Finding Land For Your Self Build: Understanding Site Types

Finding Land for Self Build

Finding the perfect plot of land is a critical step when embarking on a self build project. It sets the foundation for your dream home. As you begin finding land for your self build, you should carefully consider the different types of self build plots available. It’s important to make an informed decision that aligns with your overall vision for your self build project.


Greenfield Sites

Greenfield plots refer to undeveloped land in rural or suburban areas. They offer a blank canvas for your self build project. These untouched sites provide an opportunity to create a home from scratch that perfectly suits your requirements. Currently, the most common greenfield site is farmland. But other types of land (moorland, forests, or wildland) can also be sold as a greenfield site.

Benefits of using a greenfield site

Design freedom

With a greenfield plot, you have ultimate freedom in the design and position of your home. Everything can be created according to your vision. Greenfield plots allow you to take advantage of all the natural light available, plan around stunning views, and make use of all outdoor spaces to create your ideal living environment.

Provided you obtain planning permission, you can do whatever you like with a greenfield plot. You don’t need to worry about making your building match the design of the buildings around it – there may not even be many other buildings in the area.

Potential for eco-living

Building on a greenfield plot allows you to incorporate sustainable design features. Renewable energy systems such as solar panels or air source heat pumps are easier to implement when you are designing everything from scratch. Many people also dream of using their outdoor spaces to grow food and become partially or fully self-sufficient. By using a greenfield plot for your self build, you could minimise your environmental impact and embrace a more sustainable lifestyle.

Cost savings

Greenfield plots in rural areas are often more affordable compared to urban locations. With the potential cost savings from choosing a greenfield plot, you could save the money for other projects or allocate it to other aspects of your self build.

Because greenfield plots do not require demolition, site clearance, decontamination, or remediation, they can be cheaper to build on. Compared to brownfield sites, they may need less costly groundworks and preparation.

Drawbacks of using a greenfield site

High demand, high competition

Because these plots are often found in attractive rural and semi-rural locations, they are very popular with housing developers. Finding this type of land for your self build may prove challenging.

Limited infrastructure

Because greenfield sites are completely undeveloped at the time of your purchase, it may be difficult to access them. They may have limited infrastructure – or no infrastructure – and providing this may prove to be expensive. Similarly, these sites will likely have no water, gas, electricity, or sewerage. You will have to pay for the installation of these services if you want to live on the land.

Planning permission challenges

Some greenfield sites are situated within Areas of Outstanding National Beauty or National Parks, making it virtually impossible to get planning permission for them. In addition, there are often many objections to development proposals on greenfield sites from residents in the area. Many people are concerned about the damage to local wildlife habitats when greenfield sites are built on, as well as an increase in traffic levels.


Brownfield Sites

Brownfield plots are previously developed sites that may be found in urban or industrial areas. Generally, a brownfield site is not presently in use. They come in all shapes and sizes – from commercial or retail property to heavy industrial land, to former housing areas. Some examples of potential brownfield land includes: storage yards, airfields, military sites, steelworks, power stations or factories.

Benefits of using brownfield sites

Existing infrastructure

These sites are often located in established areas with existing infrastructure, such as water and electricity connections. This streamlines your building process, saving you time and money. You may also have good public transport links in place.

Opportunities for regeneration

Developing a brownfield plot contributes to urban regeneration efforts. By finding a brownfield plot for your self build, you can breathe new life into unused or derelict land. Sometimes brownfield lots are included within regeneration or development zones, so you could even receive grants or incentives to help you develop the land.

Convenient access to amenities

Brownfield sites are typically located close to amenities like schools, shops and transportation. This guarantees convenience and easy access to essential services for you as you live in your forever home.

Easier planning permission

Often, it is much easier to obtain planning permission for a brownfield site than a greenfield site. Local authorities and residents often want to see the area redeveloped, so they are less likely to object to your plans.

Drawbacks of brownfield sites

Less desirable locations

Brownfield land is sometimes situated in less attractive locations. For example, ex-industrial towns where land values are lower or near industrial areas that are still being used today.

Potential contamination

Brownfield sites may suffer from historical pollution. This requires remediation before construction can begin. Dealing with contamination can add time and cost to your self build project.

Planning constraints

There may be limitations on how you can develop brownfield sites. For example, some of the buildings may be listed and you may be required to preserve them. Or your design may have to match that of existing buildings in the area. Navigating through these regulations requires additional efforts and consultations.

Additional regulations

Building on brownfield land often requires compliance with strict environmental regulations and sustainability standards. If you are planning on finding brownfield land for your self build, you need to be prepared for additional layers of complexity on your self build project.


Infill and Backland Developments

Infill and backland developments involve building on small or vacant plots of land within existing urban areas. To maximise the potential of your self build, make efficient use of the space available. Finding land for your self build in existing urban areas requires much less preparation work than their greenfield or brownfield counterparts.

Benefits of infill and backland developments

Efficient use of space

These developments make the most out of the space available, contributing to the efficient use of land resources.

Established infrastructure

Infill and backland lots are usually already serviced by existing infrastructure such as utilities and access roads. This reduces the requirement for extensive installations and associated costs.

Access to amenities

These pieces of land offer convenient access to established amenities, services and transportation networks. By finding land for your self build in an infill or backland, you’re investing in a lifestyle that is well-connected and accessible.

Drawbacks of infill and backland developments

Limited space and design constraints

These plots are typically smaller than greenfield or brownfield sites. They may be subject to design constraints due to their location and proximity to existing structures. This can impact the size and layout of your self build home.

Planning approval challenges

Obtaining planning permission for infill and backland developments can be complex. You must consider access, privacy, and potential impact on neighbouring properties. Thorough planning and engagement with local authorities is crucial.

Construction disruptions

Building in well-established urban areas may involve dealing with potential disruptions, such as noise and limited on-site space. This can affect your construction process and you may need to coordinate carefully to get around the limitations.



No self build plot is completely perfect. There’s always caveats to work around and compromises to make. It’s important to understand the pros and cons of each type of self build plot. A comprehensive understanding of each type will help you to make an informed decision when finding land for your self build project.

If you feel overwhelmed by all the decisions involved in a self build, consider consulting with self build professionals. They will be able to give you expert advice on the benefits and drawbacks of various self build plots. Their advice will also be invaluable when it comes to complying with the various regulations and laws around self build projects.

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