Choosing a plot of land for your self-build

Choosing the right plot of land for a self-build home is crucial. Here are some factors to think about…


Obviously, choosing a plot able to accommodate the shape and size of home you want is crucial, but you'll also want to think about orientation: which rooms will get the sun and when? Don't forget space for the garden too, and the position of your garden – south-facing gardens get the most sun, and the aspect will affect what type of plants grow best.

Level of the land

If the land slopes, you may need to level it out, which will add to the cost, or build a split-level house (not a bad thing – they can look amazing) or a basement. You should have the plot checked by a structural engineer to make sure it's suitable for a new build. On the plus side, the potential extra difficulty involved is likely to mean the plot is cheaper.


You need to check that the soil isn't contaminated by former industrial or agricultural use, and that significant subsidence (the ground shifting) isn't a risk. Your architect or the district or borough council’s building inspector may know what type of soil the land has; if not, you may need to have a soil survey done to see how stable it is and how much water it contains, as this will affect the type of foundations you need and consequently the cost. Soil and water samples will also reveal the extent of any contamination.


Radon is a radioactive gas known to cause lung cancer in people exposed to it long term; it can be released when the ground is dug into. Levels are higher in some parts of the country than others; visit ukradon.org to see if your area is at risk.

Flood risk

About ten per cent of land in the UK is at risk of flooding, according to consultants the LK Group. If this applies to a plot you're considering, you'll need to have a flood risk assessment done as part of your planning application, and may need to take measures to protect your home, which will add to the cost. We would advise thinking carefully about such plots.

Access. Is the plot easy to get to all year round, or are you likely to be snowed in during winter? Would you have difficulty getting to hospital in an emergency?

Local authority searches and site survey

A local authority search is a request to the council for information about the land. It covers a variety of points, including:

  • whether the land is protected (for example, in a conservation area)
  • any tree protection orders
  • whether the land has planning permission

You will also need a site survey by a surveyor, which maps the land and its natural and manmade features, such as boundaries, trees, drains and height of the land.

South east London architects Bluelime Home Design has been designing new homes and extensions across DartfordBromleyErithBexley and Croydon since 2006. Call us on 01322 517632 to chat about the architectural services we offer or to arrange a free architect consultation.

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