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.

The first 18 self build plots at Orchard Farm in Kennington, Kent, have been launched for pre-reservation, ahead of the official sales opening in early 2024. Anyone interested in the process of self building at Orchard Farm is invited to sign up to its free webinar on 12 December, 18:00-19:00.

Sign up to the webinar

The pre-registration window is a chance for anyone seriously wanting to build on the site to get ahead of the process so that as many elements as possible are in place in time for the plot sales. These will go to market once the full planning application for the first phase of 18 plots is granted by Ashford Borough Council, expected in January.

Orchard Farm Kent will be a large self build community once all the phases are delivered, with 122 homes planned in total. Phase 1 is made up of the 18 plots, which includes a mix of plot sizes to ensure that there are a range of price points for different buyers.

The site is the result of a collaboration between community-driven developer Steenvlinder, which specialises in creating sites for individual and collective self-builders, and Kent-based developer Urbanise.

Self building at Orchard Farm

The process of building at Orchard Farm allows you to create your own home, built within the parameters of a Plot Passport. There’s a customer guide in place to support you through this process, with options including building to Golden Brick to maximise your VAT burden.

Plot purchasers commission their own team(s) to design and build their home, and Orchard Farm has put together a network of independent self build experts who can help you with the process, including design teams, finance companies, housebuilders, package manufacturers and more.

Hans Sparreboom, Founder & CEO at Steenvlinder, said: “Orchard Farm is a beautiful location. It presents an exceptional opportunity for individuals to join a green, self-build community by constructing their dream homes either independently or with the guidance of their chosen architects and builder. We are excited by the level of interest in the initial plots, including from individuals, couples, and families living in and around Ashford, Kent and elsewhere, but also welcome further enquiries.”

Adam Roake, Owner at Urbanise, said: “Self-build is not as common in the UK as it is in Europe. That is why we are pleased to be partnering with Steenvlinder, a Dutch development company with over a decade of experience in this growing sector. Together, we have devised a well-structured self-build process that will guide our customers through their journey, including access to our new network of independent experts.”

Sign up to the webinar for more information or visit the Orchard Farm website which has a detailed overview of the processes involved, together with plenty of FAQs. 

Modular building gets referenced a lot by government as a solution for building more housing more effectively, but how does that relate to self build?

NaCSBA member MMC Build is a team that offers professionals services, such as project managing, and works exclusively with modular projects. As a specialist, MMC Build is ideally placed to share the benefits of the model, helping you decide if it is the right choice for your self build.

What are modular homes?

Also called prefabricated homes, modular builds are factory fabricated in sections, with the system quickly constructing the house’s structure once on site.

At this stage the homes are erected to weathertight stage, and in most cases this shell is then handed over to the self builder to commission the remaining trades. However, some companies will also take the house to completion, so it’s important to ascertain at what point the home is handed over to you when researching firms.

The benefits of modular homes

Working in the modular field means that MMCBuild is able to relate to the wider benefits of building with MMC, and put that into the context of self build. These include:

Cost savings

Building in a factory is an efficient process in terms of materials (usage and purchase), labour and streamlining, and this can make these homes cost effective. However, while standardised design makes this more affordable in a speculative market (ie regular housing at scale), for one-off homes this saving can be eroded. So discuss cost implications of complicated designs with your modular provider early on. While a single modular home might not be as cheap as a whole estate of modular homes, it often stands up very well when compared to other self build models.

Speed of construction

Modular homes are quicker to build than traditional homes, and are especially quick on site due to the factory lead-time. This means there is less disruption locally due to a prolonged build, and less vulnerability to bad weather, which is ideal for self builders. On-site assembly is completed in weeks rather than months, but short on-site times need to be weighed up with lead times for busy companies.

Design flexibility

Most people tend to think that MMC homes must be identical for the method to work, but modular homes have a wide range of design options. Modules are customised and arranged in various configurations to create unique floor plans. They can also be clad in a variety of materials to give different aesthetics, including brick or brick slips to give the appearance of a traditional ‘brick-and-block’ build. However, as with all self build, simple designs are cheaper to build.

Energy efficiency

Modular homes are specifically designed to be energy efficient. They use energy-efficient materials and components, and the factory fabrication ensures they are airtight and keeps waste to an absolute minimum.

Quality construction

Again, the controlled factory environment ensures precision and a carefully-monitored process.

Overall, the modular construction allows for speed and efficiency, the reason why government likes MMC so much, as it holds great scope for getting more homes built quickly. In the self build arena there are many companies operating as modular providers, and MMC Build’s Rhys-Evans Edet has the following advice for self builders:

“Do your research to find a reputable modular home builder with experience of the UK market. For example, Dan-Wood House sells 1,000s of modular homes a year across Europe, and delivers many of these in the UK.

“Experience of building in the UK means that the company will be familiar with working to UK building regulations and standards, as it’s ultimately your responsibility as a self builder to ensure your contractors are building to the correct standards.

“Also, check that professionals, such as consultants and follow on trades, are familiar with the build method. Most modular companies will be able to share contacts that are trusted for the build out of the home.”

Rowallan Castle Estate (image) in Scotland includes modular custom build homes, as well as other plot opportunities. MMC Build is working with the enabling company to provide project management and health and safety for the site.


For more advice on how to build visit our help section

NaCSBA Member update

A rare opportunity has come to market for anyone wishing to build in the village of Coalpit Heath, South Gloucestershire with a custom build site of 11 reasonably-priced plots.

The plots are on the rural edge of the new Barratt’s development at Blackberry Park, a 215 home site with public open space and community allotments, close to Bristol. The site comes with Outline Planning Permission (Ref:P19/2083/RVC) and approval of reserved matters (Ref:PT18/6313/RM & P19/18441/RM).

South Gloucestershire Council has worked hard to create supportive policy to enable self build opportunities to emerge. The plots are the result of its ‘percentage policy’, which requires developers to sell at least 5% of plots on residential and mixed-use sites to self and custom builders (applied on sites over 100 homes).

Such plots represent the opportunity for more people to access custom and self build, but one of the challenges is to alert to alert would be builders to these opportunities.

While many aspiring self builders want a detached plot in the countryside, these come at a premium that means they are not accessible by many.  Evidence shows that self builders building adjacent to each other, like at Graven Hill or on Grand Designs The Streets, often have a well-developed sense of community from going through similar experiences.

The serviced plots are for a range of house sizes, from 2- to 4-bedroom, and buyers will need to submit a full planning application for their home. This must meet the parameters for the site set out in the Design Code, which has been approved by South Gloucestershire Council.

The Design Code (available on request from David James, below) allows buyers options to customise certain elements of the exterior of their home, with greater freedoms internally. This works in conjunction with a Plot Passport for each individual plot .

This will include the appearance, landscaping, layout, and scale of the property, to ensure that the individual self build homes work in the concept of the wider development.

Plot prices: three of the plots are under offer (or sold), with the 2-bed and 3/4-bed plots available, with prices varying from £120,000 to £140,000.

Find out more at agent David James or Rightmove

Image: concept house designs, Blackberry Park Design Code.

Plot sales are now live on an exclusive five-plot custom build development in Hailsham, East Sussex, for homes between 3-5 bedrooms.

The Paddock is the result of a partnership of Custom Build Homes and development partner and NaCSBA member Landström, with planning permission in place for five substantial properties of up to 252-396m² on plots up to 1/3 acre. The plots start from £230,000, and the homes, which have enough space for garages, are ranged around a shared central courtyard that provides each individual access.

Plots come with flexibility in terms of house design, size and specification, and purchasers will be able to design and create their home with Chartered Architect and Homebuilding & Renovating Magazine expert, Head of Architecture Allan Corfield, who is also a NaCSBA member. A design code and Plot Passports are in place to frame what can be created, as part of the planning permission from Wealden District Council.

This process includes a collaborative design process that will explore how purchasers want to live, culminating in a digital design with a fixed cost, that includes planning and technical design.

Tom Connor, CEO & Founder of Custom Build Homes said, “We’re excited to launch the development to market. The Paddock offers people in East Sussex 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.

“I look forward to seeing the unique designs homebuyers create and the development becoming
an exemplar for future sites.”

Find out more about The Paddock

Land promoter Leaper Land has resubmitted a planning application to Wokingham Borough Council for its Hurst site of 33 custom build homes. It is calling on anyone interested in building locally to offer their support for the initiative, which is providing valuable opportunities for anyone wanting input into their home. 

How you can support Leaper Land’s Hurst application:

Leaper Land submitted the original planning application for the site at Broadcommon Road, late in 2022, but this was refused, largely on the basis of unsustainable development in the countryside, but also sited insufficient affordable homes. 

As part of the new outline application Leaper Land has increased the amount of affordable homes from 40% (as required by Wokingham’s local plan) to 50%. 

It has also proposed that 25% of the affordable homes will be discount open market custom and self build – meaning that people who might not otherwise be able to afford to build can access the plots. In addition, it is also looking into how the initial residents for other affordable home types can have a say in how their home is finished. 

Other changes have involved replacing a proposed block of flats with more typical terraces and semi-detached homes, all of which overlook an enlarged public open space. 

Harpenden in Hertfordshire could benefit from a new site for custom and self builders for up to 30 homes, on a 6.7hectare site at Cross Lane Fields. The project is the vision of Lansdown, a NaCSBA member specialising in strategic land promotion and development.

In conjunction with Imagine Places, Lansdown is holding a public engagement event on the 10 September, to give neighbours, would be builders and other stakeholders a say in shaping the development from a design perspective. This will be followed by a post-event online debrief for interested parties.

Those looking to build in the area are also encouraged to complete the Cross Lane Fields survey, to help Lansdown gauge local appetite for the model.

About Cross Lane Fields

Cross Lane Fields is a piece of visually contained Green Belt land that Lansdown will seek outline planning permission for to create a pioneering development of self and custom build homes. These will be exemplars in energy standards, design and sustainability, bringing much needed homes to the area.

Currently the model involves self builders designing their homes, in line with design codes that create a set of ‘rules’ for the site, to support a cohesive scheme. The planned homes will include a mix of sizes, with homes either self built or self-commissioned to Passivhaus Standards. It is hoped that 40% will be affordable homes with a discount of 30% on the land at point of purchase.

In addition, parts of scheme will be rewilded, with a new orchard and pond to create habitats and mitigate damage to wildlife and from flooding.

Senior Planner at Lansdown Ethan Davies said, “The Cross Lane Fields scheme will provide people with a unique opportunity to build exceptionally fine, energy efficient homes surrounded by beautiful and biodiverse open spaces within a community of like-minded self-builders”.

Interested in building at Cross Lane Fields? Fill out the survey

Sign up to Harpenden’s Self Build Register 

Image credit: ImaginePlaces

We’re following the story of Anne, mother of six boys who is building a home for her family and one for the grandparents on the same site. They used the Right to Build to help them escape the private rental sector, acting as pioneers for the legislation, which even the council was unsure about at the time.

Anne's family

Part 11: An ‘unconditional’ catch-22

A quick recap: 
The church had made us 2 offers: a chance to buy the combined site in an off-market sale on Charity Commission rules and an offer to explore the community idea on another church site. (Blog 10).

A month after our meeting with the council, they came back to say that the council site had fallen out of the picture. Enfield was simply not in a position to sell their land quickly. Their Disposals Manager had lost his assistant and was busy with larger projects.

So the Diocese’s plan was to put their site into auction in the Autumn, but they would allow a small window of opportunity for an off-market sale at 10% above the Savill’s valuation. However at this point there were still uncertainties including interest from a housing association and we would have to wait the outcome.

It was a low point for us. The family we had partnered with (see blog 6) were still interested in building with us but the uncertainties made them nervous. It was difficult to keep them encouraged whilst we ourselves felt unsure. But we kept up communications and after a couple of months I received a call, and the Diocese were offering us the chance to buy their plot ‘unconditionally’.

I was elated! What could I say? ‘Thank you.’ In my naivety I thought ‘unconditionally’ meant no more obstacles – the process would now be straightforward. Peter, was pleased, but explained that ‘unconditionally’ meant the sale could not be ‘subject to planning’ or any other condition we might wish to apply.

It is common to enter an agreement to purchase land ‘subject to planning’. A timeframe would be agreed as part of the agreement where the buyer/developer makes an off-market offer to buy the site, funds the professional fees at their risk and puts in for planning permission but does not have to raise the finance for the purchase at a time when it is not clear what the development will be.

Chicken or egg?

‘Unconditionality’ was a major problem for us. We had hoped to agree a purchase subject to our getting planning permission for two houses. Without planning permission neither we nor our partner family could get a mortgage and without funds we could not buy the plot. We had meetings with the Diocese Development Manager but they now wanted a quick sale and were not prepared to wait.

I tried various self-build mortgage providers but their answers were all the same. No one would provide funds to purchase the land without planning permission.

One solution came at the Autumn Homebuilding & Renovating show. An exhibitor Nick at ‘Marlborough House Finance’ gave some encouragement. He said: “There is always a way.”

This turned out be ‘bridging finance’, which might tide us over until we could get planning permission. Nick advised us to assume that this would probably be for a period of six months, which would give us a window of opportunity.

Theoretically, planning decisions are supposed to take eight weeks but there are usually delays and then some time was needed to raise the main line funding. It was an option and it seemed our only option but it was not an attractive one.

Bridging is risky and expensive. With a retained interest (where interest charges for the full term of the loan is deducted from the loan facility) of 0.95% per month, 2% completion fee, 1% exit fee, legal fees and a modest fee for the broker – we were looking at finance costs of about £38k for a period of 6 months to cover the cost of the land purchase (over above such deposit/capital from us and our partner family).

Between us we had 10% in hand which is a minimum. Even bridge funders want some headroom between what they are lending and what the land is worth in the event that the plan fell through, and a sale had to be made to pay them back. And as with all borrowing the rates become more expensive the more you need it (ie. the higher the ‘loan to value’).

To apply for planning, or not?

Our other dilemma was should we go ahead and put in for a planning permission? Peter had produced some designs to establish what might be possible.

Given the funding situation there was no guarantee that we would get the land and the fee for a planning application for two houses was £1k. £1k seems very little with hindsight, when you are paying for building materials costing £1,000s, but when it is coming out of the monthly groceries budget with no guarantee of success or return it seemed such a big dilemma.

The site was to go to auction in November, less than two months away. We had friends in property development who warned that submitting a planning permission was a waste of money. It was work, effort and cost on our part but would add value to the land which someone else might buy and gain the benefit of.

So it was a gamble. Peter was also concerned that if we got consent before the purchase date then the ‘market valuation’ would go up and we would have to pay more. On the other hand without it we would not be able to get a self-build mortgage and we needed to do this as quickly as possible to release ourselves from an expensive bridging loan.

It was easy for professional advisers to talk airily of ‘take it or leave it’ but we were heavily invested – we knew it could take another year or two to find and start over with another site and it was an opportunity to have a home.

We didn’t want to see the opportunity pass by without doing everything we could. Our partners were not interested in taking this risk so we would have to apply and pay for planning alone.

Events now moved quickly. On 26th October the plot was put on the auction catalogue. The same day we submitted our planning application. The date of auction was to be 26th November by which time we had to pay 10% and the balance by Christmas.

If our planning application was successful within the 8 weeks (supposed statutory time to decide applications) we could hope to get a self-build mortgage set up early in the New Year.

Most people regarded this as improbable, particularly with Enfield planning department’s reputation! How long would we have to rely on bridge funding? Were our partner family still with us? A successful outcome at this stage looked unlikely!


Find your self and custom build register on the Right to Build Portal.

Read the other parts of the Self Build Family Build Blog.

Part One: Deciding to Self Build, the Turning Point

Part Two: Looking for Land in London

Part Three: The Land Value Idea

Part Four: A Small Matter of Access

Part Five: The Mystery of the Road Unravelled

Part Six: Negotiating a Deal

Part Seven: Best Consideration Pursuing our Community Building Idea

Part Eight: Calling on Higher Parts

Part Nine: The Affordability Question

Part Ten: The Thorny Question of Government


Photo: printed with permission of Fiona Hanson 2020©

Anyone self building needs to ensure that their project is meeting the new Building Regulations, as announced by then Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick earlier in the year. The are intended to pave the way for the Future Homes and Buildings Standard in 2025, which should, in time, mean all future homes are Net Zero ready and will not need retrofitting.

The new regulations require new homes to cut carbon emissions by 31% and extensions, existing building and non-domestic buildings by 27%, with the regulations coming in via Approved Documents L (Energy Efficiency), F (improved ventilation) and O (overheating).

Not only will they affect self builders, but extenders and renovators will need to ensure that works meet the required standard too.

One of the ambitions of the regulations is to address overheating, which is increasingly an issue, especially on homes with large south facing windows.

Any self builders need to ensure that their contractors are aware of the new regulations, and, for new projects, ensure they are meeting them. There is a grace period for builds in progress that had Building Regulations before the commencement (on 15 June 2022), in which case you have until 15 June 2023 to start the work before the approval lapses, and the new regulations apply.

However, it’s important to know that Building Regulations are a set of minimum standards, and many self-builders choose to build beyond these to secure better results, knowing that they are investing in their property. This is borne out by recent research by NaCSBA that demonstrated that over half of all self builders included a sustainable source of heating in their build.

As well as the regulations above, self builders also now need to ensure that they are meeting Building Regulation Part S (Electric Vehicle Charging), which requires new homes to have an electric vehicle charging point. 


Following its 2019 first visit to Graven Hill, Grand Designs is once more sharing the self build adventures of some of those people building at the UK’s largest self-build and custom-build site, starting on Wednesday 13 April at 9.00pm.

This second series of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: The Streets (available on catch up) sees presenter Kevin McCloud tracking the builds of a cross section of residents as they work to create their very own, tailor-made homes at the site at Graven Hill, as well as other multi-plot sites elsewhere in the country.

Series two differs in format slightly from the first series, which tracked the first ten pioneer residents who broke ground at Graven Hill. This series aims to capture the spirit of community of those building on the self-build streets, and represents a real opportunity for the custom and self build sector to sell this model to the public.

Graven Hill is the brainchild of Cherwell District Council, which took on a former Ministry of Defence site in Bicester to create a 188-hectare development with a range of opportunities to give people more choice in the type of home they want to live in.

Grand Designs: The Streets showcases the opportunities at Graven Hill, where residents from a range of background create their ideal home, whether that be sleek angular constructions or modern interpretations of classic house types.

Kevin McCloud, presenter of Grand Designs: The Streets, said: “Building your own home takes imagination and endeavour, as well as boundless perseverance. Here at Graven Hill, ambition and creativity has resulted in these wondrous homes enjoyed by all who live in them.”

Karen Curtin, managing director of Graven Hill said: “We are so excited to welcome Kevin and Channel 4 back to Graven Hill. Grand Designs: The Streets is the perfect opportunity to show just how far the development has come since the initial experiment with the ten pioneer plots.

“In the first series, we were lucky enough to celebrate a milestone for the UK house building industry by promoting self-build at scale, and this time we are able to showcase more self-build journeys and the development at 400 occupations.

“We have learned a lot over the last few years, diversified our product range and are proud of the community that has evolved. The show provides a platform for us to show exactly what is possible at Graven Hill and highlight that people from all walks of life can build or create the house of their dreams.”


Grand Designs: The Streets (Series 2) is on Wednesdays from 13 April on Channel 4 at 9.00pm, and is available on catch up.