The Right to Build is a set of legislative provisions imposed on relevant authorities in England which together seek to make more land available for private homebuilding. It is also specifically referred to in the Government’s White Paper Fixing our broken housing market.

Since 2016 local authorities in England must ensure they have sufficient ‘shovel-ready’ plots to match the demand on their Registers for self build and custom housebuilding. This means local authorities must give suitable development permission (planning permissions or permissions in principle) to enough serviced plots of land to meet the demand for self build and custom housebuilding in their area. 

The Right to Build is established through the:

  • the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 which requires local authorities to keep and publicise a Register of people who want to self or custom build in their area and have regard to the Register when exercising their planning, housing, land disposal and regeneration functions. Registers were required from 1 April 2016.
  • the Housing and Planning Act 2016 which amends the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 and in particular imposes a new duty on local authorities to meet demand on their Register by granting development permission for enough serviced plots to meet demand on a rolling annual basis.
    The level of demand is established by reference to the number of entries added to an authority’s Register during a ‘base period’.  Base periods run from 31 October to 30 October the following year. At the end of each base period, relevant authorities have three years in which to give development permission in respect of enough serviced plots of land to meet the number of entries added to the Register during the year.

Two sets of regulations support the Right to Build:

Local authorities also have a duty to have regard to any guidance published by Government. The Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government has published Planning Practice Guidance which sets out the main provisions of the Right to Build and answers many common questions about how it should be implemented.  

The Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act 2015 (as amended by the Housing and Planning Act 2016) extends to England and Wales but only applies in relation to England. The Act does not extend to Northern Ireland or Scotland.


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.

Top Tip

Government planning guidance

Read the Government’s Planning Practice Guidance on how the legislation should be applied, but visit other briefing notes in the Toolkit to find more detailed advice