Grand Designs becomes reality? Think-tank says selling off land to first-time buyers for self-builds is answer to Britain's housing crisis

view gallery VIEW GALLERY


Deputy Political Editor

For most would-be property-owners, the idea of building your own home is confined to watching the extravagant creations of Grand Designs take shape on television.

But the concept could be an answer to the nation’s housing crisis by enabling first-time buyers to get on the housing ladder, according to a report published today.

Under the plans, councils that failed to achieve targets for building new houses would be required to release land to local residents that wanted to design and build their own homes.

The centre-Right think-tank Policy Exchange argued that the land would be relatively cheap as it would be sold at auction and be subject to fewer planning fees than a conventional new property. It said that homes which might be put on the market for £220,000 by a developer could be “self-built” for £130,000 – with the added bonus that they would be specially designed for the family which moves in.

Last year work began on just 100,000 new properties – far short of the demand for housing – but Policy Exchange insists the policy could almost immediately double the number of homes built annually. As a bonus, widespread work would be created for the construction industry.

Just over ten per cent of new British houses are “self-built”, compared with more than 50 per cent in most European countries and about 45 per cent in the United States. However, research suggests that some six million Britons are interested in designing their own homes.

The think-tank acknowledges the need to prevent bizarre-looking buildings blighting communities and suggests design guidelines for any new property should be agreed by residents. They could, for instance, stipulate that only local materials are used or that concrete is banned.

Parcels of available land would be allocated through a lottery to interested individuals or families who would then construct a property on the site – or who could pass it on to a close relative, such as a child wanting their first home or a grandparent keen to downsize.

The only proviso would be that houses could not be built as holiday homes – and residents would have to live there for at least five years to stop people using the developments to make a quick profit.

The report’s author, Alex Morton, said: “Grand Designs depicts self-build homes as playthings of eccentrics. They don’t have to be. Under our proposals, local people would be able to choose a beautiful thatched cottage or Victorian house which would also boost the value of nearby properties.”

He said: “This self-build scheme is the last real option to raise private housing numbers before 2015. It also would be popular with people and elected officials.”

Ted Stevens, the chairman of the National Self Build Association, said: “There are literally millions of Brits keen to build their own home. But currently only a tiny fraction of those that are keen on the idea are able to realise their dreams. The main problem is obtaining a reasonably priced plot of land. If this solution took off it would transform the housing landscape of the UK.”

Grand Designs - Bespoke boltholes

Channel 4’s Grand Designs, presented by Kevin McCloud, inspired people to build their own homes. However, the new study says new-builds don’t have to be eccentric or ground-breaking, just practical family homes.

Woodsman’s cottage

Woodsman Ben Law’s cottage in West Sussex was a labour of love while conforming to strict planning rules. In 2003 he used medieval techniques to create a “lovely, light-filled” home made almost exclusively wood from the surrounding forest.

Beautiful bungalow

Lucie Fairweather and her husband Nat McBride envisioned a “modest home” in Woodbridge, Suffolk, in 2010. The resulting three-bed sustainable chalet bungalow was described as a “wonderful new exploration of the form”.

Green and pleasant

Architect Richard Hawkes designed a cutting-edge home in the Weald, Kent, in 2009. Packed with green technologies that would provide all the energy he required, the house’s distinctive brick arch was praised as an “elegant and clever” design.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Massage Therapist / Sports Therapist / Physio / Osteopath

£12000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An opportunity has arisen for o...

Recruitment Genius: Account Manager / Sales Executive - Contract Hire

£35000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This industry leader provides c...

Recruitment Genius: Project Coordinator

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Project Coordinator is requir...

Recruitment Genius: Area Sales Manager - Midlands

£20000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Day In a Page

John Palmer: 'Goldfinger' of British crime was murdered, say police

Murder of the Brink’s-MAT mastermind

'Goldfinger' of British crime's life ended in a blaze of bullets, say police
Forget little green men - aliens will look like humans, says Cambridge University evolution expert

Forget little green men

Leading evolutionary biologist says aliens will look like humans
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: An Algerian scientist adjusts to life working in a kebab shop

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

An Algerian scientist struggles to adjust to her new life working in a Scottish kebab shop
Bodyworlds museum: Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy

Dying dream of Doctor Death

Dr Gunther von Hagens has battled legal threats, Parkinson's disease, and the threat of bankruptcy
UK heatwave: Temperature reaches 39.8 degrees on Central Line - the sweatiest place in London

39.8 degrees recorded on Tube

There's hot (London) and too damn hot (the Underground). Simon Usborne braved the Central line to discover what its passengers suffer
Kitchens go hi-tech: From robot chefs to recipe-shopping apps, computerised cooking is coming

Computerised cooking is coming

From apps that automatically make shopping lists from your recipe books to smart ovens and robot chefs, Kevin Maney rounds up innovations to make your mouth water
Jessie Cave interview: The Harry Potter star has published a feminist collection of cartoons

Jessie Cave's feminist cartoons

The Harry Potter star tells Alice Jones how a one-night stand changed her life
Football Beyond Borders: Even the most distruptive pupils score at homework club

Education: Football Beyond Borders

Add football to an after-school homework club, and even the naughtiest boys can score
10 best barbecue books

Fire up the barbie: 10 best barbecue books

We've got Bibles to get you grilling and smoking like a true south American pro
Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power

Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon Files

Junk balls and chop and slice are only way 5ft 1in Kurumi Nara can live with Petra Kvitova’s power
Ron Dennis exclusive: ‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

‘This is one of the best McLaren teams ever – we are going to do it’

Ron Dennis shrugs off a poor start to the season in an exclusive interview, and says the glory days will come back
Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

Making of a killer

What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most