How to Approach a Self-Build Home in London - Detailed Planning

How to Approach a Self-Build Home in London

27th September 2021

Constructing a new build home in London from the ground up will prove challenging for most homeowners, who have little experience in the construction industry. TV shows make this clear, with the highs and lows of project management and the inevitable tears when unexpected issues mean that that they are not going to be ‘in the house for Christmas.’ The challenge begins before the foundations are even excavated: with the question of how should you decide the type of house you want? And, find an architect who can make that vision a reality.

In terms of the scale and design of your future home, you are going to need to decide what you will use as your main driver. Are you open to having a non-standard floor plan? In which case you can utilise awkwardly shaped plots and backland sites. Or are you looking for a more traditional home with the benefit of things like off-street parking and a large garden? If that is the case, then more of your budget will need to be allocated for the site purchase as these types of sites are hotly contested when they become available.

Most homeowners who decide to self-build in London end up opting for smaller sites, but this doesn’t mean that the final home has to feel low-quality. A good design team will be able to think creatively to make the best use of space and create a home with bespoke features that fit your way of life. RIBAJ, The Architects’ Journal and Don’t Move, Improve! all run competitions which celebrate the best compact, contemporary designs being created today. These awards can be a prime resource to find inspiration images and begin assembling a mood board and outline brief that you can take to your design team

Though tight sights are hard to develop, they can push designers to create truly unique designs; for example, a timber-clad house perched on blue stilts! The size of the site presents challenges for several reasons and one of those is amenity space. Though your home can be as compact as you want, there are legal, minimum standards set out within the London Space Standards documentation.

For your proposal to secure planning permission, it will need to satisfy the basic criteria; are the bedrooms large enough, is there sufficient storage space, are the main living spaces large enough is there sufficient room in the kitchen for food prep and eating. If you are considering building a family home, it is worth bearing in mind that the larger the home is, the more amenity space the home will need to have. Increasingly local authorities are trying to nudge homeowners towards sustainable modes of transport like cycling: all those bicycles have to go somewhere!

As the architect sketches through options for the home’s massing and form, and its scale grows up and outward, partly to fit in the space requirements, but also to capture good levels of daylight, the new home must not negatively impair the views light levels of existing properties. If the amenity of neighbouring properties is significantly affected then your planning application may face a lot of local opposition. Just as important as amenity is privacy, as with domestic extensions, no one wants neighbours peering into their garden or their bathroom.

If you’re lucky enough to find an empty plot or a rundown home that you can demolish and rebuild then your home could end up looking fairly traditional. We’ve recently secured planning and constructed a home in Brookham’s Park. You can check out the final result here. If there are many constraints though, contemporary infill homes sometimes have external envelopes that are cut, tapered and filleted creating interesting shapes and angles.

Despite the general complexity of securing planning permission in an urban area like London, we’ve built up years of expertise that means we have a good sense of whether the principle of the development seems likely to be approved based on the brief, location and potential constraints. Our goal is for you to enjoy a smooth process that results in you having a home that you love – therefore, we never take on a project where we feel that planning permission is unlikely to be approved. During the design stages, our team use their experience and up-to-date knowledge of planning policies to give your application the best chance of success.

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