Self-Build Pre Planning Advice

Self build planning, pre planning advice


In this Good to Know article, Planning & Building Regulations Manager, Scott Hunter, offers his self-build planning advice with tips on how you can best prepare for our planning service. Knowing what questions to ask early in the process can pay dividends later down the line as you work to keep your budget in check. The answers to these questions will also enable you to take key actions before engaging with our team and will shave time off the process helping you to reach the submission stage faster.




Establishing the status of services on your plot will impact your budget. The costs associated with connecting electric, water, gas, and communication services on site can be expensive, so if the plot is without services the price of the land should reflect this. You can obtain a quotation online from many local distribution network operators (DNOs) for a new electricity supply. The same applies to water companies.

Another consideration is whether the plot already benefits from a drainage connection. Establish if there is a mains sewer nearby. If not, you may need to make arrangements for private foul drainage. Is the site suitable for soakaways? If not, you might need to connect to a local watercourse (burn, ditch, river) or a SUDS arrangement. This is valuable information to have early in the process, as it could significantly impact your budget.


Understanding the planning history of your plot is vital. You may be able to access information online via your local authority’s planning portal. Establish whether your plot benefits from Planning In Principle (PPP) or Full Planning. Check to see if any pre-planning advice has previously been sought, as this could give an idea of your local authority’s priorities. It’s good to know if the plot has had any planning refused in the past and why. Reviewing planning applications in the local vicinity will indicate what your local authority usually asks for as part of a planning application. For example, if they always request design and construction method statements, you will likely need these too.

Neighbours and Boundaries

Starting off on the right foot with your new neighbours is vital. It’s a good idea to check if they have previously objected to planning applications on your site. If they have, what were their reasons? This could be a good indicator of things to avoid in your application and help you to take a collaborative approach that wins your neighbours over. Boundary lines can be a highly contentious issue. Utilise the land registry to ensure that you are clear and content with what you plan to purchase.


It’s a good idea to check whether your plot has narrow access roads, low bridges, overhead power cables, or drains running through the site, which can add complexity and potentially add costs to your project budget.


Assess how easy it is to access your site. Can the plot be accessed safely? Does it have good visibility each way? Do you have rights of access over the verge? Highways will consider all these aspects in their consultation. There will also be a requirement for a certain level of parking within the plot, so you must consider whether this can be achieved with the house design you are considering.

Ground conditions

Poor quality ground can lead to expensive foundation solutions or costly drainage arrangements if porosity is poor. It is hard to assess ground conditions from a walk over the site, so ask the land seller if any site investigation has taken place in the past, and if so, ask them to share it.




Prior to engaging a designer, consider your overall budget. Having a clear idea of your maximum budget and what you can achieve in relation to floor area will help eliminate false starts and dashed hopes at the outset. Use our online Cost Calculator to explore indicative ballpark costs.

Adjacent properties

The appearance of adjacent properties can influence the design of your home. If all the houses in the local environs have white render and slate roofs, there is a likelihood this could be dictated for your home too. If there is a mix of property types, there will be more scope in relation to the aesthetics of your build. Surrounded by 3-storey dwellings, then it is unlikely a planning application for a bungalow will be approved.


Materials need to be considered early as they can influence the design of your home. If you have a specific build palette in mind, let our designers know; this can be reflected in your design. External materials can differ widely in cost, so it is important to research your preferred products early in the process.

Planning policies

Check if your local authority has any specific planning policies that need to be adhered to and whether there are design guides that need to be followed. Many councils require new builds to achieve high energy efficiency, which may influence your specification choices.

Building regulations

Consider building regulations requirements in your design. Your architect or our building regulations team can provide the advice you need, for example, a large quantity of south-facing glazing is unlikely to pass overheating calculations, and a 3-storey building will require additional fire regulation measures.



Not all planning applications require the same surveys. To get an idea of what your local authority might ask for, review planning applications made by surrounding properties and take note of the common surveys requested. You could be required to produce an ecology survey, or if a watercourse is nearby, a flood risk assessment could be required, and in conservation areas, a heritage statement is likely.

Site plan and Location Plan

You can often obtain this from the plot particulars. As part of the planning process, we need to know the precise plot boundaries to ensure the house will fit. This information may also be available online in old planning applications.

Topographic Surveys

A topographical survey provides accurate levels for the site, including the boundaries and tree locations. It is required so that a finished floor level can be set for planning and so that existing and proposed ground levels can be demonstrated. A ‘topo’ can also provide the floor level, eaves level, and ridge level of adjacent properties. This information can help ensure that the proposed design for your home is not higher than surrounding properties. If you have already obtained a topographical survey for your site, this will speed up the delivery of our planning service and help reduce timescales.

Tree Survey

If the boundary of the site is fringed with trees it is possible a tree survey will be required to accurately depict the location of the trees, the quality of the trees, and tree route protection zones.


If there is an indication from the site history of contention surrounding a house on your site, an image showing the property in its surroundings may help to alleviate these concerns. Computer-generated images (CGIs) offering a life-like depiction can be a powerful way to help justify your design and support your application for planning.

If it becomes clear during your investigations that you need to obtain a large number of surveys, this is a good indication that you might want to appoint a planning consultant to your team. A consultant local to your area who is familiar with the local plan is advised.



Different councils have their own validation requirements. Take time to assess the requirements of your local authority and consider their requirements as early as possible so as not to delay the submission of your application.

If you have made an offer on a plot subject to planning, there is a requirement to provide the owner with notification of your intention to submit a planning application on their land. You will need to have these details on hand.

Decide who you would like to act as your agent. We will act as agents on most projects, however, where there is a tricky history or a requirement for multiple surveys, you may wish to seek self-build planning advice from a planning consultant. We often work closely with planning consultants to find the best solution for your project.

If you have any questions on how to prepare for our free planning service or need further self-build planning advice drop us an email at

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