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Self Building your own ‘Grand Design’ home in the rural countryside

If you have ever thought about buying some rural land with the ambition o f eventually building your dream home on the site,  there a fair number of national and local planning hurdles you will need to get over, if this is to be achievable.

Sections of the national planning policy framework in terms of residential development refer to local planning authorities delivering but also controlling sustainable development in the countryside. To get permission for change of use and to develop (for example from a paddock to a residential development plot) requires the application to conform to both national and local planning policies in terms of sustainability.

What is sustainability?

There are 3 dimensions to sustainable development which are mutually interdependent

If you are considering purchasing a rural plot, check out the local plan policies for the area or district to see if it is within or close enough to  a defined settlement in the local plan.  Consider also whether your contract to buy the plot should be conditional upon the grant of an acceptable planning permission.  Speak to your lawyer early on if this is an important consideration for you so that additional terms and conditions can be negotiated at the outset and put into the legal contract.

The National Planning Policy Framework states at paragraph 55: To promote sustainable development in rural areas, housing should be located where it will enhance or maintain the vitality of rural communities.  For example, where there are groups of smaller settlements, development in one village may support services in a village nearby.

Local planning authorities should avoid new isolated homes in the countryside unless there are special circumstances such as:

To use the final ‘special circumstances exceptions’ on the above list the architectural design must :

To get permission for, and then build, a Paragraph 55 innovative house of Grand Design proportions,   you  are likely to need deep pockets and be prepared to take on the risk of bearing the costs of abortive efforts,  but this option might be viable (and very rewarding, if successful) if you consult at the outset the right planning consultant on the suitability of the location, and the right architect on design requirements, preferably ones with a track record of having successful secured similar permissions elsewhere.  The exact figures of how many homes have been approved under paragraph 55 based on  architectural merit grounds is hard to establish, but it is thought to be less than 100 or so in England.

Another option might be to form a consortium with 5 or 10 other like minded self builders and jointly purchase a larger site that is ear-marked for up to 5- 10 residential units within a defined settlement.  Check out the local planning authorities’ register of potentially available sites on  local councils’ websites.

A joint enterprise of this nature should not be undertaken lightly, (even if all consortium members start out as ‘best friends’)  and will need a legal agreement between all the consortium members to cover matters such as funding the purchase, appointment of a professional team (planning consultant, architects, drainage and highways engineer, project manager, lawyers), professional fees, allocation of plots and boundaries, allocation of shared infrastructure costs and costs of compliance with planning conditions , tendering the works and valuation of any donated labour (if any of the consortium  members are builders), arrangements for appointing contractors, decision making and dispute resolution and/or exit strategies as well as post termination provisions. It is recommended that the consortium members consult a lawyer early on, as knowing what is required in connection with this type of agreement can save a lot of frustration (and abortive costs) later on.

This article is for general information only and does not constitute specific legal advice. For more advice on self building or consortium building please contact commprop@prettys.co.uk or realestate@prettys.co.uk

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