An assessment of the level of local demand for private homebuilding should be undertaken before deciding what action is appropriate to enable more people to build their own homes. Key points to note are: –

  • A Register is an important tool to gauge local demand, and creating and maintaining Registers like this will soon become a statutory duty on councils
  • Registers inform Strategic Housing Market Assessments (but don’t replace them)
  • To be robust, Registers need to include around a dozen core questions
  • Proactive marketing of a Register is essential, and it doesn’t need to be costly
  • Secondary data sources, opinion polls, surveys and consultation can be useful to gather further information about local demand
  • Analysis of demand doesn’t need to be onerous
  • Separate Registers and surveys can also be useful when trying to assess demand for a specific site

This Briefing Note provides advice on what to consider when assessing demand for private home building.


A local demand assessment should be a council’s first priority, and should be completed before initiating any local policy or action.

Councils that have a good understanding of the local level and nature of demand will also be better placed when it comes to negotiating with housebuilders and developers, especially where they have policies asking for new development to provide for private home builders on sites.

A local Register is an important tool to assess demand and it can help inform a Strategic Housing Market Assessment. Secondary data sources, opinion polls, surveys and consultations can also help build local intelligence about demand.


This is one of many Briefing Notes that explain resourcing, planning, land, finance, demand, marketing, consumer support and various technical issues. To see the full range of guidance click here.


For the purposes of this Toolkit we have made the following definitions:

  • ‘self and custom built homes’ are properties commissioned by people from a builder, contractor or package company (this is known as ‘custom build’ housing). When people physically build themselves, sometimes with help from subcontractors, this is known as ‘self build’ housing. We call all these people ‘private homebuilders’.
  • ‘serviced building plots’ are shovel-ready parcels of land with planning permission, laid out and ready for construction with access and utilities/services provided to the plot boundary. Some private homebuilders just purchase a plot; others opt for a ‘shell’ home (that they then finish off), or they select from an extensive menu of options offered by developers/builders.
  • ‘group projects’ mean homes built by private homebuilders who work as a collective.

Statutory definitions are provided in section 9 of the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which amends the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015.


This Briefing Note will be revised when the Regulations to support the commencement of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 and the Government’s Right to Build policy are finalised.


The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) currently asks councils to ensure that their Local Plan is based on adequate, up-to-date and relevant evidence about the economic, social and environmental characteristics and prospects of the area. Councils are also required to ensure that their strategies for housing, employment and other uses are integrated, and that they take full account of relevant market and economic signals (NPPF Para 158).

Councils are asked to undertake a Strategic Housing Market Assessment (SHMA) to assess their future housing requirements, and to work with neighbouring authorities where housing market areas cross administrative boundaries (NPPF Para 159).

The SHMA needs to identify the scale and mix of housing that is required, and the range of tenures that the local population is likely to need over the local plan period. The Assessment is also required to estimate the need for different types of housing, such as people wishing to build their own homes.

The Government has made it clear that failure to do this can lead to plans being found unsound. This was highlighted in the letter from the Minister for Housing and Planning to all English Local Authorities on 5 March 2015.

Councils that don’t have up an up-to-date housing supply strategy and have not assessed demand for private homebuilding risk triggering the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’, which is set out in the NPPF (para 14 and 49). A good example of this is the recent Great Dunmow appeal decision (see box below).

Land east of St Edmunds Lane, Great Dunmow, Essex)

This Appeal decision* overturned Uttlesford District Council’s original refusal to grant outline planning permission for 22 custom/self build homes on the edge of, but outside, the existing settlement of Great Dunmow.

This is the first known Appeal that has tested the policy on private homebuilding that is set out in paragraphs 50 and 159 of the NPPF. The Inspector said that the council did not have a five-year land supply, and the development plan was silent in respect of the provision of custom/self build housing. In the Inspector’s view both of these were material considerations of substantial and significant weight. She accepted that the development would result in the loss of open countryside and some limited harm to the countryside setting. However, she concluded, on balance, that the limited harm would be outweighed by the fact the new homes would be sustainable, boosting significantly the supply of housing, and the provision of custom/self-build housing in particular.

*(Appeal Ref: APP/C1570/A/14/2223280)

The Government’s Planning Practice Guidance provides further advice to councils on how the needs for all types of housing should be addressed, including demand for private homebuilding (see box below).

People wishing to build their own homes

The Government wants to enable more people to build their own home and wants to make this form of housing a mainstream housing option. There is strong industry evidence of significant demand for such housing, as supported by successive surveys. Local planning authorities should, therefore, plan to meet the strong latent demand for such housing. Additional local demand, over and above current levels of delivery can be identified from secondary data sources such as: building plot search websites, ‘Need-a-Plot’ information available from the Self Build Portal; and enquiries for building plots from local estate agents. However, such data is unlikely on its own to provide reliable local information on the local demand for people wishing to build their own homes. Plan makers should, therefore, consider surveying local residents, possibly as part of any wider surveys, to assess local housing need for this type of housing, and compile a local list or Register of people who want to build their own homes.

Planning Practice Guidance (Paragraph: 021 Reference ID: 2a-021-20150326)

The new Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015, and the proposals set out in the Government’s Right to Build: Supporting Custom and Self Build (DCLG, October 2014), build on this and reiterate the importance of a local demand Register to inform local policy decisions.

Top Tip

Local demand Register

Assessment of demand is the first and most important step to determine a council’s approach to supporting local people to build their own homes, and the best tool for this is a local demand Register

Top Tip

Robustly assess demand

Be aware that failure to robustly assess demand risks Plans being found unsound or housing supply policies in the Local Plan not being up to date which could trigger the ‘presumption in favour of sustainable development’


The Government’s consultation on the Right to Build: Supporting Custom and Self Build proposes to introduce a new statutory requirement for all councils to establish and maintain a Register. This new requirement will form part of the planning system and will, when implemented, significantly strengthen the Government’s guidance.

The broad framework for introducing these mandatory Registers will come into force through the Self-Build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015.    

This is how the Government proposes the Right to Build to broadly operate:

Step 1 – Council prepares, opens and maintains a Right to Build Register

Step 2 – Eligible private home builders Register for a suitable plot of land on which to build

Step 3 – Council takes account of demand on Register when preparing its Local Plan

Step 4 – Council facilitates suitable serviced plots to people on Register

Note that councils should not wait until they have a Local Plan in place (that includes appropriate policy on self and custom build) before taking action to support custom and self build locally.

The consultation on the Right to Build also set out a series of proposals for how Registers might be set up and maintained, and who would be able to apply. The following broad proposals were put forward (and the majority of respondents supported them): –

  • Entitlement to register – the Register should be open to anyone seeking to buy a serviced plot in a local authority’s area to build a house as their main home. Applicants should be able to set out their broad preferences for plots – such as location, price range, type and size of home. Groups should also be able to Register
  • Eligibility criteria for plots – plots should be available to any EU citizen over 18. Councils could also apply a local connection test, and take into account the applicant’s financial viability, and whether or not the home is likely to be there main residence
  • Maintaining the Register – Registers would need to be maintained and there would be a power to remove someone from the Register on certain grounds
  • Format and transparency – Registers will not be a public document. Councils would however have to make the headline data publicly available on an annual basis
  • Publicity – Registers would need to be promoted to raise local awareness, although this should be proportionate and not burdensome
  • Scope to charge fees – there would initially be no fee for applying to be on the Register, but councils may be able to charge in future.

Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015

When this Act commences (probably in spring 2016) it will place a duty on all local authorities in England to keep a Register. Although the Act extends to Wales, it will be for the Welsh Government to decide whether to commence the legislation in Wales. The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland or Scotland.

The Act imposes three related requirements: –

  • A duty for councils to maintain and publicise a Register of individuals, and associations of individuals (groups) who are seeking to buy serviced plots of land in the authority’s area to build houses for their occupation
  • A duty for councils to have regard to a Register when carrying out their planning; housing; public land disposal; and, regeneration functions
  • A duty for councils to have regard to any Government guidance when exercising the above duties

The Act includes more details about the potential form Registers should take, their content, how they should be managed and reviewed, the eligibility of people to register and what information they may be asked to provide. It also provides for regulations to cover how people can register, what happens if they are deemed ineligible and the ability for councils to charge an application fee.

The Government is currently preparing legislation to bring into force the provisions of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015. It has also introduced new draft legislation in the Housing and Planning Bill which places a duty on councils to ensure that there are sufficient serviced permissioned plots to meet the demand established though a local Register on an on-going basis.


The following advice may be helpful when establishing a Register: –

  • Look at other Registers that have already been introduced. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, but don’t copy blindly. Select the sections or questions that broadly align with the Government’s proposals for the Registers, plus those that you think will be the most appropriate for your local situation
  • Don’t wait for the new legislation – Registers can always be adjusted to comply with legislation
  • Consider each question you ask, and whether it is really needed. Too many questions will lead to people not completing a Register; too few and you may miss out on collecting key data that can help inform your local policies and initiatives
  • Ensure the Register has a clear and succinct introduction so people understand what its purpose is. The introduction should manage people’s expectations – so don’t promise quick results, or that people should expect a plot to match their precise expectations
  • Ensure the Register has a clear data protection and usage section. This can be in the small print, but is important. It should explain how people can remove themselves from the Register if their needs change, and it should state whether any data will be used for other purposes. For example, when you invite people to events you may want to pass their details to developers/builders, but before doing so you must advise them in advance. You may also want to consult your in-house legal team to check compliance with the Data Protection Act
  • Ensure that core questions are included to make the Register robust (see box below)
  • Consider whether additional questions need to be included – for example if an applicant is already eligible for social housing, the size of their current ‘household’ and whether they are prepared to spend time doing some of the construction themselves
  • Registers don’t need to ask why someone wants to build, their level of construction skills or whether they have built a home before, as this is unlikely to inform local planning strategies or decisions. Questions about the need for gardens or parking spaces can over-complicate a Register and are best dealt with during the design and planning process
  • Avoid jargon and keep the language simple and clear. Recognise that many lay people don’t know what the words ‘custom build’ mean and can get put off by ‘self build’; so provide simple definitions for key terms
  • Construct the Register so you can analyse the data across different categories of responses (see below). For example, it could be helpful to analyse just those keen to build as a group to get a good feel for the type of homes they want to build and their budgets; or you might want to analyse those who want to build larger detached homes, to see where they are keen to find serviced plots
  • Do a ‘test run’ with in-house colleagues, councillors or a group of local people before launching your Register to check that they understand the questions and to identify if you are missing anything

Some local authorities have taken a fairly informal approach by simply recording people’s contact details, or sign posting them to other websites. This approach is not recommended, as it will not provide the robust evidence needed to make informed decisions about meeting the demand for private homebuilding in an area.

Important core questions to include in a Register

  • Address and contact details (including an email address to be able to contact people quickly if suitable sites become available)
  • The applicant’s age and whether they have dependents living with them (this helps build a better profile of local demand)
  • Whether the applicant lives locally and/or has a local connection. Careful thought needs to be given to how ‘local’ is defined (this helps inform any local prioritisation of land where councils decide to do this) – for further information see our Briefing Note on Local Connection Issues
  • Where they want to build in the local area (ward or district)
  • Whether the applicant is a key worker (for example Clinical NHS staff, social worker, police officer, community support officer, fire service, prison officer, teacher etc.) (this helps inform any local prioritisation of land where councils decide to do this)
  • What type of project they want to undertake (for example DIY self build home, buy a ‘shell’ from a builder to fit out, commission a custom built home from a developer/builder/contractor or package company)
  • Type and size of plot they are looking for (for example include some examples of typical sized plots, and enquire if they are looking for a single isolated plot or willing to consider a plot on smaller, medium or larger housing sites, and whether they would be willing to consider a refurbishment/brownfield site opportunity)
  • Whether they are willing/or want to work with a group of people. The Register should include a facility for a group to register together (for example as a community self build group or collective)
  • Type and size of property they want to build (detached, semi-detached, terraced, apartment, number of bedrooms and/or square metres)
  • When they hope to start building (for example immediately, within a year, in next two years, three to five years or longer) (this helps identify future site allocations or disposals and gives some indication of future demand for land)
  • The budgets they have/can afford for the plot and the building
  • Gross household income and whether they have finance in place (this helps to build a profile of the types/cost of sites which may be required)
  • Whether they are willing to be kept informed about opportunities in the area, and for the council to disclose their contact details to builders and landowners who are selling plots
The use of Housing Needs Registers is not recommend as they fulfil a different function, and don’t collect the required information to make informed decisions about meeting the demand for private homebuilding in an area.

Top Tip

Ask core questions

Ensure the Register includes a set of core questions needed to establish a robust assessment of current and potential future demand


Existing practices vary widely and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. A number of different Registers are listed at the end of this document.

Registers can be outsourced and they can be shared between more than one Council.

Off-the-shelf Registers

Two off-the-self solutions are currently available: –

  • The Local Self Build Register – has been set up by social enterprise Ecomotive
  • The Custom Build Register – is run by BuildStore, the main mortgage broker for the self build sector

These Registers help provide an insight into local demand. However councils will want to consider whether the information they receive through these Registers is robust enough to inform their local decisions. For example the Local Self Build Register doesn’t currently enquire about information on demand in specific parts of a district. It is however possible for councils who have signed up to the Register to commission a bespoke survey to assess interest in particular projects or areas within their district.

It is however possible for councils who have signed up to the Register to commission a bespoke survey to assess interest in particular projects or areas within their district. The Custom Build Register, although under review, currently has a limited set of high-level questions which applicants are asked to complete and the data it collects can be used by BuildStore for other marketing purposes (so this would need to be carefully explained to people before they registered). BuildStore will however engage with councils to explore more bespoke solutions where opportunities arise.

Shared Registers

Registers can be shared between local authorities. Several councils are considering this, particularly across a shared housing market area. This is common in the affordable housing sector where local authorities come together to maintain a Joint Housing Register in partnership with housing associations. Where councils share a Register it is critical that the registration process enables people to record their details for each local authority area they want to live in to avoid data being aggregated across a wider area.

Some councils are exploring whether a third party organisation can operate a Register on their behalf. In such circumstances, it is recommended that the local authority is fully engaged in the development of the Register and that data is regularly fed back to the council. It will also be important that local authorities continue to publicise these Resisters, and ensure they are linked to council websites.

Neighbourhood planning registers

We are aware that some communities involved in neighbourhood planning are beginning to use registers to inform their activities. Although there is no statutory requirement to do so, registers are being established to help inform housing allocations, or to gauge demand across a range of potential future housing projects.

Such approaches will help provide an evidence base from which to develop local policies, but should be treated with caution. It is particularly important to consider how a neighbourhood register might relate to a wider council Register, and to ensure there is no double counting. Communities may therefore find it simpler and more effective to work with the local authority, and to analyse the data it holds (for their neighbourhood) on its Register. They may also want to consider more detailed work which engages with the people on the Register who have expressed an interest in land within the neighbourhood planning area.


Petersfield Town Council in Hampshire has launched a Register that asks six simple questions to gauge local demand. It is also using the Register to inform the preparation of its neighbourhood plan (now proceeding to referendum) and to engage with local landowners. 

The questions it asks are: –

  • Name and contact details
  • How interested someone is in doing a project in Petersfield (start straight away; start in next 10 years; interested; slightly interested)
  • The ideal type of building they want to construct
  • How much they could afford to pay for a building plot
  • How much they would then be able to spend on the build; and
  • Size of home they would like to build

The Gillingham Neighbourhood Plan in Kent uses a similar approach. 

Top Tip

Consider sharing

Consider sharing a Register with other councils in a housing market area, and carefully consider whether an off-the-shelf Register is right for you


A well-managed marketing and promotional campaign is essential to draw local people’s attention to the Register. Poor promotion will result in a low response rate and a weak data set.

Feedback from councils who already have Registers has confirmed that promotion and marketing does not need to be expensive.

The forthcoming legislation will set minimum promotional requirements for councils. In the meantime the following actions are recommended: –

  • A council’s in-house press and public relations team should be involved at the earliest opportunity. Having the right skills on board is essential. The Register’s launch can then form part of a council’s wider communications strategy, and this is a very cost-effective approach
  • The PR team should be able to produce a positive press statement (preferably with a supportive quote from the Leader of the Council) to distribute to the local media. They should also be able to produce follow-up releases to keep the Register in the public eye, arrange for features in council newsletters and magazines; and they can produce simple leaflets and posters that are distributed at public contact points – for example libraries, reception areas and in the Planning department
  • A proactive council PR team may also be able to secure local radio and local television interviews (preferably with the Leader); targeted articles in a local newspaper; and exploit the usual social media opportunities
  • The Register should have a strong presence on the council’s website
  • PR teams should distribute their press information to NaCSBA and the main self build magazines so they can encourage their readers to register
  • Local estate agents, developers and builders can also be briefed (so they can encourage would-be private homebuilders to register) and it may be appropriate to engage with local supermarkets, DIY stores, builders’ merchants and local banks and building societies so they can alert their customers to the Register (a poster and leaflets is a simple and effective way to achieve this)
  • Promote the Register through local community forums and parishes, and at regional self build exhibitions or similar events (these events are held regularly across the country and attract many thousands of visitors)
  • Consider appointing a local champion or ambassador to encourage people to register (such as a local councillor or celebrity)
  • Recognise that it will take several months to get a sustained level of interest, and a good number of people on it. The more effective the promotion, the better the response rate
  • Ensure the Register automatically sends a confirmation e-mail to people who apply to be on it. Also consider sending out regular updates or publicity material to people who have registered – it is important to keep them informed
  • At least once a year send an email inviting people to confirm they are still interested in building a self or custom home. This will help verify that the demand is still current. People should opt in to stay on the Register, otherwise it will be quickly out of date
  • Track the level of registrations received, so you learn what promotional techniques work best and are most cost-effective
  • Although external communication is central to the success of a Register, internal communication between council services is also important. Ensure that staff are informed – particularly key services such as Housing, Planning, Estates Management and Building Control. Face to face briefings with staff and councillors, updates in staff bulletins and newsletters and coverage via the council intranet can also be useful
  • It may be possible to acquire lists of people who have expressed an interest in building their own homes – for example those already registered with the Self Build Portal, or people who have visited local self-build shows. However, this can be onerous and should only be considered after all the above promotional activities have been exhausted

Top Tip

Engage PR

Engage with in-house press and public relations teams to launch a targeted marketing and promotion campaign to draw local people’s attention to the Register


A SHMA is a tool that is used to objectively assess the future quantity of housing needed in a council’s housing market area over a set period. The SHMA must identify the scale and mix of housing needed (including the affordable housing and private homebuilding required) to meet household and population projections, taking account of migration and demographic change, as well as market signals. SHMAs are a key part of the evidence base underpinning the strategy set out in Local Plans. Further detailed guidance on the scope, method, core outputs and monitoring of SHMAs is set out in the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance.

The main objective of a Register is to build on the SHMA by providing a primary data source on the demand for private homebuilding in the area. This should then help inform what land might be made available to meet this demand.

Whereas a SHMA is a comprehensive, statistically-based assessment of the demand for housing typically undertaken in a five year cycle (with regular updates), the Register provides specific, current and up to date demand data for private homebuilding on an on-going basis. The data from the Register should therefore be fed into the regular updates of the SHMA.

Registers can also provide an indication of future demand if they include questions about when people want to undertake a project, particularly if this is within five years.

However it should be remembered that Registers are structured on an opt-in basis (they only record people who have decided to register), so they should not be regarded as an absolute indicator of demand.

To avoid double counting, SHMAs should not attempt to replicate or re-run a Register. Instead councils should consider using the SHMA to build on and qualify the information captured by Registers by drawing on secondary data sources and inviting qualitative feedback. They can do this through opinion polls, surveys of local residents and community organisations, focus groups and feedback from estate agents and developers. This layered approach will help build a strong local evidence base that can guide informed local planning and investment decisions.

The role of secondary data sources, opinion polls, surveys and consultation

Establishing future housing need is not an exact science with one set methodology. It involves a range of relevant data and elements of judgement. No single approach will provide a definitive answer.

Secondary data sources, opinion polls, surveys and consultations with local communities and local property experts, can build up a local evidence base to help sensitivity test the information on the Register. This information is best gathered when updating the SHMA.

Secondary data sources

Councils must decide what secondary data sources are most appropriate to complement the evidence on their Register. Several are identified below: –

  • ‘Plot Finder’, ‘Plot Search’ or other building plot search websites
  • “Need-A-Plot” data contained on the Self Build Portal
  • Enquiries for building plots from local estate agents
  • Any published national comparative trends data such as the annual Ipsos MORI demand survey commissioned by the National Custom and Self Build Association, or regular research reports, such as AMA Research’s Self Build Housing Market Report
  • Regional VAT reclaim data for DIY new build homes under VAT431NB, available from HMRC

Opinion polls

Local opinion polls can help provide a high level picture of local demand which may exist or could be expected in an area. They can also help test whether the marketing and promotion of the Register is proving effective in practice. For example, where an opinion poll suggests 10,000 people in a borough may be interested in building their own home if land is available but less than 1,000 people are on a Register, a Council should look to review its marketing strategy because local demand may be suppressed due to the lack and/or type of publicity undertaken. Such polls are particularly useful prior to launching a register alongside a publicity campaign and could be undertaken at regular intervals as part of a SHMA to sensitivity test the demand recorded on a Register.

Surveys and consultation

Surveys can also provide an important source of qualitative information to gauge local demand. Key groups to target are local Estate Agents, front-line staff in council planning departments, developers and landowners, community organisations and private homebuilders themselves through workshops, focus groups and interviews.

Standard survey questions might include: –

  • Numbers of enquiries for land from people who want to build their own homes?
  • What types of sites and homes are private homebuilders seeking, and where?
  • Availability of land to meet demand?
  • Interest and demand for collective/group projects?
  • Main barriers holding back local projects?

Engagement with local communities (for example parish councils, neighbourhood forums) and sample-based in-depth interviews with current and would-be private homebuilders who are on the Register can all be helpful. This is best done in the early stages of a Local Plan review using standard questionnaires to assist in comparative analysis.

Top Tip

Use the Register to inform the SHMA

Use the Register to inform the Strategic Housing Market Assessment and use the Assessment to gather further market intelligence and determine future demand

Top Tip

Use secondary data

secondary data sources, opinion polls, surveys and consultations can build up a sound local evidence base of demand and help sensitivity test information on the Register


Having established an indicative level of demand through the Register, the data needs to be analysed to more fully understand how the profile of applicants relates to the types of projects they are seeking, and their geographical preferences. This can be achieved by profiling different demand scenarios across the following headings: –

  • Locations where people want to build
  • When people want to build (size and type of home)
  • How people want to build (self build or custom build)
  • Type of ownership (freehold, leasehold or shared equity)
  • Budget and affordability
  • Type of plots people are looking for (eg. single plot, small housing site of 2-5 homes, medium housing site of 6-10 homes, or larger housing site of more than 10 homes) and whether they would consider a regeneration opportunity
  • Whether there is demand for group projects (registered groups or people willing to work as a group)
  • Age profile, and (if desirable) local connection to the area

Two broad profiles should be considered as a minimum: –

  • Types of plots that are in demand in specific locations over the Local Plan period (short, medium and longer term)
  • The budgets people have to buy a plot and build their home

These profiles can be further refined by looking at the data that has been collected about local connection (where relevant locally), and whether there is demand for group or collective developments.

When considering how demand should be profiled councils will want to consider how this relates to: –

  • Specific local characteristics and market signals (for example whether a location is in a high demand area or constrained, house and land prices); and
  • Local policy objectives (for example whether the council wants to encourage larger executive housing into the area, or diversify its housing stock to provide for smaller detached or semi-detached family housing and/or whether the council wants to create more affordable homes for local people with a connection to the area)

Having profiled local demand councils can then decide if and how this information might inform how land is brought forward and (if desirable) linked to council’s Register through an ‘allocation scheme’.

It will also inform development management decisions and it will be of relevance to affordable housing negotiations.

Further advice on linking demand to supply is included in our Briefing Notes on How the planning system can generate opportunities and Examples of how councils use the planning system to encourage opportunities


Site-specific Registers can be useful to gauge the scale and type of demand for significant new self or custom build developments. They are particularly helpful for testing – at an early stage – what types of opportunities should be provided. The contact details of the people who register can also help with future marketing.

Councils in Europe often use registers like this to release plots or opportunities to those that have been on the Register the longest.

For smaller sites it is important to keep Registers simple, so you may only want to ask the following: –

  • Contact details of who is interested
  • When they would want to undertake the project
  • How many plots they are interested in (some people may want to buy more than one for their wider family)
  • Total budget (for the plot and the build)
  • Preferred type of project (for example serviced plot for self or custom build, shell home, self finish)
  • Size and type of home (for example number of bedrooms/square metres, detached, semi-detached, terraced or apartment) and
  • If they are interested in a group project opportunity

A simple site-specific Register can be set up on a landowner’s website or launched at a public exhibition or meeting.

Four examples of site-specific Register are: –

  • Amlets Park where the local landowner is working with a developer to bring forward 125 homes on the edge of Cranleigh village in Surrey and has used a Register to inform the number of private homebuilding plots on the site
  • London Legacy Development Corporation established a Register to identify interest in a potential private homebuilding initiative on part of the former Olympics site
  • Beeston Park (Beyond Green Developments) is using a Register to inform a potential custom and self build opportunity as part of a new community of about 3,500 homes planned at Beeston Park, Broadland
  • The Urban Pioneers project, at Middlehaven, Middlesbrough

Top Tip

Consider site-specific Registers

site-specific Registers are useful to gauge the scale of demand for types of plots and development opportunities on known sites and can also be used to market sites and allocate plots


We are not aware of international examples of council-wide demand Registers as envisaged under the Government’s new Right to Build. However, Registers are regularly used to record ‘waiting lists’ or expressions of interest for land that councils are planning to sell to private homebuilders.

In Germany this approach is widely used to establish local lists of local people who want to buy land to build a home and help inform how much land a council may want to secure for new home building. Two examples illustrate this approach.

The City of Memmingen, a small rural historic town in southern Germany, uses an application form when it plans to dispose of land to local private home builders. More than 170 plots are currently available, and the form helps the council work out how to prioritise the allocation of these.

A similar approach is taken by the City of Bonn which uses a land questionnaire.

The City of Hamburg’s Agency for Building Groups also uses an application form to establish how much demand there is from building groups, and to dispose of land through its tender process. The form asks each group to provide information about: –

  • The project concept, including the planned number of housing units, the uses and specific project objectives
  • The desired locations for the project in the City (multiple locations possible)
  • Contact persons for the group
  • Desired form of ownership (private/co-operative etc)
  • Number of planned residential units/homes
  • Information about the available equity
  • Whether the group is complete or whether additional members are still being sought

The Orkney Islands Council uses a similar register – inviting people to complete a form to gauge demand for affordable serviced plots. Details of proposed serviced site developments, indicating plot layouts and identifying affordable sites, are then sent to qualifying candidates, along with an application form to buy a site.

Examples of Council Registers, Surveys or Expressions of interest:

Bath & North East Somerset Council:

Bristol City Council:

Chelmsford City Council:  

Cherwell District Council:

Crawley Borough Council:

Dartmoor National Park Authority:

Erewash Borough Council:

Exmoor National Park Authority:  

Horsham District Council:

North Somerset Council:

Oldham Council:

Pendle Borough Council:

Rotherham Metropolitan Borough Council: _build_properties/2

Runnymede Borough Council:

Rushmoor Borough Council:

Sheffield City Council:  

Shropshire Council:

South Cambridgeshire District Council:

South Lakeland District Council:

South Norfolk Council:

Stoke-on-Trent City Council:

Taunton Deane Borough Council:

Teignbridge District Council:

Uttlesford District Council:

West Lindsey District Council:

West Somerset Council:

Neighbourhood Plan Registers, Surveys or Expressions of interest:

Petersfield Town Council:

Gillingham Town Council:

Off-the-self Registers:

The Local Self Build Register:

The Custom Build Register:  


The NaCSBA Research & Development Programme is funded by the Nationwide Foundation and aims to promote the self-build and custom build sector as an affordable route into housing for a greater number of people in the UK.

For further information, please visit: or