Building Plots

Put simply, a building plot is a piece of land that has planning permission to build a house on it (see the warning below about buying plots without planning permission). Finding a suitable plot is usually the most frustrating part of the self build process. Plots can be hard to find and currently demand far outstrips supply.

To increase your chances you'll need to be as flexible as possible about location and explore all of the following methods.

Estate and Land Agents

It's always worth contacting local estate agents. Though they don't actually sell many plots, they are still a great source of information. Most agents have good contacts with property developers and landowners. They may also know of properties with large gardens with building plot potential. It pays to keep in regular contact with estate agents as probably the only time they'll call you is when they're trying to shift a difficult property.

Large Land and Estate Owners

Many parts of the UK have large estates that may contain a number of buildings in addition to the main residence. It's possible that you could change the use of some of these properties or there may be planning possibilities where ruins exist. Opportunities can occur after the death of the main landowner when Inheritance Tax is due.

Building Plot Databases

There are a number of commercial databases. As a rule you have to pay a fee to see the available plots. It's worth trying but beware that the best plots go very quickly and a lot of these databases contain a fair number of undesirable/difficult to sell plots. If you do use one of these services, make sure the plot has planning permission.

Local Builders

Sometimes local builders will sell off part of a development area, if for instance they need to raise cash quickly.

Local Authorities

On occasion local authorities will sell off land with development potential. This may include land with commercial building that can either be converted or demolished and replaced. Remember you will still need planning permission to convert from commercial to residential use. Some New Towns have been known to sell off individual plots of land to self builders rather than developers.

Development Plots

While most self builders look for single plots with planning permission for a single house, most developers purchase land for a number of houses. If you can find a group of likeminded people, you may be able to club together to buy development land and then sub-divide it between you. If you decide to take this route, use a solicitor to draw up a legal agreement between each member of the group prior to purchasing the land.

Do Your Own Research

It's worth doing your own research to try and identify potential building plots, especially in urban areas. The best way to do this is by using aerial photographs, large scale maps and walking around an area. What you're looking for are potential infills, for example large back gardens or waste ground. If you find any potential sites you'll then need to try and locate the owner via the neighbours, Land Registry or local council.

Buying a Poor Quality House

In areas of high house prices, it may be worthwhile purchasing a poor quality house and then demolishing it to create a building plot. For example, some areas have poorly built bungalows on fairly large plots surrounded by larger houses. You may decide to risk buying the property before getting planning permission in order to keep the price down. However it's always worth speaking to the local planning office to see what their attitude is to this type of development.


There are a number of businesses currently offering plots of land for sale without planning permission. Their promotional material gives the general impression that, owing to the shortage of building land, these plots have a good chance of obtaining planning permission. Be aware that if you buy one of these plots you are simply buying an overpriced parcel of agricultural land, costing you up to 10 times the market value with little likelihood of ever obtaining planning permission. Avoid them!