone wishing to build their own home are encouraged to leave positive statements of approval for the site, to help counter the inevitable objections that all planning applications attract.

Set on a 0.8 hectare site, is on the south of the village of Horam, set between recent housing and the Sussex countryside. The homes have been designed by award-winning architect Pollard Thomas Edwards and planning consultancy Rural Solutions, working in conjunction with the land owner.

The homes will offer a range of choices in the homes, including a palette of designs and materials that buyers can use to customise their design. This will create a sustainable and valuable new addition to the village that the Leaper believes will be an asset for the future. The inclusion of custom build as well as affordable homes will increase housing choice in the town for existing and new residents of the village.

Horam material palette

The design has been carefully framed to boost local biodiversity across the site to connect with the woodland buffer zone between the site and the open countryside.

“Leaper’s latest self and custom build scheme at Horam in East Sussex falls within a draft updated village development boundary and was supported at pre-app. A detailed design code has been developed to best reflect the local vernacular architecture and the scheme if approved will provide much needed plots for the local area,” says Ben Marten, Director of Leaper Land.

Find Wealden District Council’s Self Build Register on the Right to Build Portal


If you have land that you think would be suitable for custom or self build, get in touch with Leaper Land.

Images: Pollard Thomas Edwards/Leaper Land

Stellco Homes has recently joined NaCSBA, to reflect its move into the custom build homes market to broaden its offer. With over 20 years’ experience as a housebuilder, custom build is a logical extension for the firm to expand in 2021, with activity focused around Bedfordshire, Buckinghamshire & Hertfordshire.

Angelo Baccarella of Stellco Homes explains that, for them, custom build is a natural progression of its existing business. “We see the custom route as a continuation of the traditional ‘bespoke’ service,” says Baccarella.

Currently, the company is looking for sites to bring on, and is hosting its own register for people wanting to build in Beds, Bucks and Herts, to track local demand. Sign up to hear about their sites, for free, by joining the company’s register for people wanting to build. However, it also encourages prospective buyers to sign up to their local authority’s registers, too, via the

Sign up to Stellco Homes register

What is Custom Build for Stellco Homes?

Stellco sees custom build as a way for people to build their dream home without the stress. Once sites are ready, customers can come to the table with plots ready to purchase and a selection of designs in place that can be customised.

They are then able to work with the company, with everything discussed with an experienced property developer who will ensure the customer’s requirements are met to a high standard.

Stellco Homes: five reasons for choosing a custom build:

  1. It simplifies finding a plot
    By buying small sites of around 10 plots or under, Stellco can secure a small development that is perfect for a custom build home, offering a route to land.
  2. Homes are designed around you
    With a custom built home, you can customise everything to suit your needs. There are many reasons why someone may want to customise their home such as making it more accessible or to make a more inclusive family environment.
  3. Fixed costs
    With Stellco, there’s an option to fix the costs once the design is agreed upon, removing the risk of costs creeping up. Stellco Homes works with buyers budgets to create a fixed cost plan to avoid any expensive surprises.
  4. Cheaper to run
    With a custom build its far easier to build well beyond building regulations, to create a more energy efficient home, that is, therefore, cheaper to run.
  5. Time
    Self-building is time consuming, but a custom build can help make a build realistic if you’re juggling a job and a busy family. Custom build helps create a stress free process, as the developer oversees the entire process, keeping it on track and on budget.

Stellco Homes will be sharing news of upcoming sites with Self Build Portal users as they come to market. Some of these may also include the option of self building on the multi-plot sites, where the purchaser can commission a company of their choice to build out the home.

This is a NaCSBA Member update

Graven Hill in Bicester, Oxfordshire, has launched a new range of 3- and 5-bedroom custom build homes.

There is a range of routes to ownership at Graven Hill, the UK’s largest self and custom build development. At the site, purchasers are able to buy plots on which to commission a self build home using a company of their choice, or custom build homes, where the buyer customises a pre-designed home that is then built out by a pre-appointed contractor.

In this way, custom build buyers are able to get a home that suits their needs, but don’t have to take on the full commissioning process of doing a full self build.


Swale custom build home
The Swale custom build home
custom build home: the meadow
Buyers can grab the Meadow, ready for immediate purchase

Custom build designs

The new designs, The Swale and The Glade, are designed around family living and are close to Graven Hill’s ancient woodlands. Prices start at £350,000 for a 3-bed terraced homes, which are available to reserve off-plan. Customers can then choose from a choice of layouts, fixtures and finishes, with the earlier purchasers. The earlier purchasers become engaged with the build process, the more options there are to customise the home.

Homes at Graven Hill are priced to suit a range of budgets, opening up the site to everyone from first time buyers to Grand Designers.

Karen Curtin, managing director at Graven Hill, said: “Buying a custom build home, gives people complete creative control on the important decisions. It takes away the hassle of managing a construction process and allows them to create a home that is completely unique to their personality and needs.

Visits to Graven Hill are by appointment only due to the pandemic, but virtual tours are available, and you can find out more at build process online at the Build It Self Build Education House.


The Self Build Portal is the consumer website of the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA), aimed at supporting would be builders. While 2020 was a well acknowledged shocker for most people, you may be surprised to know that it worked out pretty well for would-be custom and self builders.

Although aimed at professionals working in custom and self build, NaCSBA’s Review of the Year makes for interesting reading for anyone wondering whether they can access an owner-commissioned homes.

Read NaCSBA’s Review of the Year

Among the highpoints:

NaCSBA set up a group to promote Housing Diversification – designed to work to give more people the chance to access a home that suits the.  Members include Federation of Master Builders and the House Builders Association (which represents small- and medium-housebuilders) and community led housing groups, including the UK Cohousing Network and the National Community Land Trust Network.

NaCSBA also lobbies government and responds to various consultations to ensure that self build gets a proper attention, including the Planning for the Future White Paper.

It also conducted research into the nation’s self build aspirations, which it produced along with the Building Societies Association. This found that a third of people are interested in self building in the future. Of this third – the younger age group were the most keen to get started.

The announcement of a new Help to Build Equity Loan scheme should help this 33% of the population that is interested in a self or custom build project, as it offers a valuable route to finance. To date, there’s little information about how this might work – but NaCSBA will share the news as soon as it is finalised.

Behind the scenes, the Right to Build Task Force has also been busy helping local authorities get to grips with the Right to Build, and also produced new Planning Guidance for Custom and Self Build. Although aimed at professionals – it makes for very useful reading if you are preparing a self build for submission for planning.


Image: Self Build Aspirations

Government recently announced the winners of its cross-departmental Homes of 2030 competition, with igloo Regeneration’s custom build +Home being the joint winner with Connector Housing. Led by RIBA and BRE, the competition was looking for innovative housing solutions that met the climate challenge.

The judges were looking for projects that would bring about change through innovation and delivery, and feed into government housing policy. The winning and runner up designs will be built for the Future Living Expo Sunderland 2023, giving visitors the chance to experience the low carbon, smart buildings first hand.

Winning projects

Announced by Housing Secretary Chris Pincher, the joint winning projects were +Home and Connector Housing. At HOMES UK, Christopher Pincher MP said: “Two entries really captured the judges’ imaginations – their designs show the way housing in this country can be reimagined and for that I would like to sincerely congratulate both winners of these worthy awards.”


This design (main image) is based around the idea of custom build homes that people design for themselves, creating a community-led approach. +Home is repeatable, enabling people to create affordable homes, thanks to simple, and low-carbon components, such as frames, that are also recyclable. The design was created by igloo Regeneration with Useful Projects, Expedition Engineers and Mawson Kerr.

Mark Hallett of igloo, a NaCSBA member, said, “Igloo have been advocating for Custom Build for a decade now as well as delivering a small number of pilot projects. We believe Custom Build should be a mainstream option and so used the opportunity of the Home of 2030 competition to advocate for this approach to Government.

“There are big system change challenges to overcome but we hope that building all six of the Home of 2030 winners as part of the Sunderland 2023 expo will help to publicise Custom Build to a wider audience.”

Connector Housing

Connector Housing – Openstudio / LDA Design / Hoare Lea / Gardiner & Theobold

Connector Housing

Based around the design of units that work together, Connector Housing relies on ‘Connector’ units to create different building types at that allow flexibility in terms of density and design.

The Connector is a vertical model used to create stairwells, storage and work spaces or to provide access to communal gardens. Combined with ‘base’ and ‘loft’ units, the components can be used to create houses or apartments.Connector Housing was designed by Openstudio with Hoare Lea, LDA Design and Gardiner & Theobald.


Find a NaCSBA member in our directory.