NaCSBA member The Modern Builder is an online marketplace bringing together architects and house manufacturers who use Modern Methods of Construction (MMC).

As a new marketplace, The Modern Builder streamlines the process for self builders, giving them access to extensive expertise and intellectual property at the planning stage of a project. This helps them to make informed decisions, providing the architects with an opportunity to showcase their work while building links with the experienced MMC companies that can construct the houses.

Put simply, repurposing existing designs enables architects and MMC house builders to share designs and specifications for homes that have previously been built. Reusing these past projects makes good use of years’ of expertise, paving the way for greater efficiency and effectiveness in the construction process.

The existing designs can then be tailored for new sites, a strategy designed to simplify the self build process, reduce project risks and unlock new opportunities for builders of all backgrounds. This can result in greater manufacturing efficiency, reduced costs, and increased confidence in the self-build process.

The process lends itself to multi-plot projects, which often have greater design freedoms in comparison to a single self-build opportunity, and the emphasis is on the self-builder to do due diligence in terms of whether a design would be permissible for their site. Thanks to the Right to Build legislation, more and more multi-plot sites are emerging, evidence that the self build registers do have an impact. Find and sign your self build register here.

“Design repurposing has the potential to create a lean self-building structure by making proven designs accessible to a wider audience, empowering self-builders and offering a new route to market. But it goes beyond the mere recycling of old designs – it’s about extracting the valuable insights and lessons learned from previous projects and incorporating them into new designs.

“From feasibility assessments to planning acceptance, and cost analysis, architects can leverage their wealth of experience to streamline the self-build journey for their clients,” says Rhys-Evans Edet, Director and Co-founder of The Modern Builder.

Check out The Modern Builder’s gallery of designs.

Image: Storyboard Designs

The Passivhaus Trust is calling for Scottish Government to stick to its commitment for a Scottish Passivhaus Equivalent Policy for all new build homes, in light of the fact that ministers recently scrapped their target to cut carbon emissions by 75% by 2030.

Scottish Government had previously said it would pass subordinate legislation to introduce a new minimum environmental design standards for new housing. This will create a national Scottish equivalent to the Passivhaus standard for all new builds, which, the Passivhaus Trust states, would cut heating demand in new homes by 79%.

The Passivhaus Trust call to government comes in light of pressure from mainstream house builders who are calling for a review of the plans.

Data for 2023 showed that completions across all sectors fell by 11% in 2023 in Scotland, while starts fell by 24%, figures that indicate the size of the crisis.

The Passivhaus Trust maintains that improving energy efficiency standards will not adversely affect housing delivery, but will dramatically improve the quality of the homes delivered. It estimates that building to Passivhaus will create additional initial costs of between 4-8%, which will come down with economies of scale.

However, it does conceded that the new build market is operating in difficult conditions, and is consequently proposing a transition period for the new policy to come into force.

What is Passivhaus Standard?

Passivhaus is an international energy performance standard based around reducing the requirement for space heating and cooling of new homes. Collectively, buildings contribute 35% of total global energy consumuption, and Passivhaus is a solution for this.

Adopting a Passivhaus approach means a fabric-first solution that plans for your homes build fabric and energy usage – something that many self builders adopt. Not everyone building to these principles opts to have their home approved as meeting the Passivhaus Standard – find out more on the Passivhaus Trust’s website about what this means for you on your project.


Words & Image: Duncan Hayes

Planning permission has been granted for Hugr Homes’ Wellbank Park, the first ‘custom build’ housing development in the Lake District National Park.

Wellbank Park is being developed by NaCSBA member Hugr Homes, in partnership with the landowner FN Solutions. The first phase of 18 plots is already underway, with several houses nearing completion and some plots still on the market.

The homes in this first phase are being delivered under a Section 73 Amendment to the wider site permission, and the new planning permission creates a site of 50 custom build plots. The original 18 plots are now included in this permission to make the process easier for these ongoing builds.

Like Graven Hill in Bicester, Wellbank Park is on a former Ministry of Defence site, located near Bootle in West Cumbria. Buyers can purchase a plot and go on to work with Hugr Homes, as the custom build enabler, to build their own dream homes, designed to fit their personal lifestyles. Buyers choose from a range of starter housetypes to customise, or work with Hugr to develop their own design. As long as this fits the design code there is no need to apply for further planning permission.

Houses are built to the buyers’ requirements with the timber frames manufactured by specialist and NaCSBA member Fleming Homes. The first custom builds currently on site demonstrate that the design guide process works, giving buyers the flexibility they want while ensuring a cohesive design for the overall development.

Set in 12 acres which includes two lakes, the development of detached houses and bungalows will benefit from a new community hub, including a café, pool, co-working space, meeting rooms, community exhibition space and gym facilities. This site will also include eight holiday homes for people with disabilities.

Custom build vs self build

On multi-plot sites like Wellbank Park, owner-commissioned homes can be delivered as self build or custom build. For the self build model this usually involves the purchaser buying a serviced plot, and from this point they can design and commission their own home – working within the parameters of a design code and plot passport.

Custom build will normally involve an enabling company working with the plot buyers, and once designs and specification is agreed this company then builds out the home, which is Hugr Homes’ model for Wellbank Park.

New NaCSBA member Green Planning Studio is able to support self-builders looking to obtain planning permission in tricky areas, thanks to its specialisation in working with areas of constraint. Its new website lists services available along with case studies of successful projects.

Based in Shropshire but covering England and Wales, Green Planning Studio has extensive experience in securing planning and issues around architecture in areas of constraint, that is areas where it is more difficult to obtain planning permission.

Areas of constraint are typically:

We asked Ruth Reed, Director of Green Planning Studio, how the studio can support self builders with securing planning permission?
“We have a successful and unusual approach to planning,” she says. “Our starting point is to identify opportunities to resolve unusual and challenging cases. This involves reviewing detailed guidance and policy, including national policy, legislation – such as the Self Build and Custom Act, the General Permitted Development Order (including Class Q barn conversions) and planning case law.

“For example, we may use the General Permitted Development Order to determine if the property can apply for change of use or a substantial extension under permitted development, and therefore may not even require a planning application. But this varies depending on the location of your site.”

Green Planning Studio also offers a range of other services, including architectural design as it is Chartered Practice with the Royal Institute of British Architects. It can also offer:

If you’ve a site in mind get in touch for an appraisal to assess the opportunities and constraints, as the starting point of your project.

NaCSBA Member Update

Analysis undertaken by the National and Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) shows that there is an at least 64% under-measuring of demand by the Right to Build registers.

The analysis, published in the industry-focused Custom and Self Build Report 2023/24, took a fresh look at the registers, which every local or planning authority in England must host, as set out by the Right to Build legislation (Self and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015).

Looking at a three year period (2019-2022), it found that 83,430 people were interested in pursuing an owner-commissioned home, in comparison to the 29,697 people who had signed up to a local authority register for the same three year period. This shows that the demand reflected by these registers is underestimated by at least two thirds.

For the purpose of the analysis NaCSBA reviewed the postcode data of people interested in custom and self building and compared this data against total numbers who had signed a register. It marked interest as those people who had invested roughly £40 on either a magazine subscription or in attending a self build show, with the associated costs for the entire day. For this it assessed anonymised data from three of NaCSBA’s Gold Partners, Build ItHomebuilding & Renovating and the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC).

Why are the registers important?

The Right to Build registers are the go-to source of demand data for local authorities that acts as evidence of those people who want to build locally. This is important evidence that has a positive input into the decision making process around whether a site gets planning – or not.

NaCSBA is aware that there are many frustrations for people around the registers, such as local connection test or a joining fee, which can discourage people from signing, but strongly advises anyone wanting to self build to sign their register.

This is because the registers are starting to feed into appeals that are leading to companies being awarded planning permission for self build sites, when they were originally turned down, as well as contributing to more supportive local policy to emerge to help meet this demand.

However, local authorities should also be considering secondary sources of data for evidencing demand, such as the multiple effect that the registers underestimate demand – as shown by this research. This helps create a fuller picture of local demand.

Find and sign your local register


Image credit: Mohamed Hassan from Pixabay

Government published the latest iteration of the National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) at the end of 2023, promising greater promotion of small sites which could be suitable for custom and self build housing.

Specifically, paragraph 70 (b) of the NPPF 2023 states:

“Small and medium sized sites can make an important contribution to meeting the housing requirement of an area, and are often built-out relatively quickly. To promote the development of a good mix of sites local planning authorities should: ….
b) seek opportunities, through policies and decisions, to support small sites to come forward for community-led development for housing and self-build and custom build housing;”

While this does not guarantee sites coming forward locally, it does strengthen the role of custom and self build on a local authority level, adding to the weight of their duties.

As well as hosting, and having regard to, registers of people wanting to custom of self build locally, the emphasis on small sites makes a key connection to the issue of finding land for multi-plot self build sites.

Wider impacts of NPPF 2023

More generally, the NPPF 2023 sets new expectations for local authorities on housing targets and delivery, with a commitment to reduce planning delays. In addition, it protects the Greenbelt by removing the requirement for local authorities to allocate land on the greenfield for housing, in order to meet local housing targets.

In his speech about the new NPPF, Secretary of State Michael Gove said the revised framework was shaped by five core principles for engaging people with new development: beauty, infrastructure, democracy, the environment and neighbourhood.

The revised NPPF will work in tandem with the new Levelling Up and Regeneration Act 2023 (LURA), along with new guidance for local planning authorities. Among a host of other measures, the Act sets out the requirement for local authorities to prepare a design code for is area, setting out what it considers to be the components of good design.

The LURA also introduces a new Infrastructure Levy to replace the Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL), although self builds are exempt from CIL.





Government has announced a plan to scrap the stranglehold that nutrient neutrality has had on house building. This saw a complete ban on any new housing in wide areas across England. The announcement is great news for builders, not only self builders but for custom build developers who have been impacted.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced a major deregulation of the rules around Nutrient Neutrality which led to 74 councils setting up moratoriums for all new building, following requirements made by Natural England.

Gove commented that cutting the red tape will unblock up to 100,000 stalled homes, which is worth £18 million in activity for the economy.

In the announcement government squarely blames ‘defective’ EU laws for the problem of Nutrient Neutrality, although it was the government quango Natural England that made the requirements that halted building. Most councils enforced a ban in affected areas as not doing so would have left them open to legal challenge.

What is Nutrient Neutrality?

Nutrient Neutrality refers to run off of excessive nutrients from the land, which pollutes water courses and damages river habitats. But new housing is believed to cause minimal additional run off, with farming and out-of-date water treatment plants being the main forces contributing to pollution.

An amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill will bring about the announced change, and building could commence immediately on many sites as a considerable number have planning permission in place.

Housebuilders welcomed the announcement, but environmentalists have criticised government for its stance.

However, government also announced new environmental measures to improve habitats and reduce pollution, including more funding for Natural England’s Nutrient Mitigation Scheme, which offsets any negative impact from house building.

Michael Gove MP said: “We are committed to building the homes this country needs and to enhancing our environment. The way EU rules have been applied has held us back. These changes will provide a multi-billion pound boost for the UK economy and see us build more than 100,000 new homes.

“Protecting the environment is paramount which is why the measures we’re announcing today will allow us to go further to protect and restore our precious waterways whilst still building the much-needed homes this country needs.

“We will work closely with environmental agencies and councils as we deliver these changes.”


Planning appeals are starting to be won on the basis of the self build registers, proving their worth at a macro level when many feel they fail to deliver for individuals.

While the National Custom and Self Build Association would like to see more positive outcomes for individuals as a result of signing, it welcomes the decisions where inspectors find in favour of a planning appeal because of a lack of action around the registers.

The background

As many self builders know, anyone in England has the right to sign up to their local council’s self build register, individually and as part of a group. Read about the situation in regards to Wales and N. Ireland and Scotland.

However, despite this many people remain unaware of their right. Last year our joint survey with the National Self Build and Renovation Centre (NSBRC) found that 21% of people surveyed were not aware of the ‘Right to Build’ legislation, and 51% had not joined a register. This is surprising, as the interviews were conducted with people in the NSBRC database, so had an active interest in self build.

Councils also have the right to put tests and/or charges in place which prevents or discourages some people from signing up – find out more about these in the FAQs on our Right to Build page.

The appeals

The registers are starting to prove important in planning applications and appeals as they represent a form of demand of people wanting to self build, that councils must have consideration for. The legislation does not require them to create plots, but they do have to consider applications, and any permissions granted, in light of this demand.

Tetlow King Planning has become something of a specialist in planning and applications and appeals for self build, and often refers to this demand where it is unmet, in its argument for the application.

And the results show that this can be very effective. For example, in some cases it has resulted in a positive outcome for the applicant.

Tetlow King recently helped Lone Star Group, a land promoter, secure planning for 10 custom build plots in Wellesbourne in Stratford Upon Avon.

It did this on the basis that the authority was falling short in meeting the demand on the register with sufficient permissions. The inspector gave “significant weight” and and passed the application. (Weight refers to how important one or another principle is in the overall argument over whether or not development is acceptable.)

Tetlow King also won an appeal for four custom build homes in the Greenbelt, with the argument that the council had failed to meet self build demand being instrumental in the final granting of permission.

This led the inspector to find that there were “very special circumstances” that justified the edge of village plots.

These cases are important for the wider self build world, as they emphasise the importance that inspectors can place on demand and a lack of activity from local authorities.

This also means that would be self builders should always sign up to the their local self build register, even if they feel that it won’t benefit them personally by securing a plot where they want to build.

Find and sign your register

The National Self Build and Renovation Centre Show returns on Friday 12 to Saturday 13 May, bringing with it its usual offering of insight and inspiration for anyone planning a self build, custom build or other major home project.

A new offering for this show is the introduction of VIP tickets, which includes a range of benefits. Most useful is the ability to engage 1-2-1 as VIP ticket holders have preferential access. This includes the opportunity to pre-book consultation appointments with experts, as well as an exclusive Q&A with one of the NSBRC’s own specialists.

Tickets for the show are free, while the VIP tickets cost £40 per couple (or £25 per person) – book here for Friday and here for Saturday.

The VIP ticket includes:

• Guaranteed parking space in front car park
• Exclusive Q&A with an NSBRC experts
• Pre-booked consultation appointments with experts
• Free tea and coffee
• VIP Lounge 
• Complimentary buffet lunch (served between 12 and 1pm)

What’s on at the NSBRC Show

There’s plenty on at the show for whatever stage you’re at, whether you are trying to get an overview of the entire build process or drill-down detail.

Repeated on both days in the Build It Theatre is a six part overview of the stages of entire build process, including: Finance & Funding; Finding Land; Planning Permission; Design Principles; Building Control; and VAT Reclaim.

In addition Friday has Natural Environment Surgeries, including: bat conservation and ecological surveys; landscape design; wildlife-friendly borders; and, wildlife habitats, while Saturday has a focus on Energy and Cost Saving Technology, including: draught exclusion; performance assured insulation; water conditioning and sustainable window shading.

The Sustainability Theatre is also returning with over 20 talks, led by companies well-established in their fields, from MVHR to insulation. This will inform would-be self builders with practical measures and plans to enable them to create a sustainable and energy efficient build.

Find out more about the NSBRC Show

In a new article on his website, NaCSBA member and architect Oliver Murray of ProtaHomes explains what ‘weight’ is in planning and why it can be a good thing for self and custom builders going to appeal following a rejected planning permission.

Self Build Portal users will know that they have the Right to Build – and will have used our search tool to find their local authority’s register.

But did you know that more and more planning appeals are now granting greater emphasis on the local authority’s custom and self build activity? This is in the context of where it can be proven that the council is not meeting the demand on its register.

Oliver came across the appeals while in pursuit of planning for his own self build home. Like many others, he had signed up to the Right to Build – the informal name for the legislation that requires councils to host a register, and consider this in its work.

But like many others Oliver found that his local authority was falling short on ‘permissioning’ custom and self build applications for those wanting to build. NaCSBA knows that this is a fault in the legislation, which has very little carrot or stick to address poor practice.

Researching the matter further, Oliver came across an appeal where the inspector ruled in favour of the applicant, with a contributing factor being that it had not met its duty under the legislation.

Since then there have been a series of wins where applicants have had more ‘weight’, that is importance, attached to their application because it is for custom and self build, and the authority is underperforming. And in some cases this has helped tip the balance in favour of granting permission.

Anyone who has been through the planning process will know it is never straightforward or easy, but these appeals may offer a route for moving forwards should an applicant chose to challenge a negative decision.

Be aware though that going to appeal offers no guarantee of certainty and will require additional costs, so needs careful consideration. While we would love to see more self build homes being permissioned, each application must satisfy wider local plan ambitions about what is acceptable development before the issue and custom and self build comes into play.

If you are considering an application make sure you are aware of what council’s local plan says about the area where you want to build, and consider using a planning consultant with self build experience.

Find a planning consultant


Find and sign your local authority register


Want to hear more? Join Oliver Murray and Andy Moger of planning consultancy Tetlow King on stage at Grand Designs Live 1 May for How to Claim your Right to Build.
Grand Designs Live is on at Excel London 29 April – 7 May.