Useful information for building a new home and costs that get missed

The journey of building a new home involves navigating through various aspects, from financial assistance schemes to reclaiming VAT, understanding brownfield sites, building in greenbelt areas, and utilising Class Q planning for rural barn conversions.

Beginning with financial support, the Help to Build Scheme (England) encourages individuals to construct their homes, thus diversifying housing options and increasing supply. This scheme provides equity loans, easing financial burdens and promoting innovation in housing design.

Reclaiming VAT on self-build houses is another significant financial incentive, reducing construction costs by allowing individuals to claim VAT refunds on various construction-related expenses.

Brownfield sites, once industrial or commercial areas, offer opportunities for urban regeneration. Despite challenges like contamination, redeveloping these sites helps preserve green spaces and meet housing demands sustainably.

In contrast, building in greenbelt areas is tightly regulated to preserve open spaces and prevent urban sprawl. Exceptions are made only under specific circumstances and rigorous planning scrutiny.

Class Q planning facilitates the conversion of agricultural buildings into homes, supporting rural development while preserving heritage and character.

Structural engineers play a crucial role in ensuring building safety, stability, and compliance with regulations. Gas Safe engineers are essential for gas-related work, safeguarding against carbon monoxide risks.

Costs often overlooked in construction include site preparation, permits, and interior finishes, while asbestos removal and hiring qualified engineers are critical for safety and compliance.

Navigating these complexities requires collaboration with local resources and professionals like building control and planning departments. By prioritising safety, quality, and expertise, one can navigate the new build journey with confidence and peace of mind.

For more information click on the relevant section
Help to Build Scheme
Reclaiming VAT on your self-build house
What are Brownfield sites?
Can you build in greenbelt areas?
Class Q planning for rural barn conversions explained
Costs that get forgotten when building a new build
Asbestos removal
Why do I need a gas safe engineer?
Why do I need a structural engineer?
Useful local contact numbers


Help to Build Scheme (England):

The Help to Build Scheme (England) is a government initiative aimed at supporting individuals who wish to build their own homes, contributing to an increase in housing supply and offering more personalised housing options. Launched to stimulate the self and custom build housing sector, the scheme provides financial assistance in the form of equity loans, which helps to reduce the financial barriers typically associated with building a home from scratch.

Under the Help to Build Scheme, eligible applicants can receive an equity loan worth between 5% and 20% of the total estimated cost of their new home, or up to 40% in London due to higher property prices. This loan can be used to cover various expenses, including purchasing land, securing planning permissions, and construction costs. The financial support from the scheme makes it easier for individuals to obtain additional funding through traditional mortgages, thereby enabling more people to embark on self-build projects.

One of the key benefits of the Help to Build Scheme is its potential to promote housing diversity and innovation. By facilitating self and custom builds, the scheme encourages homeowners to design properties that meet their specific needs and preferences, which can include features such as energy-efficient technologies, sustainable materials, and unique architectural designs. This level of customization is often not possible with standard new-build homes, thus contributing to a more varied and interesting housing stock.

Additionally, the scheme is part of a broader governmental effort to address the housing shortage in England. By empowering more individuals to build their own homes, the scheme aims to increase the overall housing supply and provide more affordable options. This can also stimulate local economies by boosting demand for construction services, materials, and other related industries. The Help to Build Scheme is therefore a crucial component of the government’s strategy to create a more dynamic and resilient housing market.

In conclusion, the Help to Build Scheme (England) represents a significant step towards making self-building a more accessible and attractive option for a wider range of people. By offering financial support and encouraging the development of custom-built homes, the scheme not only addresses housing shortages but also promotes innovation and sustainability in the housing sector.

Reclaiming VAT on your self-build house

Reclaiming VAT (Value Added Tax) on a self-build house in the UK is a valuable financial incentive designed to reduce the overall cost of constructing a new home. This provision allows individuals who are building their own homes to reclaim VAT on a range of goods and services used in the construction process, effectively making the self-build project more affordable.

To reclaim VAT on your self-build house, you need to ensure that the property is eligible under the VAT refund scheme. The house must be a new build, and it must be intended for residential use by the individual reclaiming the VAT. Extensions, conversions, or renovations of existing properties do not typically qualify under this scheme. Additionally, the house must be completed and ready for habitation before a VAT refund can be claimed.

The process of reclaiming VAT involves several steps. First, you need to keep detailed records of all the VAT-inclusive invoices and receipts related to the construction of your new home. These documents must be submitted along with your VAT refund claim. It’s essential to ensure that the invoices are made out in your name and clearly state the VAT amount charged. The claim must be submitted to HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) within three months of completing the construction, and it typically takes a few months for HMRC to process the refund.
Items eligible for VAT reclamation include building materials, certain services like architect fees, and other construction-related expenses. However, not all costs can be reclaimed; for example, some professional fees and non-residential elements like detached garages may not be eligible. It’s crucial to consult the detailed guidelines provided by HMRC or seek advice from a VAT expert to understand the specific inclusions and exclusions.
In summary, reclaiming VAT on a self-build house is a significant benefit for self-builders in the UK, helping to lower the financial burden of constructing a new home. By following the correct procedures and keeping meticulous records, individuals can effectively reduce their construction costs through VAT refunds. This scheme not only makes self-building more financially viable but also supports the broader goal of increasing the supply of custom-built homes in the housing market.

What are Brownfield sites?

Brownfield sites are areas of land that have previously been developed and used for industrial or commercial purposes but are now vacant, derelict, or underused. These sites often have existing infrastructure in place, such as roads, utilities, and buildings, which can sometimes be repurposed for new development. The redevelopment of brownfield sites is a key component of urban regeneration strategies, aiming to revitalize neglected areas and reduce urban sprawl by making use of land that has already been impacted by human activity.
One of the significant advantages of developing brownfield sites is their potential to alleviate pressure on greenfield sites, which are undeveloped areas of land, often in rural or suburban locations. By focusing on brownfield redevelopment, policymakers aim to preserve natural landscapes and agricultural land, thereby protecting biodiversity and maintaining green spaces. Additionally, redeveloping brownfield sites can help to address housing shortages and meet urban growth demands within existing urban boundaries.

Brownfield sites, however, often come with challenges that must be addressed before redevelopment can occur. These sites may be contaminated with hazardous substances due to previous industrial activities, requiring extensive and costly remediation efforts to ensure the land is safe for new uses. This process involves assessing the extent of contamination, planning and executing cleanup strategies, and obtaining necessary regulatory approvals. Despite these challenges, successful brownfield redevelopment can bring substantial benefits, including environmental cleanup, economic revitalisation, and community improvement.

Government initiatives and incentives play a crucial role in promoting the redevelopment of brownfield sites in the UK. Policies such as tax incentives, grants, and streamlined planning processes are designed to encourage developers to invest in these often-overlooked areas. By transforming brownfield sites into viable residential, commercial, or mixed-use developments, these initiatives aim to create vibrant, sustainable communities, enhance property values, and stimulate local economies.
In summary, UK brownfield sites represent a significant opportunity for urban renewal and sustainable development. While they present challenges due to potential contamination and redevelopment costs, the benefits of repurposing these sites include preserving green spaces, addressing housing needs, and revitalizing communities. Government support and strategic planning are essential to unlocking the potential of brownfield sites and ensuring their successful integration into the urban fabric.

Can you build in greenbelt areas?

Building in UK greenbelt areas is generally restricted due to the policies designed to protect these regions from urban sprawl and preserve their character. Greenbelts are designated zones of open land surrounding urban areas, intended to maintain the distinct boundaries between town and countryside, prevent the merging of towns, and provide accessible green spaces for recreation and agriculture. The fundamental aim of greenbelt policy is to keep land permanently open, and this means that new construction in these areas is tightly controlled.

Planning permission for new buildings in greenbelt areas is only granted under exceptional circumstances. The National Planning Policy Framework (NPPF) outlines specific instances where development may be considered appropriate, such as for agricultural buildings, outdoor sports facilities, and limited infilling in villages. In addition, the NPPF allows for the redevelopment of previously developed (brownfield) sites within the greenbelt, provided that it does not have a greater impact on the openness of the greenbelt than the existing development.

Local authorities have a significant role in managing greenbelt land and assessing applications for development. They must balance the need for new housing and infrastructure with the imperative to protect the greenbelt’s environmental and recreational functions. Proposals for building in the greenbelt are often subject to rigorous scrutiny, including public consultations and detailed assessments of potential environmental impacts.
There are occasional instances where the boundaries of greenbelt areas are reviewed and altered to accommodate new development, especially where there is an acute need for housing. Such changes are typically made through local plans, which are subject to public examination and must demonstrate that all other options for development have been exhausted. These adjustments are relatively rare and are made with the intent to ensure that the overall integrity and purpose of the greenbelt are maintained.
In summary, while building in UK greenbelt areas is possible, it is highly restricted and generally only permitted under specific, exceptional circumstances. The policies governing greenbelt land aim to protect the countryside from urban encroachment, preserve the natural environment, and provide open spaces for the community. Any proposals for development in these areas must navigate a stringent planning process and demonstrate a clear justification for why they should be allowed.

Class Q planning for rural barn conversions explained

Class Q planning in the UK allows for the conversion of agricultural buildings, such as barns, into residential dwellings without the need for full planning permission. Introduced under the Town and Country Planning (General Permitted Development) (England) Order 2015, Class Q aims to support rural development by enabling the adaptive reuse of redundant or underused farm buildings. This provision is particularly significant for rural communities, offering opportunities to create new homes while preserving the character and heritage of agricultural structures.

To qualify for Class Q permitted development rights, several criteria must be met. The building must have been used solely for agricultural purposes as part of an established agricultural unit on or before 20th March 2013. The total floorspace of the building must not exceed 465 square meters, and the conversion can result in a maximum of five dwellings. Additionally, the external dimensions of the building cannot be extended beyond the existing structure, although necessary structural changes to facilitate the conversion, such as adding windows or doors, are permitted.

Despite the streamlined process, developers must still submit a prior approval application to the local planning authority (LPA). This application assesses specific aspects of the proposed conversion, including transport and highways impacts, noise, contamination risks, flooding risks, and the overall design and external appearance of the building. The LPA has the authority to approve or reject the application based on these considerations, ensuring that the conversion is suitable and sustainable for residential use.

Class Q planning has become a popular option for those looking to repurpose rural barns into homes, offering a pathway to increase rural housing stock without the complexities of a full planning application. This approach helps to maintain the rural character and historical value of agricultural buildings, while also addressing housing needs in the countryside. However, it is crucial for developers to carefully assess the structural integrity and suitability of the barn for conversion, as not all agricultural buildings may be viable candidates for residential use.

In summary, Class Q planning facilitates the conversion of agricultural buildings into residential dwellings, providing a practical solution for rural housing development. By meeting specific criteria and obtaining prior approval from the local planning authority, developers can transform unused barns into homes, preserving rural heritage and contributing to the local housing supply. This planning provision supports sustainable development in rural areas, balancing the need for new housing with the preservation of the countryside’s character and history.

Costs that get forgotten when building a new build

When building a new home, many costs can slip through the cracks of the initial budget, leading to unexpected financial strain. One of the most commonly forgotten expenses is the cost of site preparation. This includes land clearing, grading, and excavation. If the plot is uneven, rocky, or heavily wooded, these costs can be substantial. Additionally, soil testing is crucial to ensure the land is suitable for building, and addressing any issues discovered during testing, such as poor soil quality or drainage problems, can add further costs. These preparatory steps are essential for a stable foundation but are often overlooked in the initial budgeting process.

Another significant yet often forgotten cost is related to permits and inspections. Local authorities require various permits to ensure the construction adheres to building codes and regulations, and each permit comes with its own fee. The process doesn’t end with obtaining permits; ongoing inspections are required at different construction stages to ensure compliance with safety and quality standards. Each inspection can incur additional fees, and failing to budget for these can lead to delays and increased costs if any rework is needed to pass inspections.

Interior finishes and upgrades represent another area where costs can escalate unexpectedly. While builders typically include standard finishes in their base price, many homeowners opt for higher-end materials for flooring, countertops, cabinetry, and fixtures. These upgrades can significantly increase costs, especially if chosen after construction has started, as changes often come with a premium. Customization requests or alterations to the original design can also result in additional labour and material costs, making it crucial to have a clear and detailed plan from the outset.

Asbestos removal

Asbestos was extensively used in construction until its ban in 1999 due to its serious health risks. Consequently, when undertaking any building or renovation project, it’s crucial to assess whether asbestos is present and take appropriate action to manage it safely. Hiring a professional asbestos surveyor is the recommended course of action to accurately identify asbestos-containing materials (ACMs) and assess the risks they pose.

There are two main types of asbestos surveys in the UK: Management surveys and refurbishment/demolition surveys. Management surveys are conducted to locate and assess the condition of ACMs that could be disturbed during normal occupancy, maintenance, or everyday activities. Refurbishment/demolition surveys are more intrusive and are required before any refurbishment or demolition work to locate and manage ACMs that may be disturbed during the proposed work.

Asbestos can come in various colours, with each type having different implications for health risks and handling procedures. The most common types are white (chrysotile), brown (amosite), and blue (crocidolite). While all types of asbestos are hazardous, blue and brown asbestos are considered more dangerous due to their needle-like fibres, which can penetrate deep into the lungs when inhaled, increasing the risk of asbestos-related diseases such as mesothelioma and asbestosis.

The costs involved in asbestos surveys and removal can vary depending on factors such as the size and complexity of the property, the number of samples taken, and the accessibility of ACMs. Management surveys typically cost less than refurbishment/demolition surveys, as they are less intrusive. Additionally, the presence of asbestos can significantly increase renovation or demolition costs, as proper removal and disposal are essential to prevent exposure and comply with regulations. It’s crucial to factor in these costs when planning a construction project to ensure compliance with health and safety regulations and protect the health of workers and occupants.

Why do I need a gas safe engineer?

Hiring a Gas Safe engineer is essential for ensuring the safety and compliance of any gas-related work in your home or business. Gas appliances, such as boilers, water heaters, cookers, and fires, pose significant risks if not installed, maintained, and repaired correctly. A Gas Safe engineer is specially trained and qualified to work safely and competently with gas appliances, fittings, and pipework.

One of the primary reasons you need a Gas Safe engineer is to protect against the dangers of carbon monoxide poisoning. Carbon monoxide is a colourless, odourless gas that can be produced by faulty or poorly maintained gas appliances. Breathing in carbon monoxide can lead to symptoms such as headaches, dizziness, nausea, and even death in severe cases. Gas Safe engineers are trained to identify potential carbon monoxide risks and ensure appliances are properly ventilated and functioning correctly to minimise the risk of exposure.

Additionally, hiring a Gas Safe engineer is necessary to comply with legal requirements and regulations. In the UK, it is illegal for anyone to carry out gas work if they are not registered with the Gas Safe Register. This includes installation, maintenance, and repair of gas appliances and pipework. Using a Gas Safe engineer ensures that the work is carried out by someone who has undergone the necessary training and assessments to work safely with gas and is registered with the appropriate authorities.

Furthermore, Gas Safe engineers have the expertise to diagnose and repair gas appliance faults accurately. Attempting to fix gas appliances yourself or using unqualified individuals can not only be dangerous but may also void warranties and insurance coverage. Gas Safe engineers have access to the latest tools and equipment and stay up-to-date with industry standards and best practices, ensuring that any work carried out is done to a high standard and in compliance with regulations.

Ultimately, the safety of you, your family, and your property is paramount when it comes to gas appliances. Hiring a Gas Safe engineer gives you peace of mind that any gas-related work is being handled by a qualified professional who prioritises safety and compliance. Whether you need a new appliance installed, an annual service, or emergency repairs, always choose a Gas Safe engineer to ensure the job is done safely and correctly.

Why do I need a structural engineer?

A structural engineer plays a critical role in ensuring the safety, stability, and longevity of any building or structure. Whether you’re constructing a new building, renovating an existing one, or dealing with structural issues, hiring a structural engineer is essential for several reasons.

First and foremost, a structural engineer is trained to assess the integrity of a building’s framework and foundation. They have the expertise to design and analyse structures to withstand various loads, including the weight of the building itself, occupants, furniture, and environmental factors such as wind and seismic activity. By conducting thorough inspections and calculations, structural engineers can identify potential weaknesses or vulnerabilities in a structure and recommend appropriate measures to address them.

Moreover, when embarking on a construction project, a structural engineer is indispensable for ensuring compliance with building codes and regulations. Building codes outline specific requirements for structural design and construction to ensure the safety and stability of buildings. Structural engineers have in-depth knowledge of these codes and are responsible for ensuring that the structural elements of a building meet or exceed these standards. Failing to comply with building codes can result in costly delays, fines, or even unsafe living or working conditions.

Additionally, a structural engineer can provide valuable insights and solutions for optimising the design and functionality of a building. Whether you’re looking to maximise space, incorporate sustainable materials, or enhance energy efficiency, a structural engineer can offer creative and practical design solutions while still prioritising structural integrity. Their expertise can help architects, builders, and developers achieve their vision while ensuring that the building remains safe and stable for years to come.

Finally, in the event of structural damage or failure, a structural engineer is essential for assessing the extent of the damage, determining the root cause, and recommending appropriate repair or reinforcement measures. Whether it’s due to natural disasters, poor construction practices, or age-related deterioration, structural issues can compromise the safety and usability of a building if not addressed promptly and effectively. A structural engineer can provide expert guidance and oversight throughout the repair process to ensure that the structural integrity of the building is restored and maintained.

In summary, whether you’re building, renovating, or dealing with structural issues, the expertise of a structural engineer is indispensable for ensuring the safety, stability, and functionality of any structure. From initial design and construction to ongoing maintenance and repairs, a structural engineer plays a vital role in safeguarding the built environment and protecting the lives and well-being of occupants.

We hope that the points covered in this blog have provided valuable insights into the importance of various professionals, such as structural engineers and Gas Safe engineers, in your new build journey. Building a new home or structure is an exciting but complex process, and having the right expertise and guidance is essential for ensuring a successful outcome.

By understanding the roles and responsibilities of key professionals like structural engineers, you can make informed decisions that prioritise safety, compliance, and efficiency throughout the construction process. From initial design and planning to final inspection and maintenance, the expertise of these professionals can help navigate challenges, mitigate risks, and optimise the functionality and longevity of your new build.

As you embark on your new build journey, it’s crucial to have access to local resources and contacts who can provide further assistance and support as needed. Below are some local contact numbers that may be useful for addressing specific needs or inquiries related to your construction project:

By utilising these resources and collaborating with knowledgeable professionals, you can navigate the complexities of your new build journey with confidence and peace of mind. Building your dream home or structure is a significant investment, and by prioritising safety, quality, and expertise, you can ensure that your vision becomes a reality for years to come.

Useful local contact details:

Building regulations establish criteria for building design and construction to ensure the safety and well-being of individuals, including those with disabilities, both within and around buildings. Additionally, they aim to promote energy conservation and efficiency in buildings.

Building Control Cheltenham

Telephone: 01242 264321

Duty planning advice service Cheltenham

Telephone: 01684 272151

Gloucester Local Land Charges
Gloucester City Council, Local Land Charge Department, PO Box 2017, Pershore, WR10 9BJ

Telephone: 01452 396396

Drainage enquiries (Severn Trent Water Ltd)
Severn Trent Searches, PO Box 10155, Nottingham, NG1 9HQ

Telephone: 0115 971 3550

Highway enquiries (Gloucestershire County Council)
Highway Records, Gloucestershire County Council

Telephone: 01452 328977 or 328980

Building Control enquiries (Gloucestershire Building Control Partnership)
Gloucestershire Building Control Partnership, Stroud District Council, Ebley Mill, Ebley Wharf, Stroud, GL5 4UB

Telephone: 01453 766321

Local Plan

Pest Control


If you’re based around Cheltenham, Gloucester, or surrounding areas, we at PSK would love the opportunity to help you with your building project. Get in contact today.