Numbers wanting to build or commission their own home grows despite “dirty tricks” from a growing minority of local authorities

New research by the National Custom and Self Build Association (NaCSBA) has found that, since 1 April 2016, an estimated 55,000 people have signed up to Right to Build registers across England to secure a plot to design and build their dream home.

Around 11,400 new registrations have been added in the past 12 months, many via NaCSBA’s Right to Build Portal, a small increase on the previous year. While NaCSBA is happy to see the number of people who have registered growing, it remains the case that the numbers remain far short of the real underlying demand.

NaCSBA believes this is because of both a lack of promotion of the registers by many local authorities and through the increasing use of “dirty tricks” by a growing minority of local authorities to make it harder for individuals to join and remain on registers.

NaCSBA is highlighting three areas of what it considers unacceptable practice by local authorities to thwart the will of parliament and to deny the opportunity to custom and self build to all except those with the resources to not require the support that the legislation brings. These are:

  • Local authorities are imposing unreasonable constraints over joining registers. Poor practice includes the charging of excessive fees to join registers and denying those living outside an authority the opportunity to build a home there – despite operating no parallel restriction on new homes built by developers.
  • Local authorities counting plots intended for building on by housing developers as being potentially suitable for self-building when they are fully aware that this will not be the case.
  • Local authorities removing names of those who have already joined a register to justify reducing the number of plots that they must permission. Examples include restarting registers with new conditions, undertaking data protection exercises where those who do not reply are struck off and introducing fees for those already on registers to remain.

30 October 2019 marked Right to Build Day, when councils for the first time needed to demonstrate that they have ensured that sufficient plots are made available to meet the demand on the registers. However nearly three months after that date only 45% of Councils claim to have met their legal duties, 37% have failed to provide any response, and 18% have recognized that their obligations have not been met.

The 45% that claim to have met their obligations includes those who have only done so through the methods set out above. NaCSBA believes that the numbers provided are simply too unreliable for an accurate assessment of delivery to take place. It is calling on local authorities to do more to ensure more plots are permissioned and that they act within the letter and the spirit of the law. NaCSBA estimates that at least 8,000 individuals have been removed from registers after the registration period has closed but believes this should not impact the number of plots that need to be permissioned under the legislation.

The Conservative manifesto pledged to do more to help “people who want to build their own homes find plots of land and access the Help to Buy scheme.” England has by far the lowest known rate of owner-commissioned homes among developed economies.

Andrew Baddeley-Chappell, NaCSBA’s CEO said, “For the first time, local authorities have had to meet a statutory duty to help self builders access the plots that are needed. It is clear that overall they have come up short. In some cases, this is despite the hard work and best efforts of the authority, and we recognise those that have worked hard in this area. In too many cases however local authorities have spent scarce time and effort not on delivering plots but rather on seeking to avoid their obligations. This cannot continue; not least if we are to deliver homes in the volume and of the quality that this country needs.”

NaCSBA urges anyone wanting to build to sign up to their Right to Build via its Right to Build Portal campaign site at

NaCSBA works with individuals and members to challenge poor practice at local authority level.