Self-build showcase at Hethel Engineering Centre presents new ideas for future of housebuilding in England

Rosemary and Ron Beattie, directors of Beattie Passive, at the company's Self-Build Showcase at the Hethel Engineering Centre. Picture: Bethany Whymark

Rosemary and Ron Beattie, directors of Beattie Passive, at the company's Self-Build Showcase at the Hethel Engineering Centre. Picture: Bethany Whymark


England should look to a more European model of housebuilding and give control to homeowners themselves.

This was the message of a self and custom build showcase, hosted by innovative construction company Beattie Passive, which aimed to show prospective buyers a bespoke, more eco-friendly – and potentially more cost-effective – alternative to the traditional residential market.

Now in its third year, the event at the Hethel Engineering Centre, co-hosted by Cleantech East, featured exhibitors from smart-home and solar panel providers to architects and planning consultants.

Speakers covered topics like how to design a custom built home, how to finance it, and how to make it “smart” with remote technology to control heating, lights and sound systems.

Ron Beattie, who runs Hethel-based business Beattie Passive with his wife Rosemary, said: “Until now England has been dominated by big housebuilders. On the continent around 80% of homes are built by small companies or are self-built – in the UK it is only around 20%. I think we can manage 40-50% in time.

“We want to open the market up in Norfolk to get people to understand what a custom build is, and stimulate more building and more choice.

“We are enabling a system which will allow houses to be built by anyone, anywhere.”

The majority of self-builders are older individuals or couples, some of whom have outgrown old family homes – known as “empty nesters” – but Mr Beattie hopes to help open the self-build market to younger generations.

He added that there needed to be a change in the national mortgage market, which can be more obstructive for self-builders.

Calum Taylor, a director of the National Custom and Self Build Association and a “serial” self-builder, said those designing their own home could save as much as 25-30% compared to the cost of buying a finished property, depending on how active a role they played in its design.

“Self building is a very rewarding experience. It enables people to have a high quality home they may not be able to afford otherwise or cannot find on the open market. For many people it can be a way onto the housing ladder,” he said.

He also cautioned against taking precedent from self-build TV shows like Grand Designs. “What makes good television is not what makes your typical self-build journey.”

Among the speakers was South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon, who shared details of the Self-build and Custom Housebuilding Act he is spearheading.

The 2015 act requires all local authorities to keep a register of people and associations interested in purchasing land for self or custom builds, as acquiring land remains one of the biggest impediments to the self-build process.

Are you embarking on a self-build project? Let us know – email

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