Guide Self-build and custom build

Show all parts of this guide

7. Self-build Frequently Asked Questions


What is self-build housing?

Please refer to Part 2 of the self-build and custom build guide.

How do I find a plot?

You can look for plots of land with planning permission for housing through contacting estate agents, auction houses and plot finding agents/websites. A good source of advice on finding a plot is available on the Self Build Portal. Please remember that a plot is not really a plot unless it has planning permission in place and be wary of buying any land without a suitable permission. See Planning permission and self-build projects, Self-build homes Planning Portal for more details.

Should I buy a parcel of land for self-build that doesn't have a planning permission?

Buying a parcel of land to build a home on that does not benefit from planning permission for housing is a very big financial risk. The value of a site will be largely determined by what it can be used for and has planning consent for.  A field outside of a settlement will probably have an agricultural land value as it is unlikely to be suitable for other uses in planning terms. 

The price of a plot of land with planning permission for a house will be much more expensive than the agricultural land because the price reflects the development potential of the land. Given the high price of housing land in East Devon it can be very tempting to buy an agricultural plot of land in the hope that you will be able to gain planning permission to build your own home. This course of action risks spending money on land that you will probably not be able to use as you would want to.

What are the Councils legal duties on self-build?

As a Local Planning Authority we must comply with certain legal duties in relation to self-build.  These are set out in the 2015 Self-Build Act as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016.  There are three main legal requirements:

  • Firstly, that we hold a register of people wishing to self-build in East Devon. 
  • Secondly, that we have regard to the register in our planning, housing, regeneration and estate management functions. 
  • Thirdly, that we permission enough serviced plots to meet the demand shown on the register. 

Details of how we are meeting these requirements are included in our annual self-build monitoring report.

Is there an obligation for the Council to tell people about self-build plots?

No, there is no obligation to do so.  There is an obligation to grant enough planning permissions that are suitable for self-build to meet the demand shown on the register, but we have yet to grant a permission that is specifically for self-build.

If land owners advise us that they have plots for sale that they consider to be suitable for self-build we will email the people on the register, but so far this has only happened once.  We will reconsider the position when land does come forward that is either allocated or permissioned exclusively for self-build.


Where can I build?

Generally speaking, national and local planning policies encourage new housing in or adjacent to existing settlements where there is a choice of services and facilities so that future occupants can live in a ‘sustainable’ way without having to rely on private cars for their day to day needs. In East Devon our local plan, together with the Villages Plan and some Neighbourhood Plans draw black lines (known as Built-up Area Boundaries) around some settlements.  Any land outside of the black lines is considered as ‘countryside’ where our planning policies are far more restrictive on allowing new housing.

What does national planning policy say about self-build?

The National Planning Policy Framework references the legal duties for Local Planning Authorities (LPA’s) to keep a self-build register, have regard to the register in its planning, regeneration, housing and estate management functions and to permission enough serviced plot to meet the demand shown on the register.  It makes it clear that self-build can be either market or affordable housing.  Paragraph 61 of the NPPF includes self-build in the types of housing that must be specifically included in the local housing needs assessment and reflected in planning policy.

What does national planning guidance say about self-build?

The Planning Practice Guidance gives advice on the self-build register and the requirement to permission enough serviced plots to meet the demand shown on ‘Part 1’ of the register. It suggests ways in which LPA’s can encourage self-build and gives advice on what constitutes a serviced plot.

What does the East Devon Local Plan say about self-build?

Policy H2 of the adopted East Devon Local Plan states that ‘…where possible, developers will be encouraged to make at least 10% of plots available for sale to small builders or individuals or groups who wish to custom build their own homes’.  The Local Plan was examined at a time when there was less emphasis on the importance of self-build at a national level.  A draft policy requiring a proportion of self-build plots for smaller builders/self-builders was modified by the Inspector so that the adopted policy only ‘encourages’ self-build on sites of 15 or more dwellings.

What does the Cranbrook Plan say about self-build?

The Cranbrook Plan guides the development of this new town and has reached an advanced stage of preparation (examination).  It has been prepared in a planning context that is far more supportive of self-build than at the time that the Local Plan was prepared and examined.  Policy CB12 of the Submission version of the Cranbrook Plan requires at least 4% of the total dwellings in each of the expansion areas to be for self-build, including a proportion of ‘affordable’ plots.  The policy includes a provision for a higher proportion of self-build plots in certain circumstances and sets out minimum requirements for marketing the plots.

Do any neighbourhood plans have policies about self-build?

Yes, the 'made' Membury Plan has Policy HP5 'Small scale self-build housing' and the draft Newton Poppleford plan has Policy TD2 'Affordable homes to meet local need through a community land trust'.

Is land for self-build 'set aside' in planning allocations?

No, none of the existing local plan allocations have land reserved for self-build, but the emerging Cranbrook Plan does have a draft policy that would require this for the 'expansion areas' (see Policy CB12) of the Cranbrook Plan and draft policies are being considered in some neighbourhood plans.


What is the self-build register?

Please refer to Part 3 of the self-build and custom build guide.

What do we do with information taken from self-build applications?

We product an annual monitoring report which is considered by our Strategic Planning Committee so that it can be taken into account in our planning, regeneration, housing and estate management functions. 

We also use the information to inform our planning policies, help in the preparation of neighbourhood plans and it is a 'material consideration' when determining planning applications.  The personal details of individuals on the register are not publicly available, but details such as the number of people on the register, where plots are sought and what budgets are available is published in the monitoring report. 

See also Self-build and custom build - How will we use information from the register?

Does East Devon have a local connection test?

Yes, our register is split into two parts as allowed for in The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Regulations 2016.  Government guidance on this is given in the Planning Practice Guidance.  The decision to keep the local connection test was last considered in February 2020 by the Strategic Planning Committee.  Applications that meet the eligibility criteria of the local connection test are placed onto Part 1 of the Register.

Those applications that fail the local connection test but otherwise meet the basic eligibility criteria are entered onto Part 2 of the Register.  The numbers on the whole of the register are used to help us determine the overall demand for self-build and to plan for it.  The number of self-build plots that we need to permission to meet our legal duties relates to the numbers on Part 1 only.  More details can be found at Self-build and custom build - What is the self-build and custom house building register? - East Devon.

Is there a financial solvency test for being on Part 1 of the register?

No, there is currently no financial test.

Is there a charge for applying to the self-build register?

No, there is currently no charge.

Demand and Supply

Where can I see evidence of demand for self-build in East Devon?

We have a dedicated self-build monitoring page Please link to monitoring page here Self-build and custom build - Monitoring - East Devon.
A self and custom build assessment of demand was submitted as evidence to support the Cranbrook Plan.
A demand assessment framework for self and custom build (which includes figures specifically for East Devon) was produced in 2018 as part of the evidence for the GESP.

Where can I see evidence of the supply of self-build plots in East Devon?

We publish an annual monitoring report that includes figures for the number of plots considered to be suitable for self-build.

Planning applications for self-build

Do I need planning permission to self-build?

You will usually require full planning permission to build your own home, although there are some limited ‘permitted development’ rights to convert existing buildings to residential use.  Even where you do not require a full planning permission you will be required to make a ‘prior notification’ application and the planning rules are extremely complicated so it’s always best to check.  Guidance is available on at Do you need permission? Planning Portal and Do I need planning permission? East Devon.

Is it possible to make a planning application or ask a planning officer for an opinion before purchasing land?

Yes, you don't need to own land to make a planning application for it, but you do need to serve a formal notice on the owner that you are making a planning application.  Please be aware that any planning application relates to the land rather than to the applicant so the landowner may choose to sell the land to someone else and would benefit from the uplift in the land value that went with the planning permission.

You don’t need to own the land before asking for an officer’s opinion as we have a pre-application advice scheme (for which there is a fee).  Details of this can be found at Pre-application advice - East Devon.

Does being on the self-build register make a difference to a planning application?

No, not directly, but we do have a duty to permission enough serviced plots to meet the general level of demand for self-build as shown on Part 1 of our self-build register.  More details of this can be found in Section 3 of the monitoring report and in the February 2020 report to Strategic Management Committee.

How do I apply for planning permission?

The best way to apply for planning permission is through the planning portal, which can be accessed through Apply Online - East Devon.

Can I self-build on a plot that has planning permission for a dwelling?

Yes, any plot that has planning permission for a single dwelling will be suitable in principle for self-build.  It is important to remember though that the principle of self-build is that you have the primary input into the house you are building for yourself.  A house built to plans that someone other than the first occupant has had drawn to their specifications would not count as self-build.

Can I change the design for which there is a detailed planning permission?

Yes, you can make a fresh planning application for a different design of house, but we recommend that you investigate if there were any reasons that a particular design was chosen.  For example, there may be no windows to one side of the dwelling because of overlooking or a particular architectural style may have been chosen with great care to fit into a conservation area.  Details of planning applications are available at View planning applications, enforcements and planning appeals - East Devon and we offer pre-application advice, for which there is a charge.  Remember that to be considered as self-build the first occupant of a house must have had the principle input into the design of that house.

What additional costs are associated with a planning application?

In addition to the cost of the planning application and the plans and elevations that are needed to show what you propose to build and where, there are many other potential costs involved. More information is available on the web page General validation advice - East Devon.

Other requirements

Do I have to pay the community infrastructure levy (CIL) to self-build?

The Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) enables local authorities to raise funds from new development to help deliver infrastructure. An exemption is available for self-build, but there are conditions that must be met before, during and after the build and surcharges could result if you do not meet the full payment procedure.

Do I have to pay value added tax (VAT) to self-build?

There is government guidance on this at Building a new home and VAT - Gov UK.

Do I need to make a building regulation application to self-build?

Yes, you will need approval under the building regulations.

Do I have to make habitat mitigation payments?

In large parts of East Devon we make a charge to help mitigate the impact of new houses on the Exe Estuary and/or the Pebblebed Heaths Special Protection Areas.  This is known as a habitat mitigation payment and it is applied to self-build housing.

Please let us know if you have any additional questions not listed above or if you have any further queries by emailing

When this content has been updated

Last updated 7 March 2023