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The first thing you need when it comes to your self build project is the land! This can be a big challenge Your first step will be working out what area you want your self build to be in, make sure you know the general area. Don't have your design drawn up before you find a plot. As often the constraints of the individual plot may be different to the design. Here are a few tips on where to find and how to buy land.

  • Finding a plot is the first step, to do this there are several different places to look Estate Agents, Land-finding services (The Self Build Adivsory Service provide a online plot finder), Newspapers, Selfbuild shows, local area, planning records and existing properties. Existing "run down" properties can provide you with the chance of demolition and your new home being built where they once stood. Other building lend themselves to conversion, for example barns, churches, signal boxes former railway stations etc...
  • Planning Permission is a key factor when buying a plot. DON'T buy a plot unless it has at least outline planning permission, which establishes the principle that a house can be built on the site. First check the date of the planning permission, outline planning permission expires after three years, unless an application for approval for full detailed planning permission is made within this time. Detailed planning permission will include ever detail of the project, size, style, layout, materials and access and drainage facilities. It is worth getting detailed planning permission prior to buying the plot, this isn't always possible/practical give the time constraints. We would suggest speaking to your local planning officer to find out whether you are likely to get detailed planning permission for what you want to build. YOU DO NOT HAVE TO OWN A PLOT TO MAKE AN APPLICATION.
  • Check the size of the plot to ensure your dream residence will fit. Next you should look at the land, see if levelling is required, this is a costly task. Ground conditions can influence the design and therefore cost of the foundations. So arrange a soil survey to be carried out. Assess obstacles on your plot, a telegraph pole may have to be moved and trees can affect the positioning of your house and the type of foundations. The orientation of the plot is also an important consideration, if will affect the amount of sun and shade that your home will get. Ask for a copy of the plan from the title deeds, this will give you the boundaries of legal ownership..
  • Access to the plot will require allot of vehicular access to a public highway, which meets highway safety standards, these standards concern visibility at the point of access on to the highway, construction of the kerb and crossover, the width and length of drive and parking/turning facilities. Even though planning permission may have been granted, if the highway safety standards cannot be met, the future of your self build may be jeopardised. Where a plot leads on to a private road, check that there is a right to use that road, and who is responsible for its maintenance. If there is no automatic right to cross between your plot and the highway then this could become a ransom strip. Should the owner not let you cross or buy it, you have no alternative than to buy a different plot.
  • Electricity, Telephone, Gas, Water, Sewerage are all key services which may need connection. You will need to budget for the pipes, wires etc... being brought to your plot.
  • When buying a plot it is important to check what planning restrictions have been set. As these may influence what type of house you can build. It is important you are aware of what these are and whey they apply. If you finda plot in the countryside, check for agricultural ties that could limit the occupancy of any house to someone working in agriculture. If you can't satisfy the restriction then DON'T BUY THE PLOT. Plots which are located with conservation areas and sites of special scientific interest are often subject to special planning policies that can determine the house design/size and the building materials which are used. You should also check for Tree Preservation Orders(TPO), these can apply anywhere and aim to minimise the effect your house will have on protected trees. Felling of cutting back a tree which has a TPO is against the law.
  • Before you buy a plot, makes sure you are aware of any right of way over your land, these could be in the form of easements, wayleaves, footpaths etc... In order to secure the purchase of a plot you may have to enter into a legal agreement with the vendor. Covenants are especially popular and are designed to prevent something happening on one piece of land that would disadvantage another.
  • Once you have found the plot, which has met all your criteria and you decide you want to buy it, you need to work out its value, so as to formulate your offer. To this you should look at what similar plots of have sold for in the local area. Then you need to work out exactly what can be built on your plot, this is done by looking at the planning permission. A plot with permission for a 800 square feet house could be worth twice the amount with permission for ahouse twice the size. Next you need to work out the cost of your build. which is largely influenced by the house size and materials used. Finally estimate what your finished house will be worth. This is important as the value of a plot is typically between 25 and 35 per cent of the value of the completed house. Based on these figures, and what the vendor expects, make a full offer in writing.

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