Reaching out to the Custom and Self-build sector

NaCSBA has a continuing programme of research, and commissions occasional surveys and polls to gain insight into the sector growth. As well as sharing the results with industry, it liaises with senior Government departments across the UK to share progress and barriers.

Results of these can be found in the Library area, and include documents detailing the following.

Freedom of Information: Right to Build registers

Each year NaCSBA conducts a Freedom of Information request for all 336 English planning authorities to monitor progress against the Right to Build registers. Up to 2019 this involved the numbers of people on the registers, and from 2019 it will also list the number of plot opportunities brought forward annually. Find out more: Freedom of Information on council Right to Build registers The 2018 request led to NaCSBA mapping of the Right to Build, revealing a huge disparity in the level of cover across the country. See Mapping the Right to Build.

Vat Surveys

NaCSBA runs these to gain a snapshot of the number of people claiming Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) exemption for a Self Build home – which enables it to extrapolate the size of the sector. The current survey is live, fill it in here, or take a look at previous surveys here: Self Build Numbers by VAT returns 2004-2016

Ipsos Mori Surveys

Again, Ipsos Mori surveys help NaCSBA establish the number of people interested in Self Build acitivity, and more. Read them here: Ipsos MORI polls of Self Build Intentions


In-depth Assessments of the sector

NaCSBA has conducted two in-depth research and development programmes. One used Nationwide Foundation finance to fund a major programme designed to boost overall housing output.

The other saw NaCSBA working with six industry partners on a project funded by Innovate UK called Digitising Custom Build.

NaCSBA’s 2014 Custom and Self-build Research Programme

NaCSBA secured support from the Nationwide Foundation to fund a year-long programme of work that aimed to help more people build their own affordable homes

The Foundation provided nearly £180,000 to fund a major NaCSBA research and development programme designed to boost overall housing output, and in particular to make it much easier for people on modest incomes to build their own homes.

In most other countries, between a third to a half of all new homes are organised or built by people themselves, yet in the UK less than 10% are delivered this way.

This year-long programme involved identifying why other European countries deliver a much higher proportion of their new homes via self build, such as the homes in Almere, shown below. It was conducted by a three-strong team co-ordinated the work involved then NaCSBA chair Ted Stevens, Mario Wolf, now the Right to Build Task Force director and architect Sam Browne.

In addition, the work examined whether new financial products would help the sector grow and make it easier for people in need of affordable housing to access loans enabling them to self build.

Discover the facts behind the research, here. 

Almere Self-build homes

The R&D programme focused on two ways of boosting output of affordable self build homes:

The delivery of ready-to-go, modestly priced serviced building plots.
For example, in France it is currently possible to buy a decent fully-serviced building plot for about £20,000: the project wants to facilitate similar solutions here.

How communities can collaborate to jointly commission their own homes.
For example, in Berlin around 15% of all the new homes currently being built are now organised by local ‘building groups’; the homes are custom designed to suit their occupants, and they also typically work out about 25% cheaper than conventional market built properties.


As well as running successful study trips, the project resulted in the group working with around 50 local authorities in the UK to help them to facilitate thousands of opportunities for people to build or commission their own homes. Towards the end of 2015, the team produced a range of regional workshops for planning and housing officers, as well as practical guidance and survey results*.

A significant outcome of the work was the creation of the Custom and Self-build Toolkit, which became the Right to Build Toolkit with the founding of the Right to Build Task Force.

Ultimately the work informed both the public and private sector organisations in the light of the new self/custom build policies that became law in 2016 with the Right to Build Legislation.

For more read: NaCSBA_RnD – April2015 – Early Tips and emerging Good Practice to help Local Authorities support private homebuilders

The Nationwide Foundation was established by Nationwide Building Society in 1997 as an independent charity.

*This was in the context of then current Government planning policiesand the new Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015ii.

The advice should also be helpful in responding to the Government’s new ‘Right to Build’ policyiii


  1. Paragraphs 50 and 159 of the National Planning Policy Framework (March 2012) and related planning practice guidance make it clear that local planning authorities need to identify local demand for people who want to build their own homes and make provision for it in their local plans. Failure to do this may lead to plans being found unsound, as highlighted in the letter from the Minister for Housing and Planning to all English Local Authorities on 5 March 2015.
  2. The new Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 received Royal Assent on 26 March 2015. When commenced in the next Parliament it will place a duty on all local authorities in England to keep a Register of individuals and community groups who have expressed an interest in acquiring land to bring forward self-build and custom-build projects and to have regard to the demand on their local Register when exercising their planning and other relevant functions.
  3. In October 2014 the Government published proposals on a ‘Right to Build’ to give private homebuilders a right to a plot of land from their local council. It also appointed 11 vanguard councils to test the practicalities of operating the Right across the country in advance of finalising the policy in the next Parliament. On 27 March 2015 the Government published its response to the 2014 consultation which said that Government intends to take forward the Right early in the next Parliament by preparing regulations and guidance setting out the detailed operation of the local Registers.