How to Keep Your Self Build Going in Lockdown

The 2020 UK lockdown brought many challenges to self-builders. Get some advice from Potton on how to keep your project moving.

Keep your self build going during lockdown

13 Apr 2020



We’re in unprecedented times and there is a great deal of uncertainty about when and how we will return to normality. None of us are exempt from this uncertainty, self-builders included, but it’s worth taking some time now to think about how you can best move your project forward over the coming weeks and months. The steps you can take to keep your self build going will vary depending on what stage you’re at so, hopefully, in the rest of this article we’ll give you some food for thought and positive steps to help you move forward.

Our self build resource library has a wealth of helpful information and our team is still available to provide advice whatever point you’re at in your journey. Throughout this time we’ll be working hard to bring you new online content from the Potton Self Build Academy so keep an eye out for more Facebook live sessions – we’ll make these more interactive as we get the hang of things so that we can better recreate the feel of a real face to face seminar – remember those!

Thinking stage

If you’re at the start of your self build journey then there’s loads you can do. Start with working out your total budget, and you can use our guide to establish how much it might cost to build the size of home you want. Research land prices where you want to live, and check you have the budget to meet your aspirations.

Looking for land takes time and genuine application, but lockdown gives many of us the time to do research that we wouldn't normally have. Success comes to those who are disciplined and focused so re-purpose the kitchen table and work as a family. It’s not a good idea to go visiting potential plots in distant locations at the moment so stick to desktop research for the time being.

Before you’ve found a plot don’t fall in love with a particular design of house. Fall in love with housing and start listing out your must haves and wants. Your eventual design will always be a combination of what you want, what you can afford and what the planners will allow.

Use a scrapbook or Pinterest to keep track of design ideas and review these regularly, as your views will evolve over time. Once you’ve found a plot then start thinking about what might work in that particular location – hence me saying fall in love with housing rather than a particular style of house.

If you think you’ve found a plot then it needs to be appraised. We have some useful info here but at this stage it’s probably worth making contact with us directly to get our professional opinion on the land you’ve found. If the plot still stacks up after a thorough technical, commercial and planning appraisal then it’s time to start designing.

Design stage

We’re still designing! Our architects and designers are still hard at work, so if you have a new project to start then get in touch at We’ll need to take a thorough design brief from you and agree the parameters of what will and won’t be possible to get planning permission. Don’t rush your design, most people only self build once so take the time to get it right but also make sure you follow the professional advice from your design and planning team.

This is a good time to start refining your build costs to make sure you don’t end up with a house you can’t afford to build.

Planning stage

We’re still submitting planning applications and receiving permissions for people already working with us. It’s likely that planning periods will extend during the Coronavirus crisis as local authority staff self-isolate and many work from home – this is to be expected and understood. Many planning committee meetings are also being cancelled so more complex or contentious applications may well end up being refused rather than sent to committee.

Do make sure that your planning submission is comprehensive and that the planners have all the information they need to make a decision. If you submit insufficient information then your application will not be validated and won’t even cross the start line. It will be helpful at this time to make your application in a way that attempts to minimise the number of conditions received with your permission. These conditions are usually the small print that comes with planning permission applications.

Make sure that if the community infrastructure levy (CIL) applies you submit the paperwork to claim your exemption with the planning application. You must not start work on site before confirming that your exemption is in place.

Be proactive, whilst your planning application is running. Use the time to get material quotes, identify suitable contractors and understand lead times. It’s an ideal time to finalise your finances as well, so if you need to borrow money then talk to the experts at As usual we have a wealth of information to help you in our self build resource library, but do talk to us about your specific circumstances as everyone is different.

Post planning

This is arguably where the real work begins – keep a look out for our Facebook Live sessions and YouTube videos on how to make progress once planning permission has been granted. These will be extracts from arguably our most popular Self Build Academy course “Got planning. What Next?”. Make sure to ask your self build consultant for our pre-construction checklist and budget tracker. Effort now will mean that when you are ready to start work on site everything will be sorted and you can motor ahead.

As soon as you get permission start working on clearing the conditions you receive. Some permissions get only three conditions others maybe over 20! Work out if you need professional help to address them (eg. arboriculture, ecology, archaeology) or if you can submit them yourself (eg. materials). Group the submissions together to reduce costs and keep it simple for the planners, a piecemeal submission will not be helpful at the moment.

If you haven’t already done so then carry out your ground investigations now so that your foundation design can be completed. Make sure your design team are progressing the technical design necessary to satisfy building control to enable contractors to begin work on site. A benefit of working with a package company like Potton is that we can take care of most of this for you and you won’t have to co-ordinate multiple designers and suppliers – we do it in the background.

Ensure that everyone is taking their health and safety obligations seriously so that the requirements of the construction design and management regulations are met. If your working with us then we will be your principle designer and will already have issued your health and safety file, carrying out the principal designer’s risk assessment. Make sure you understand who the principal contractor is, if your self-managing then it’s probably you. If you’re working with a project manager or builder then it should be them. Don’t panic or let this put you off self-managing. We can help you through it and every professional sub-contractor should provide you with their risk assessments and method statements before starting work on site. One of the things you will need to do is produce a construction phase plan and this brilliant app from the CITB will guide you.

Build stage

Every build needs a project manager. It might be you, it be a builder or it might be a professional project manager. Make sure that whoever it is understands the requirements of the role properly. If it’s not you then be clear what you expect. To help, we run a FREE course on How To Manage Your Build.

Part of the role is managing information so make sure you have all your project paperwork, and there will be quite a lot of it to hand. Some of it’s about managing people and expectations around quality of work and some of the role is about managing the unknown. For example a late delivery, missing items and the plasterer whose gone on holiday for a week.

It is possible to work on site safely at the moment providing appropriate measures are taken and there is good advice available on this from the Construction Leadership Council. The key thing is to not flood the site with trades so that those present are content to work and maintain an appropriate social distance from each other. We have noticed that groundworkers are particularly keen to keep working as the weather is warming up and it is relatively easy for them to work safely, providing they travel to site separately. Whether work can continue on your site will depend on the stage you are at and whether the supply chain can provide you with the materials you need. Most construction product suppliers are closed at the moment or supplying only essential projects.

Our factory is closed at the moment but we are planning to re-open as soon when it is sensible to do so. We are in daily discussion with our supply chain to make sure that we have all the materials are available when the time is right to start.

For the time being, however, the message remains; Stay at home. Protect the NHS. Save Lives.