A new biography has been published sharing the work and vision of Walter Segal, a leading figure in self build in the 1970s when he created several projects, including a whole estate of self build homes, in London. Walter Segal: Self Built Architect 

In the book, author and friend of Walter, John McKean tells the story of Segal’s life (1907–85) life, covering his youth and early architectural career in Berlin, before exploring his unique approach to architectural practice – and, specifically, to everyday housing. The book takes in Segal’s work in Switzerland, Mallorca and Egypt, before reviewing his post-war building career in England and the philosophy that drove his work. This included a commitment to self building, which led to him creating a self build community in Lewisham, London (above and below). This has now become a reference point in every historical review of self build in the UK.

Overtime Segal became interested in coming up with the best dwellings for 20th-century towns and his concern for the empowerment of ordinary citizens – and crucially this involved giving them the ability to build their own homes.

Alice Grahame follows with an exploration of the enduring impact of Segal’s timberframing method, looking at how this has led to the possibility of making, and then living within, communities where houses are constructed with a flexible, easily assembled and planet-friendly building system

Walter Segal book

“This book is a huge pleasure because it reveals the man and revels in his energy and wit. It is also a delight because it is so authoritative, written by the two people who know Walter Segal’s life, personality and work better than anyone.”

Kevin McCloud,Designer, writer and presenter of Channel 4’s Grand Designs
The book costs £45, but Self Build Portal users can use the code SEGAL20 to get 20% off at checkout at www.lundhumphries.com  (valid until 30/9/21)
Walters Way self build homes

About the authors:

A Professor of Architecture at the University of Brighton for 11 years, John McKean wrote the first monograph on his friend Walter Segal over 30 years ago. 

Alice Grahame has written about Walter Segal in The Guardian and architecture and design magazines. She curated an exhibition about Segal – Walters Way: the Self-build Revolution at the Architectural Association Gallery in London.

Image credits: Alice Grahame

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 8: Calling on higher support

A quick recap: 
Our offer for the Vicarage garden (with our partner family) had been overtaken as Council and Diocese got into dialogue. Against that disappointment things were picking up on the community building idea.

Maximising the opportunity for homes

It was 2018 and the beginning of a new year. My husband Peter spent Christmas working up a scheme for the two sites to house 5-7 units, to make the most of the site.

He was also formulating a proposal to convince the church that, rather than sell off the ‘family silver’ to fund philanthropic ‘mission’, community housing was, in fact, a mission purpose in itself, and could even be framed to support the work of the church locally.

At this point the Diocese was in the process of drawing up a scheme for maximising the number of units on both sites. It would obtain a valuation and then take the site to auction. We knew that any private sale bid would have to be 10% above the valuation,  as before, but this time for the combined sites.

Only a registered charity, the Diocese Development Manager pointed out, would have a chance of bidding below market value. I could feel his discomfort, as he was trying to tell me we no longer stood a chance.

However, for some reason I did not feel uncomfortable, saying that, “Nothing is impossible….”

I had further conversations with the Council Property Disposals manager who was happy to share the plans being drawn up with the Church, but his position was similar: ‘best price’ needed to be achieved. We would have the same chance as others to compete for the scheme.

Setting our vision

It was clear that we had got as far as we could with the property departments. We needed to reach visionaries.

Consequently, we came up with a prospectus which we called, ‘Reimagining Community: a pilot scheme in N14’. This was inspired by the Archbishop of Canterbury’s ‘Reimagining Britain’ in which he challenged ‘the purpose of housing should be understood as creating communities and not merely building accommodation”.

‘The housing crisis’, we wrote, ‘presents an opportunity that creative, dynamic and devoted families wanting to establish a secure base and build community need help to get started…’

My first port of call was the vicar’s wife who was encouraging. I talked through some of our ideas and she recommended that we approach the area Bishop (Bishop of Edmonton) who was interested in affordable housing and Father Edd said he would put in a good word and introduce us by email.

This turned out be very timely. I followed up our contact at Faith in Affordable Housing (see Blog 5) who informed me that the Bishop of Edmonton had recently become a trustee of Housing Justice.

He also gave me the contact for the Diocese Strategic Development Manager. Community housing was of interest, but the Diocese had no policy to date and although a ground rent model was a sensible business model for the church it was one that was not recognised yet.

Father Edd was as good as his word and immediately wrote to the Bishop saying he had seen our proposals which were very interesting and should be seriously considered.

We then wrote our letter in our custom way – I draft the letter, Peter puts red lines all over it and re-writes it. We were not sure how to address a bishop but in the end decided on the old fashioned formal form:

My Lord, … we are looking for support within the Church for our small community led housing proposal… The development would pioneer a new form of affordable housing made possible because the Church would retain ownership of the land.

Families would be able to own their own homes but not have to buy the land and instead pay a ground rent to the Church. In that respect it is like buying a flat.

The Church maintains a steady income stream and has helped create a community invested in the school and church. The houses would remain affordable in perpetuity…

The development explores the idea of intergenerational living with some of the characteristics of an extended family in which the old can provide some childcare and the young can help the elderly in various ways. The scheme also looks at how students or those starting work or just married can find their feet.

…Currently Council and Diocese are looking to marry the two sites which back onto each other and dispose of them at auction for development for luxury houses and apartments. The Council site is landlocked and the Diocese owns the access and so has the controlling interest.

Our proposal offers an alternative model which while it will not furnish a Best Price lump sum up front it will deliver value in terms of Mission, for families and the community and almost certainly achieve better overall cash value in the long run…

The approach is a new and practical application of some of the principles recently promoted by the Archbishop and by the Mayor, and would help London Borough Enfield to deliver on their new obligations on Self Build. Indeed we believe Enfield will welcome the opportunity.

They are already taking some quite brave steps on ‘custom build’ ahead of other boroughs and so this is an opportunity to give some encouragement that the great moral authority of the established church can lend.

This site offers a curiously unique symbol of cooperation of the two great pillars of Church and State to bring forward fresh answers to the biggest questions for families in Britain today…”

I received a call back a couple of weeks later to say the Bishop was happy to meet us and a meeting was set for a month’s time. It was exciting.

Our task now was to seek a similar visionary in Enfield Council, we knew there was one, he was working with Naked House, but could we reach him?

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


Photo: printed with permission of Fiona Hanson 2020©

According to specialist lender Together, a third of Brits would sacrifice part of their garden if it meant they could self build on the land. Based on a new survey, the data indicates that over 34% would take on a major self-build, with a mix of motivations. Of those surveyed, 14% said this would create a home for a family member, 10% would build a house they would sell and 8% would move in themselves.

According to the survey, 26% of respondees were interested in creating a standalone ‘granny annexe’ for visiting friends or family, if they had the space. Many attributed this desire due to the way in which the pandemic forced us to reconsider how we interact with our extended families.

One in ten also said that the boom in popularity for staycations offered an opportunity to rent such a garden build out as a short-term holiday let, while 8% said they were interested in long-term lets.

But it’s not just big builds that people wanted in their garden, with a fifth (20%) of respondents saying they’d be keen to build a summerhouse or workshop to create their perfect space.

Scott Clay, distribution development manager at Together, said: “Our survey highlights homeowners’ ambitions as we begin to return to a different kind of normality.

“People are thinking more creatively about how they could use their outside space, whether that is providing a standalone home office, a home for themselves to live or sell, or a specially-designed home for elderly or disabled relatives.

“It’s important that homeowners have enough space and get any required building consent, including planning permission, before they take on a self-build. They will also need a lot of planning, determination, and the right finance in place before they start their project.

“However, as well as Help to Build, there are other options of funding your own build, depending on the borrower’s ability to repay the loan. This could be through an advance from an existing lender, a self-build mortgage, or a remortgage, bridging loan or other types of property finance from a specialist lender.”

Building in the garden

Duncan Hayes, a spokesperson for the National Custom and Self-Build Association (NaCSBA) said: “When considering options for garden plots it is important to understand the approach of the local planning authority. The right proposals in the right areas can help with the delivery of better and more sustainable homes that we urgently need.

“Care is needed as many will have specific policies to prevent inappropriate development of gardens that may cause harm to the local area. NaCSBA recommends that anyone wanting to build should sign their local self-build register and check out the planning policies on their local council’s website in regard to creating new dwellings in a garden.”

Andrew Baggot, managing partner and chartered accountant at Clarke Nicklin, adds: “As far as tax is concerned there are a few matters to bear in mind with a self-build project. As well as the tax benefits, there shouldn’t be any Stamp Duty Land Tax (SDLT) to pay on the self-build, on the basis that it is being built in the owner’s own garden.

“However, one tax that might need to be considered in more detail is Capital Gains Tax (“CGT”). Your primary home is exempt from CGT. Although, as soon as you’ve acquired a self-build home you then have two properties, only one of which can be exempt from CGT. It’s therefore important to plan ahead if you’re then thinking of selling one of the properties so that you minimise any tax that might become payable”.

Find out more about tax on our advice pages.

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 www.righttobuildportal.org

  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
Plotfinder.net 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.

Heating and ventilation specialist Zehnder brings you its take on how to ensure your Self-Build project is sustainable, ensuring it provides the optimum comfortable climate for you.

Self-Building your own home offers you the opportunity to factor in a range of measures that you wouldn’t find in a typical open market home. Top of the bill for many Self-Builders is the ability to spec elements that make your home more sustainable, making it greener, more comfortable and cheaper to run.

There’s a trade-off here between cost and outcome, but Self-Builders tend to stay in their homes longer than most, and also invest more in them. What’s more, Self-Builders, as NaCSBA acknowledges, are innovators in greener building, championing new materials and micro-renewables to ensure they get the home they want. As such, they are the green heroes of UK housing.

Self-Building requires careful budgeting, but money spent on sustainability is typically money well spent. The Passivhaus Trust states that Passive /house builds can be achieved on a range of budgets that can bring a 90% reduction in the energy needed for heating requirements, which means savings from year one.

So if you want a greener home where to you get started?

Zehnder specialises in heating and ventilation solutions that can help you achieve your goal. Jason Bennett, National Business Development Manager for Self-Build at Zehnder explains a bit more: “Building regulations and legislation set out sustainability standards that must be met, but these are minimum standards that many self-builders use as a starting point.

“Passive House advocates would argue that energy usage is as equally important as the focus on carbon emissions, giving a more rounded approach, that’s a helpful way to look at the bigger picture.”

Zehnder has put together fives steps for Self-Builders to consider when planning to build greener.

1. Fabric-first

Think about what you will use to build your home. Timber remains an extremely environmentally friendly building material, as long as it is sustainably sourced. In contrast, the production process for cement is extremely carbon intensive, which should be weighed up in terms of sustainability.
Even when used as a form of biomass, timber should result in very little net carbon emissions as long as replanting replaces lost trees.

2. Heat Recovery

The Renewable Energy Hub states that a mechanical ventilation and heat recovery system (MVHR) can save up to a whopping 50% on energy bills in a home. This will vary significantly depending on the building itself, meaning that time spent at planning a whole house approach is always time well spent.
For optimum results, MVHR is best suited to an airtight and highly-insulated building, designed from the outset to utilise an MVHR system.

MVHR unit

These work by removing stale air from the house, which is replaced with filtered fresh air. But the clever bit is that the heat is extracted from the stale air, and retained to warm the incoming air to minimise heat loss. This ensures a constant supply of warmed fresh air, with the internal temperature remaining comfortable and stable. Although you can open windows and doors in such homes, the system is designed to be used within the house as a sealed unit with the MVHR doing the hard work, while opening doors and windows less frequently can help minimise noise and air pollution too.

Highly efficient MVHR units, such as Zehnder’s ComfoAir Q range, can recover up to 96% of the heat from extracted air that would have otherwise been exhausted outside. This reduces heating bills, which keeps costs down for the homeowner.

What’s more, MVHR systems are great for keeping allergies at bay, as they extract excess moisture, pollutants and pollen from the air.

3. Insulation

Passive House builds are based on the principle that insulation is vital for a building’s performance, keeping heating requirements to a minimum.

Insulation comes in a range of materials, including environmentally responsible products, such as sheep wool. The U-values wool can achieve compare favourably to those of rigid board insulation or fibreglass, which have a far more carbon-intensive production process.

4. Heating

Designing your home from scratch means you can make the most solar capacity. And when combined with air-tight, insulated construction, solar energy can be used to run an efficient electric heating system, such as an air or heat pump.

Heat pumps can also run on electricity generated from solar power, making them 100% renewable.
While more space intensive, ground source heat pumps use the stable ground temperature as their heat source, making them even more efficient than air-based pumps. These need careful planning from the start of a project, and installation costs are higher, so it’s a decision each Self-Builder must make as part of the wider picture.

In rural areas where space is less of an issue – and especially if you’re off-grid, biomass can also be a good eco-source of heat. Systems can be expensive to install, so check with manufacturers the time period by which the installation costs will start to be paid back by savings.
Finally, for hot water, solar thermal remains a highly sustainable way to heat your hot water.

5. Rainwater harvesting

Water is a relatively cheap utility in the UK, especially in comparison to heating, but the costs to the environment remain high due to the carbon emissions and energy used to produce and supply it.
A rainwater harvesting system is simple to plan into a self-build early on, ensuring you capture free water that can be used for a range of uses, such as flushing toilets, watering the garden and cleaning the car.
Again, it needs to factored in early as the containers are large, and will need major plant to install, which you will inevitably have on site at some point.

For more information visit Zehnder 

This is an update from a NACSBA member.

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 7: Best consideration – pursuing our community building idea

A quick recap: 
We made an offer on the Vicarage plot, partnered with a family who were a great fit with us and had got as far as Heads of Terms with the Church. But at the last minute the Council contacted the Diocese to look at a commercial scheme marrying the two sites.

Building a home or a community?

“Pick yourself up, brush yourself off and start all over again,” my old philosophy tutor used to say. I was deeply disappointed. When I rang the Diocese development manager a few days later his manner was cooler than it had been (at least I imagined so).

When I asked where we stood he confirmed the strength of our offer lay in the fact that at a future date we might work with the Council to develop their site but events had changed and the Council and Diocese were now talking about marrying the two sites themselves.

Our chance of building two homes was now slim. The conversation ended in an awkward silence. The reality was that we would not be able to compete with a better financed developer to develop both sites.

A year’s work…

I put down the phone and the tears poured out! We had been so close. We had not only built up our own hopes but our friends’ too. It had been almost a year since I came across the Right to Build Legislation, and eight months since we started pursuing the Council plot.

The obvious question was: ‘Should we now give up?” Peter and I held the view that we should pursue something until every door and window was shut in front of us. The door had obviously and firmly been shut but there was a small window open.

Community led holds the key

About the same time I received an email from the Community Land Trust Network that our application for first stage funding had been successful (see blog 5) and I could chose an advisor to work with us for our first scoping day. They also approved my application for a bursary ticket for the National Community Led Housing Conference later that month.

We began to pick up where we had left off with our ideas of community building. If the Church and Council were looking at marrying the two sites for a larger housing development, then being both public mission landowners surely they should at least consider a community scheme for local families committed to the local area and local church?

We met with Stephen Hill, then Chair of UK Cohousing Network and Trustee of Community Land Trust Network. Stephen set out our current position and set out two or three different routes of community led housing we could look at.

At the present time we were two families looking to house ourselves with the potential to help other families along the way. As such, we did not represent a community benefit organisation.

Community Land Trusts steward land for the community, with the community having a say in the organisation, and members have a vote. There is quite a formal governance and legal structure, and those who set up the CLT do not necessarily get to live in it. Cohousing is slightly different and perhaps closer to what we were envisaging. Cohousing groups are intentional communities run by the residents. The initial group have a significant role in designing and creating the community.

Family first approach

Stephen likened our approach to a not-for profit Community Interest Company called Naked House. They were part of the Urban Community Land Trust family and, like us, were responding to the need of families who don’t qualify for social housing but are unable to afford a home on the open market.

In 2015 they won a competition by New London Architecture partnering with Enfield Council to produce a scheme as one way of solving the housing crisis. Their scheme involved repurposing Enfield Council land to create 22 new units across three sites.

They would be a developer led custom build initiative providing ‘naked’ homes, houses stripped back to bare essentials: habitable with electricity, heating and a basic bathroom but also planning and building regulation compliant and purchasable with a high street mortgage.

Challenges of the model

We had heard of Naked House and in fact earlier in the year invited the founders over to dinner. At the time they helped us understand some of the challenges they were facing.

To make the houses affordable (apart from the ‘naked’ element) they were looking at a leasehold/ground rent model with Enfield Council. This was proving difficult not least because the Government were planning to ban ground rents due to abuses of the system.

They have since been enormously successful and are currently building the 22 homes in Enfield and are working with Lewisham and Croydon Councils to do something similar. They were the first community led housing group to receive funding from City Hall.

Homes will be delivered as an affordable discounted market sale product (anticipated between 25-30%) and the discount will be locked in to keep the property affordable in perpetuity for allocation to those priced out of the market. The lowest cost homes will be genuinely affordable to those on London median wage, whilst those with an income up to £90k are eligible to apply.

The regeneration team at Enfield, they told us, was headed by a pioneering and visionary leader. Perhaps we could make contact and look to do something on a smaller scale as a self build community initiative?

The benefit of having a similar narrative, Stephen said, was that decision makers feel more comfortable working with ideas that have already been given official political endorsement.

Stephen suggested we work up an outline viability appraisal for the site and our priority should be to establish with both landowners the basis on which they would engage with us directly, and still satisfy their legal requirements to obtain the ‘best consideration reasonably obtainable’.

This does not mean the most money in either case. “The church as a charity can use its land to achieve its ministry objectives,” Stephen said, “and the Archbishop’s pronouncement [in 2017] that the church should use its land holdings to promote affordable housing, should be helpful to us.”

So as the year drew to an end here lay our challenge: could we find a way of presenting to the church and council that ‘best consideration reasonably obtainable’ for their site was not the highest price but a local community led initiative supporting the local area and local church?

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


Photo: printed with permission of Fiona Hanson 2020©

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

A self build scheme for six previously-homeless veterans has completed in Leominster, part of a larger 19-affordable homes site.

The project was the result of a collaboration between veteran’s charity Alabaré Community Self Build and social housing provider Stonewater

The scheme was focussed on creating opportunities for the veterans to support them with skills and experience as they worked alongside the contractor, J Harper & Sons. This provided them with the skills to support their return to work as well as providing them with a sense of pride combined with the security that comes from having a home. 

The homes were made available to the veterans to rent, with most moving in just before Christmas. 

Veterans self build resident

The scheme took 19 months to deliver – continuing through Covid19, and used land that been occupied by 1970s maisonettes coupled next to a piece of under-utilised land. 

Dwain, one of the veteran self-builders (pictured), said:  “This scheme has changed my life. Only last year I was sleeping rough with no hope and my health suffered.  Now I have got my self-esteem back and I am going to have a home I can bring my children to and celebrate Christmas together. 

I have also gained qualifications and work experience that will help me get a new job, and support me and my family. It’s been fantastic and thank you all.”

Matthew Crucefix, Director of Development (South and West) at Stonewater, explains more: “For us, collaboration has been the key to success for this project. This scheme highlights how local organisations, councils and charities can work in partnership to make a difference together and provide much-needed affordable homes for those who need them the most. 

Ken Hames, Chief Operating Officer of Alabaré’s Community Self Build (Veterans) scheme describes how veterans have benefitted from being able to build their own homes.  “Self Build has two aspects to it. The obvious primary outcome is a number of dwellings for veterans in housing need. But more importantly, the veteran self-builder rebuilds their life by building their home. The site itself becomes a platform for recovery and transformation, leading to work and independent living.”

Read an earlier story about the schemeSeveral other veterans schemes have taken the same approach across the country, such as Plymouth’s Nelson Project. 

With the constantly evolving situation around Coronavirus it is important that any self builders working on site are fully aware of the latest advice and guidance. Always check for the latest updates and be sure that you are safe and compliant. Also check the situation for your country:



Northern Ireland


Make sure you stay safe on site with your self build by checking out NaCSBA’s guide to working during Coronavirus. The guidance includes information and useful signposting for anyone working on, or managing, a site, including:

National guidance for large sites
Managing risk
Who must NOT work?
Clarity around contracts
Scheduling work
Health and safety
Safety on site
Online security
Reporting illness
Getting tested
Working in a home with owners

Read the Working Safely on Site guidance on NaCSBA’s website, or download a copy



NaCSBA is providing this information as general guidance only, and in no way is it a definitive or legally binding. Official advice is routinely updated and any decision makers must be confident that the decisions they make about returning to work are robust and reflect the latest Government and industry guidance. Therefore, it is also recommended that any plans include regular reviews for safe work practices.

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