June 17, 2016
by admin

First day review

“When you tackle a self-build project, there’s a lot of information to take in and you can go in so many directions. It’s good to have a place like this with people you can trust.”

Today kicked off the start of the National Self Build and Renovation Show and it’s been a busy first day for us here at the NSBRC. The show provides the perfect opportunity to discover how the concept of ‘self building’ your home works, kick start a current project or simply explore the options for injecting new life into your existing home.

Our experts have been on hand all day, answering a wide variety of visitor’s questions and offering their professional advice to help solve problems big and small. With a line-up that includes project managers, designers, architects, planners and eco consultants, there is an expert who can help, no matter what your question.

Our seminars have proved extremely popular with visitors looking to learn more about the practical side of building their own homes before getting started on their projects. Covering everything from finding land to budgeting and financial planning, these talks are the perfect way to help visitors gain all of the information they need to ensure their project is successful, as well as picking up a few insider tips and tricks.

Highlights include Ben Adam-Smith’s seminar ‘What it’s really like to be a self-builder’, offering top tips for anyone looking to build an energy-efficient home. Self-Builder, Dean Scott hosted a seminar in our Build It Theatre, discussing how he turned his families ideas into a practical project – and how they decided where they were going to build and how they would pay for it. Dean is back at theshow on Sunday at 1pm and his talk really is not to be missed.

The Live Demo Zone has been really busy with a range of building systems put through their paces, offering people the chance to see sections of buildings being erected close up and Self-build Consultant, Mike Hardwick wrapped up our day with a ‘Self-Build Question Time’, offering visitors a chance to quiz a panel of experts on every aspect of self build from planning to managing projects. You can catch Mike’s Question Time again, this Saturday and Sunday at 1pm.

If you haven’t been able to make it today, there is still time to visit. The show is open Saturday & Sunday, with tickets available on the door, or via our website.Don’t miss out on this fantastic opportunity, and let us help you to make your dreams a reality.

July 13, 2015
by admin

We own this!

2015 is an exciting year for the NSBRC as we have become an Employee Owned Business with each member of the team having a genuine ownership of the business and a stake in its success.

As a member of the Employee Ownership Association we held a special networking event to mark ‘Employee Ownership Day’ on Friday 3rd July. Justin Tomlinson MP gave a welcome talk to over 60 local business people in attendance.

Many people recognise John Lewis and Waitrose as flourishing examples of employee ownership and similar to their own principles, your experience as a visitor to our Centre is hugely important to us.

Front of House Manager, Louise Jarmey, explains why being employee owned makes a difference: “We don’t see ourselves as working for the National Self Build & Renovation Centre, we are the National Self Build & Renovation Centre. Coming to work each morning is exciting, and we all feel the same passion for seeing the company thrive and are proud to be a part of its success. We are all working towards the same goal and we have seen a dramatic rise in the team spirit which has been noticed by our partners, clients and peers.

We love the fact that we can say ‘we own this!’.”

Our aim is to deliver irresistible customer service by following our five values which you might notice on display in our reception next time you visit the NSBRC:

‘Friendly’, ‘Connected’, ‘Authentic’, ‘Courageous’&‘Passionate’ (we love what we do!)

If you have any feedback that will help us achieve these values – please let any of the team know – We’ll be delighted to hear from you.

We hope you enjoy your next visit to the NSBRC and look forward to welcoming you back soon.


July 13, 2015
by admin

NSBRC Sponsors Swindon Half Marathon

The NSBRC is delighted to be a sponsor of the 2015 Swindon Half Marathon being held on Sunday 11th October.

Organised by SEQOL,the event now in its 12th year, offers different challenges to choose from – the half marathon, a five mile multi-terrain, a two mile fun run and a 1km wheelchair race.

Some of Team NSBRC will be putting on their trainers and running the 13.1 miles which takes in a combination of Swindon’s urban landscape and some of the best countryside in the UK.

We are supportingthe SEQOL Charity who enable people with various difficulties to make the very most of their lives.

Those of Team NSBRC not running will be on hand as ‘racemakers’ helping the event be the most successful yet.

Please note that due to our support of this event the NSBRC will be closed on Sunday 11th October.

More information on the Swindon Half Marathon and SEQOL can be found here: http://www.swindonhalfmarathon.org.uk/Home

February 3, 2015
by admin

Best Show Ever!

The National Self Build & Renovation Centre’s annual Self Build & Renovation Show saw the highest number of visitors through it’s doors since the show began back in 2007.

Over 3000 people visited for a weekend of free advice, expert talks and live exhibitions as well as interactive tours of our three live sized houses.

General Manager, Harvey Fremlin said “We are all delighted with the turnout, especially considering the cold weather, and to have seen our best visitor numbers ever made the show very special. It’s clear to us that the appetite for self build and renovation is very high and we look forward to seeing many of our show visitors back in the centre over the coming months.”

With more and more people working from home there is growing demand for dedicated domestic office space away from the main living area and this is playing a huge part in people extending or renovating their homes to make it a more useable space.

Over 13,000 people design and build their own bespoke homes in the UK each year and with recent Government initiatives to encourage people to self build, such as the exemption of the Community Infrastructure Levy and easing of planning restrictions, we are predicting record numbers at the NSBRC this year, as people look to us for good, impartial advice before and during their own projects.

At the National Self Build & Renovation Centre we offer everything you could possibly need to build or renovate your own home, FREE expert advice, planning and costing services as well as every possible home technology you can think of. Our Trade Village has over 200 exhibitors

with live displays and as much inspiration as you can get your hands on!

Visiting the centre is easy and FREE, we are open Tuesday to Sunday 10am – 5:30pm.

Our next show is The BIG Home Improvement Show on June 13th & 14th and FREE tickets can be pre-booked on our website www.nsbrc.co.uk, entry on the day is £5.

November 7, 2014
by admin

Winter Opening Hours

The Centre is open 6 days a week (closed every Monday) from 10:00 – 17:30

During December, we will be closed on Sundays, reverting back to our usual opening hours in January 2015.

Christmas Shutdown Period: The Centre will be closed from midday on 23rd December and re-opening on Saturday 3rd January.

November 6, 2014
by admin

2014 Self Build Courses – sold out!

We have seen a huge increase in the number of budding self builders prepare for their projects by completing our 3 day self build course. In fact we put on two additional dates over November and December – both of which have sold out! We receive outstanding feedback from this course such as:

  • A fantastic course, very informative and very enjoyable. Just what I needed.
  • We found it interesting, inspiring and at the same time entertaining, which is a hard combination to accomplish so congratulations. I should add that the material in the provided folder is superb and will be a useful resource for us for years to come.
  • A very good investment of my time and money

Our next Course date is 10th -12th January. Call 0845 223 4455 for more details.

Stuck for Christmas gift ideas? Looking for something a bit different? Why not book for a place on our self build course for 2015 – click here for more details and all of next years dates.

September 4, 2014
by Moira Blackledge

Bricklaying with Adrian – Top Tips!

KODAK Digital Still CameraOur resident Technical Expert Adrian Hateley has been putting his skills to good use with the creation of a new Bovingdon Bricks feature here at the NSBRC.

Demonstrating the versatility, shape, colour and choice of Bovingdon Bricks’ products, this new feature wall showcases the use of five different bricks with the installation of a pre-formed arch.  With the project nearing completion, we thought it would be a good opportunity for Adrian to share his top tips for successful bricklaying!


Tools Required:KODAK Digital Still Camera

  1. Spirit Level
  2. Trowel, Pointing Trowel or Bucket Handle/Jointer
  3. Tape Measure
  4. Lump Hammer & Brick Hammer
  5. Spade/shovel
  6. Chisel
  7. Bricklayers Line & Pins
  8. Mortar
  9. Brush
  10. Bucket

Top Tips

  1. Always try to lay bricks in dry conditions.
  2. Prepare the site in advance before your commence bricklaying and ensure you have all the necessary tools to hand, the correct mortar is mixed and you have ‘set out the bond’ (ie. you have lined up and accounted bricks).
  3. Carefully read supplier/manufacturer instructions regarding mortar mix.  You don’t want mortar to be any stronger than the brick, since this can aid spalling.
  4. To avoid efflorescence (white staining of bricks caused by salt residue), remember to cover your bricks when not in use, work in dry conditions, and if possible use quality materials  – for instance factory and quality controlled pre-bagged mortars and additives will always be better than site-mixed mortars and the use of latex additives for the mortar beds also helps to encapsulate the free salts that may be present.  Also think about the type of grout being used as this can also affect the amount of efflorescence that occurs. There are new types of grouts that can be used with stone that will not experience all of the typical inherent problems that cement-based grouts do.
  5. Always make sure your spirit level is level and true.KODAK Digital Still Camera
  6. Always try to mix at least three packs of bricks together to create a uniform ‘look’, stop variations and ‘bonding’ of the bricks.
  7. Try not to lay too much mortar down than you need as this will spill out over the face of the brick and stain the face.
  8. Remember to clean all tools after use.
  9. Always have correct PPE equipment, eg. gloves, goggles.
  10. Last by not least… a top tip learnt from my apprentice days – if it looks level and good to the eye, it will always pass.

 KODAK Digital Still Camera

Views expressed are that of Adrian Hateley and the National Self Build & Renovation Centre and not those of Bovingdon Bricks Ltd or any third party.

September 3, 2014
by Adrian Hateley

Self-build Choices Unfolded!

In my role here as technical advisor, I am very aware that there is still a belief with some people that self build is going to be an intensive, complicated, error-prone and maybe even physically demanding  process  from project conception through to build completion.  An aspiration for many but a possibility for only a limited few.  The reality is that this couldn’t be further from the truth….

Of course, you may wish to fully experience the whole hands-on self-build ‘journey’, then that’s certainly an option, but if you are concerned about managing the project, getting services to site, hiring architects or designers, organising contractors and tradespeople; or indeed are limited with time-constraints, resources or locality, a ‘full or partial build’ packaged service could provide you with the ideal solution.

french-fields-map_250x214_miniFinding the right plot of land has often been a bridge too far for many people but now, thanks to Government support and numerous initiatives, you now have more and more choice and opportunity to choose what, where and how you build!

We are now seeing a number of multi-plot sites being bought to market; where the roads, utilities and services have already been constructed, and planning permission is already in place for the site overall – allowing the self builder to customise the design and specification of their new home within an overarching design code – often with close support from a design company and project manager.

Full or Partial Build – Your Choice!

Over the past few years, I have seen a significant increase in the number of companies here at the Centre offering bespoke build packages for the self builder.  Of course, you still have the task of sourcing your desired plot, obtaining planning permissions (although some companies offer this service as part of their design package too) and, if required, finance but from there you have the choice to do as much or as little as you want.

Self -build can be daunting and challenging, especially if you are looking at achieving high standards of insulation & air tightness.  But help is on hand from companies such as Potton www.potton.co.uk who not only offer ‘foundation to roof’ solutions that entails design and project management services, but their Kingspan TEK SIPs Building System ensures that air leakage is minimised and the system is not compromised by repeating studwork.

Unsurprisingly, due to their thermal performance properties, speed, quality, flexibility and ease of on-site erection,  timber frame ‘kits’ are popular for those embarking on a self build project. For example, having initially met with Fleming Homes www.fleminghomes.co.uk here at their NSBRC offices, then sourced land, contracted groundworks, installed services and laid foundations, Mr & Mrs Fairley from West Wittering took delivery of their four-bedroom home which was erected on-site, windows site-fixed and made watertight by Fleming within two weeks ready for fixtures and fittings. Naturally timescales are all dependant on the design and complexity of the build, but it is possible to receive a watertight structure within a week.

Alternatively, companies such as Revolution Homes www.revolutionhomes.co.uk  offer a complete turnkey solution using build materials of your choice and budget such as thin joint modern masonry blockwork  through to the latest in ICF.

So What About Custom Build?

The term ‘custom build’ is synonymous with self-build but it tends to describe multi-plot sites being delivered to market with overarching planning permission in place; and with an ‘enabling developer’ who constructs the sites infrastructure – roads, gas, water, electricity, mains drainage etc. – maybe communal areas – and delivers a number of ‘serviced plots’ for sale.

There’s a lot of support from national and local government for this model of new housing deliver, and it’s seen as a way to deliver up to 50,000 new homes a year within 5 years, so expect to see a lot more sites springing up all over the country with the added support of local councils specifically making available land for Custom Build development.

I think this custom build model will appeal to more and more people – and not just your ‘traditional’ self builder, and again, the model lends itself well to those with little or no experience in self building.  I can even see this as an ideal solution for younger, first or second time homeowners, as many of these sites will offer more modest, but high-quality homes at very affordable prices.

To help the custom builder, many schemes will offer a menu of custom build options:  anything from providing a serviced building plot (that you then take over and organise everything on) to a full or partial packaged build – as covered previously.

There are a number of specialist custom build developers active in the UK, ranging from large nationwide companies that are planning to help hundreds of people to get the custom build homes they want every year, through to smaller local firms delivering just a handful of properties each year, and it’s a sector I would expect many more developers to become involved with.  So keep an eye out in your area!

potton1 french fieldsBuildStore, through its Custom Build Homes division has recently announced the French Fields Custom Build opportunity. Nestled in the Bold Forest Park greenbelt, with easy access to Warrington & St. Helens, the site comprises 18 individual building plots, with guide prices ranging between £135,000 and £150,000. As the lead developer for the project, Potton Homes will provide design, planning and structural packages to your individual specification. The expectation is that a typical four-bedroom house could be completed from just £285,000 in total (on the basis of £135,000 for the plot and £150,000 in construction costs). For more information visit www.pottoncustombuild.co.uk.

We’ve also seen the announcement of 1,000+ self build/custom build plots at the UK’s first graven hill custom buildlarge scale project of its type at Graven Hill, Bicester; and also a joint partnership between Swindon Borough Council and BuildStore to provide an initial 12 plots at Windmill Green, West Swindon and many others across the country, details of which can be found on www.selfbuildportal.org.uk. At the time of writing, the HCA (Homes & Communities Agency) has also announced up to 120 serviced plots, to be made available early next year at Trumpet Junction, Basingstoke.

So, if you’re  interested in the opportunity of undertaking a Custom build project, the first thing you should do is register your interest with the Custom Build Register www.custombuildregister.co.uk.  Used by local authorities, councils, private landowners and developers across the UK to ascertain demand, you will be notified of opportunities as soon as they become available in your selected area.  National Planning Policy now states that councils must measure the level of demand for self build in the area and make a provision for it, you are also more likely to build the home of your dreams in an area of your choosing.

To get the latest news, follow #custombuild & #selfbuild on Twitter!

ibuild aug sept_miniAs featured in the August/September issue of i-build magazine www.i-buildmagazine.com

August 13, 2014
by admin

Community Infrastructure Levy – The New Stealth Tax

Community Infrastructure Levy is a little known tax that is about to become infamous, as the Hartley family have found out to their cost. It has shattered their dream of building their new home; a look-a-like property to replicate a condemned Rectory, in the village of Abbot’s Ripton in Cambridgeshire.

What is the Community Infrastructure Levy?
The Community Infrastructure Levy, or CIL as it is known for short, was brought into being on the 6th of April 2010. It applies to developments where the development itself is 100 square metres or more. It is designed to gather money to help fund the infrastructure in the area where the development is located. The levy is borne by the developer. In cases where that developer is undertaking a large project on a commercial basis, the CIL collected by the local authority will go towards expanding things like:

• Transport
• Flood defences
• Schools
• Hospitals
• Various social care facilities

The bad news is that it will also affect private developments too.

Commercial Developers Can Afford it
In commercial projects, the developer will pass this cost on to the buyer in the overall cost of the property. But with private projects, such as that of the Hartleys, they must bear the costs themselves. In their particular case, (the development area is 450 square metres), the total community infrastructure levy amounts to an enormous £38,361.00! It is a sum that they cannot afford, and for that reason their dream may well have come to an abrupt and unhappy end.

Size Matters
There is a clause within the community infrastructure levy that states that where the development is 100 square metres or more, the area that is being demolished can be offset against the proposed development, square metre for square metre. You might therefore be excused for thinking that the Hartleys’ (with their development of 450 square metres) could offset the demolished area against the planned development area, thus negating or considerably reducing any CIL tax. Unfortunately, the clause goes on to say that the area to be demolished must previously have been in use up to the time it is due for demolishment. In the case of the condemned Rectory it has been empty for 3 years and does not therefore qualify.

Secret Squirrel
The Community Infrastructure Levy is not broadly known about. In fact in the case of the Hartleys, even their architects and solicitors were unaware of it! But although not broadly advertised, the CIL has already capsized thousands of home owners’ plans.

Is it Fair?
Arbitrary ceilings are all too often not based on sound research or actuality. The ceiling of 99 square metres might be alright for some, but not so for others, as is plainly the case with the Hartley family. When you analyse their dilemma, it is hard to justify the local authority’s decision to charge them such a huge sum of money to replace a building that was already there, and which has been vacant for 3 years.

A Little at a Time
The other thing that this ceiling will do of course, is to encourage would be developers to proceed in small chunks of 99 square metres or under at a time. It’s one way of avoiding costs, but it does have its downside. It adds to the developers’ costs, and increases their discomfort and inconvenience levels too.

Cutting off their Nose
By preventing the Hartleys from being able to proceed, it should also be borne in mind that the local authority are of course denying themselves any income that they would otherwise get through the rates. Lastly it seems rather incredulous to expect a family of four to have £38,561.00 worth of effect on the local infrastructure!

Forewarned is Forearmed
We at the NSBRC clearly feel for the Hartleys, and we hope that they may get some sort of help or reduction in community infrastructure levy if they appeal. But we are also very concerned that thousands of other home owners may not be aware of the existence of this stealth tax. The National Self Build Association is reporting that 1 in every 8 self-development projects are being abandoned due to CIL. So, if you are contemplating your own development, please check out the CIL fees in your local area before you go any further. You can find out more by visiting Community Infrastructure Levy – Guidance-Charges.


August 13, 2014
by admin

The Carbon Reduction Commitment is to be Reformed

The Carbon Reduction Commitment is to be reformed according to a statement within the Chancellor’s recent autumn statement. As it is the UK’s only formal carbon reduction tax on UK businesses, it is an important piece of legislation. However, the problem seems to be its complexity in terms of administration. In fact the government estimates that it costs industry a whopping £97 million to manage.

Keeping it Simple
Taxation policies only work if they are simple. Take P.A.Y.E.as an example. Most of us don’t even have to think about it. It simply gets deducted out of our wages at source. This is the way that the majority of income tax is collected and it’s virtually automatic. But if you ever have to complete a self assessment form, that’s quite a different matter. In fact many people employ accountants to do them on their behalf.

The current Carbon Reduction Commitment is rather like self assessment (SA). In fact in many ways it is a company’s self assessment, but of its carbon producing footprint. Just like SA, it’s simply too complicated for its own good. That being the case, it’s nowhere near as effective as it would be if it were to be made easier to comply with. So, the scheme is going to be reviewed in 2013, with a further review planned for 2016.

The Case for and against League Tables
In addition to simplifying the Carbon Reduction Commitment (CRC), the government is also going to scrap the CRC Performance League Table. In some ways this is a shame. The performance table does, or rather should, act as some sort of carbon reduction barometer. It should also spur competing companies onward to achieve better energy efficiencies than their competitors. But if the scheme itself isn’t working as well as it should, the league table won’t either.

How Does the CRC Work?
For those of you who are not familiar with the workings of the Carbon Reduction Commitment scheme, it requires large companies in both the public and the private sectors to pre-buy allowances. These allowances directly cover the carbon emissions made by the energy that the companies consume through their usage of power and heat.

Did we take a Wrong Turn?
When the Carbon Reduction Commitment was first introduced, it had the full support of industry. However, in 2010, rather than investing the funds collected from industry back into the CRC scheme they were diverted into underpinning public finances instead. Industry felt they had been duped and that they were subsidising the government.

But in a recent statement, Chancellor George Osborne revealed that national debt was not forecast to start diminishing until 2016/2017. That being the case, the CRC scheme would remain in place in its present format. So, although reform of the CRC is to be prioritised, the timescale for this review is yet to be agreed upon.

Our Millstone
The national debt is a millstone around our necks.
• It is stalling the UK’s economic recovery
• It routes money away from environmental recovery funding
• It prevents the £3 million Green Investment Bank from attaining borrowing powers

In an effort to get the national debt under control and to limit government borrowing, Mr Osborne announced further cutbacks that will result in the DECC’s (Department of Energy and Climate Change) budget shrinking by £10 million.

Sacrificing the CRC for Cheap Gas
The Chancellor’s Autumn Statement did not do any favours for the Carbon Reduction Commitment, concentrating instead in part, on the UK’s future gas strategy. In an effort to mimic the USA’s gas protection policy, the Chancellor said the government would encourage investment in UK shale gas in order to try and keep UK’s energy costs as low as possible.

From a business point of view the CBI (Confederation of British Industry) applauded the governments’ efforts to minimise energy costs, but at the same time offering the following criticisms:

• Britain should not make herself dependent on one fossil fuel energy source
• The statement to modify the CRC is far too insubstantial.
• Removing the tax incentive element of the Carbon Reduction Commitment is a disincentive.

The Anti-Green Chancellor
The various green groups and lobbies are all critical of My Osborne’s policies and have dubbed him the “Anti-Green Chancellor”. But balancing the country’s economy whilst trying to nurture and promote green policy is always going to be a tough call. Someone is always going to feel hard done by. As far as the British homeowner is concerned, the goal has to be affordable energy prices.