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Self and custom build housing

Self and custom build housing is housing built by individuals or groups for their own use, either by building the home on their own or by working with builders. The Government recognises that homes built in this way are often cheaper, greener, more affordable and more innovatively designed than standard market housing and they offer a real alternative to buying 'off the peg' houses that may not meet your household's needs. 

Do I qualify for entry on the register?

The Council holds a register of people who are interested in self build and custom build opportunities in the borough. The Self Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 requires relevant authorities, including Bedford Borough Council, to keep a register of individuals and associations of individuals who are seeking to acquire serviced plots of land for self and custom housebuilding.

The definition and operation of the register is set out in The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding (Register) Regulations 2016 and more information about the purpose of the register can be found in the National Planning Practice Guidance. Importantly The Act requires the Council to have regard to the register when carrying out its functions in relation to planning, housing, regeneration and the disposal of any land owned by the Council. The register is not publicly available.

As at 18 June 2019, there are currently 201 individuals and 1 association on the register.

How to qualify for entry on the register

To be included on the register you (and in appropriate cases all the individual members of your association) need to meet the following eligibility criteria:

  • You must be aged 18 or over
  • You must be a British citizen, a national of an EEA State other than the United Kingdom, or a national of Switzerland
  • You must want to acquire a serviced plot of land to build a house to occupy as you sole or main home.

How do I make an application?

You can apply to be placed on the register by completing one of the application forms below. Once we have received your completed application we will:

  • Determine your application within 28 days of receiving it
  • If you are eligible, we will make an entry on the register and let you know that this has been done in writing within 28 days of determining the application. If the application is from an association, we will only notify the lead contact as identified in the application
  • If you are not eligible we will write to you to explain the reasons for that decision within 28 days of determining the application. If the application is from an association, we will only notify the lead contact as identified in the application.

Any person who appears on the register may seek removal or amendment of details by submitting an email request to or by sending a letter to the Housing Strategy Team at the address below.

Applications for entry on the register can be made online or by downloading and returning a form to If you prefer to download the form print it and return it by post, please send your completed application to The Housing Strategy Team, Bedford Borough Council, Borough Hall, Cauldwell Street, Bedford. MK42 9AP (please attach a stamp).

Apply as an individual or household for one plot

Apply as an association

At this initial stage you are making no commitment. By registering you are helping us to find out how much local demand there is and what sort of homes people would like to build so that we can develop local policies aimed at making appropriate land available. The Council invites, in particular, people or associations with a connection to Bedford to register their interest but the register will not be restricted to those people.

What types of self and custom build are there?

There are a number of ways in which self-builders and custom builders can develop their own home. Firstly, there are different approaches to the process – some self-builders take forward projects alone, others work in groups. Secondly, the level of self- build varies – ranging from self-builders carrying out the whole of the construction to custom builders who hire a contractor to carry out the construction through to completion. Some of the typical approaches are described briefly below.

Contractor built one-off home

This is the most common form of self-build. Here the home owner manages the design process including finding the land, hiring an appropriate consultant, and securing planning permission and building regulations approval. About half of all owners then hire a main contractor to do all the construction work; the other half project-manage the construction phase and hire various sub-contractors to do the work. The owner might also do some of the simpler tasks such as decorating. Approximately two thirds of self builds are currently carried out this way.

Self-built one-off home

Here the owner follows a similar route to the method outlined above except that they then do virtually all of the construction work themselves. This is popular with people who want to take ‘a hands on’ approach and who may already have experience of self-build.

Kit or package home

The owner finds the plot of land and then works with a kit home company to finalise the plans. The kit company then supply and erect the house. Sometimes the self-builder just has a watertight shell built, and then does the fitting out work themselves.

Developer built one-off home

Here the owner finds a developer with a site and a design that meets their requirements, and the developer then builds it out for them.

Supported community self build

This is where a group of people come together to share their skills and build a number of houses collectively. The group will normally all work on everyone’s house until completion. Often these schemes include training to boost the participants’ knowledge of building. Some community groups form themselves and some are co-ordinated by housing associations or other agencies.

Independent community collaboration

Here a group is formed to acquire a larger site which is split into individual plots. They then organise the design and construction of their own home, sometimes collaborating with others to, for example, order materials in bulk. This is a common approach in Continental Europe, but is currently relatively rare in the UK. However, it is expected to grow in popularity.

Developer/contractor led group project

A developer/contractor finds a suitable site then seeks a number of self-build clients and builds the homes to their specification under contract. Often the developer provides an option to just build a watertight shell, so the owner can ‘self-finish’. An alternative arrangement is for the developer to offer serviced plots which are sold ‘off plan’ with a design and build contract. This is a new approach to the UK, however it is common in other countries and is expected to grow in popularity here.

How can I find out more about self and custom build?

More information about self and custom build housing can be found on the government-endorsed web site

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