All posts by Tony Gosling

Beginning his working life in the aviation industry and trained by the BBC, Tony Gosling is a British land rights activist, historian & investigative radio journalist. Over the last 20 years he has been exposing the secret power of the Bank for International Settlements (BIS) and élite Bilderberg Conferences where the dark forces of corporations, media, banks and royalty conspire to accumulate wealth and power through extortion and war. Tony has spent much of his life too advocating solutions which heal the wealth divide, such as free housing for all and a press which reflects the concerns of ordinary people rather than attempting to lead opinion, sensationalise or dumb-down. Tony tweets at @TonyGosling. Tune in to his Friday politics show at BCfm.

Crofting: traditional British land tenure enshrined in law after battles of the 1880s

BBC2 The World About Us: The Corncrake and the Croft (1977)

“The land under sheep and deer is my property and I can do with it what I like.” –  Lady Matheson

Crofters – A 1944 film showing life on Scottish crofts in wartime



“Treasa tuath na tighearna.” (The people are mightier than a lord)
Highland Land League slogan

The Crofters’ Wars

The common people of the Highlands and Islands had been cleared from large areas of their ancestral lands. The Highland Clearances had crammed the surviving remnants  into crammed crofting townships on very small areas of land where they were very vulnerable to abuse and exploitation by their landlords. Many lacked even crofts of their own and became cottars and squatters on the crofts of other people. Landlords turned most of the land over to use as sheep farms and deer forests. The creation of sheep farms, often comprising large tracts of empty, uncultivated and often fertile land, which hemmed in the congested townships on their boundaries, created social tensions, which unavoidably led to revolt among the disadvantaged. The farms established on Tiree in the 1840s and 1850s, having been forcibly cleared of their original occupants were but a few of the farms designated by crofters as suitable for resettlement by themselves.  In addition, in the 1880s, the Highlands and Islands were ravaged by a decade of severe, occasionally chronic, agricultural depression. As wool prices collapsed, sheep farmers‘ profits and landlords‘ rentals fell back sharply from the heights they had reached in the balmy years of the 1860s and early 1870s. The poor harvests of 1881-1882 plunged the crofting population to a level reminiscent of the potato famine. Then on 1st October 1882 after prolonged rain in August and September came a severe southerly gale that destroyed the unharvested grain. In addition, the storm damaged or destroyed some 1,200 fishing boats, their nets and fishing gear

A mass movement for the reform of land laws erupted in the 1880s. Links formed by radical crofters in the Highlands and industrial workers in the Lowlands worried the authorities: and the crofters leaders who attended conferences organised by the Labour movement in Edinburgh were followed and hounded by police officers. It has been argued that the the Crofters movement of the 19th century was a catalyst for the formation of various working-class organisations in Scotland and it has also been suggested that the influences were the other way, both describe the organic links between the struggles for land and workers rights.

The association between land reform and those movements claiming to be socialist  had always been more marked in Scotland. Before the emergence of Keir Hardie the principal workers organisation in Scotland, which was for a time affiliated with William Morris’s Socialist League, called itself the ‘Land and Labour League’. Far from wishing to be a carbon copy of the Social Democratic Federation, the Scots were keen to establish their own separate national identity. This was why they named  their organisation the Scottish Land and Labour League. In Scotland the Scottish Land and Labour League severed its connection with the SDF to join the break-away Socialist League.

“I was then a member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, in Edinburgh, Scotland. It must have been in the very early Eighties I guess in 1883. The Scottish Land and Labour League was the first body in Scotland to take up the “New” Socialism, that is to say, it was the first to study Marx. Das Kapital had not yet been translated into English; we studied it from the French translation. We had affiliated ourselves with the Socialist League in London.” describesThomas H Bell (the anarchist, not the later Communist Party Tom Bell)

John Mahon was a former engineer from Edinburgh and member of the Scottish Land and Labour League, who joined the SDF, served on its executive, and was to go on to be the first secretary of the Socialist League. Nevertheless the alliance between the “socialists” and the group interested primarily in the land question did not endure. They became involved in the same sort of conflict  the Socialist League as with the SDF.

In the early 20th century the land agitation had become a vital force uniting farmer and crofter, miner and smallholder, and Highlander and Lowlander. To understand why the land question was of even greater importance in Scotland than in England, we must direct attention to the strength of feudal legislation in Scotland. An old Act of 1621 was still in force, for instance, which penalised farmers, miners, crofters since no-one could kill game unless he owned a ploughgate of land (about 100 acres). Moreover, even a farmer could be convicted of being “unlawfully on his own farm at night for the purpose of killing game.” The 19th century Trespass Act and the various Game Laws that legitimised the rights of landowners to restrict the movement of citizens wishing to gain access to uncultivated moorland and mountain in Scotland created a powerful sense of public grievance. In addition to restricting many traditional rights that the rural population had enjoyed they created a great deal of resentment amongst the growing urban membership of amenity groups and recreational clubs. Climbing and hill walking clubs were particularly active in campaigning to have the concept of freedom to roam enshrined in law. In the 1880s and 90s members of these clubs in conjunction with key figures from the Land League spearheaded a public and parliamentary campaign to have the Trespass and Game Laws altered. The campaign for freedom to roam was unsuccessful but during the following decades the number of people going to the hills increased as did the membership of walking and mountaineering clubs. The tension between hill goers and sporting estates during the grouse and deer stalking seasons was a constant reminder of unfinished business.

At the 1885 and 1886 General Elections a group of candidates, The Crofters Party, who described themselves as representatives of the crofters contested some of the Highland constituencies of north-west Scotland with almost complete success. The group had varying degrees of links to the Highland Land League which had been established to independently promote the interests of crofters and their specific land rights. The League never seems to have made a clear statement of its ultimate objectives. Although, as will be seen, it made use of Henry George for propagandist purposes, it was not a ‘Single Tax’ organisation. While some of its leaders spoke at times of “the necessity of abolishing landlordism” and “the restoration of the land to the people” – stock phrases of Henry George advocates – they appear to have had peasant proprietorship more in mind.

The discontent of the crofters had mounted to the point of revolt in the early 1880s. Although the days of the notorious Clearances were over, they had no security of tenure, the rents of many of them had been raised several times during the preceding decade, not a few were living in extreme poverty, and evictions seem to have been frequent. Many had recently been moved to less fertile holdings to make way for sheep-grazings or sporting preserves; some were still in the process of losing common grazings to their landlords. While a large proportion did not hold written leases, but were entirely dependent upon the goodwill of their landlords, without even the protection of recognised custom,  many of the written leases that did exist appear to have been merely annual. One of their main grievances was their inability to increase the size of their holdings, most of the plots being quite insufficient for the support of a family. Bitterly resenting being dealt with according to commercial, profit-making considerations – with the growth of luxury in England due to the increase in industrial productivity, the shooting rights of Highland estates rose in value much higher than crofters’ rents – they accused the lairds of abusing a sacred trust in their management of the soil, which they claimed was really the traditional property of the clans. Predictably the problem of landlessness was most acute in areas where the crofting population was at its most dense. In Tiree and the Outer Isles, it was not uncommon, as the Napier Commission noted, to find “crowds of squatters who construct hovels, appropriate land, and possess and pasture stock, but pay no rent, obey no control, and scarcely recognise any allegiance or authority”.

An important source of disaffection, the first notable demonstration – the so-called ‘Battle of the Braes’ – took place in April 1882. It occurred at the foot of Ben Lee, in Skye. In protest, perhaps in part inspired by events in Ireland, the Crofters War began against an attempt by Lord Macdonald, their landlord, to deprive them of some pasturage to which they claimed a right, some of the crofters were refusing to pay their rents – a measure that was becoming widespread at this period. When an attempt had been made on 7th April to serve summons of ejection upon them, they had responded by burning the summonds and mildly assaulting the sheriff-officer’s assistant. Then, on 17th April, a force of fifty Glasgow police, sent to the area to effect the arrests of six ring-leaders, was set upon, when making the arrest,by some hundreds of crofters with sticks and stones. It succeeded in withdrawing the prisoners, no major injuries being suffered by either side. In February, two months previously, a gunboat had been sent to Skye to facilitate the arrest of three crofters in another district, Glendale, for their part in a similar instance of deforcing a sheriff-officer. One of these men, John Macpherson, known thereafter as the ‘Glendale Martyr’, became a leading figure in the movement, an impassioned speaker at Land League meetings throughout the Highlands.

Over the next few years there were numerous such incidents in various parts of the crofting counties. Invariably sympathisers in the towns and cities – Portree being particularly notable in this respect – found bail for imprisoned crofters or otherwise saw to their interests and comfort.  In November 1884 a number of gunboats were sent to Skye and a force of marines made several marches over the island; this action, however, had been taken as the result of some fabricated reports of disturbances sent to the press by a landlord’s official, and no disorder either preceded or followed this action.

The Napier Commission published recommendations in 1884 but  fell a long way short of addressing crofters’ demands, and it stimulated a new wave of protests. The ensuing Act of 1886 applied to croft tenure in an area which is now recognisable as a definition of the Highlands and Islands established the Crofters Commission which had rent-fixing powers. Rents were generally reduced and 50% or more of outstanding arrears were cancelled. The Act failed however to address the issue of severely limited access to land,

In October 1886 a further force of marines and police went to Skye to enforce the collection of rates: both landlords and crofters had been refusing to make payment, with the result that the schools were on the point of closing, and the banks were declining to meet cheques for the Poor Law Officers. On the landlords’ part this action was, of course, a demonstration in protest against the refusal of the crofters to pay their rents – and it was their default which had precipitated the crises, since their share of the arrears of rates formed by far the largest proportion of the total amount. As soon as the expedition reached the island the landlords gave way; but there were a number of ugly scenes when the authorities distrained the personal effects of crofters who professed themselves unable to pay. At about the same period two hundred and fifty marines and fifty police were sent to Tiree (Argyllshire) when the Duke of Argyll Greenhill farm was occupied by over 300 men who at once proceeded to divide the farm among crofters and cottars from nearby townships. Confronted at Greenhill by a force of men and youths armed with sticks and clubs, the police – outnumbered by about six to one – were obliged to withdraw to the relative security of the inn at Scarinish, their mission unaccomplished. On the morning of 22nd July, Scarinish Inn was surrounded by the men responsible for the seizure of Greenhill. The police contingent, it was demanded, should immediately withdraw from Tiree. They left that afternoon. With the police in full retreat and the Duke of Argyll complaining that Tiree was “under the rule of savagery”, military involvement became inevitable. On 31st July 1886, a detachment of fifty police escorted by five times that number of marines was landed on the island from the naval ships HMS Ajax and HMS Assistance. Eight crofters were promptly arrested and conveyed to the mainland where they were subsequently found guilty of mobbing and rioting as well as of deforcement – five being sentenced to six month‘s imprisonment, the others to four months.

In later years, there were still isolated cases of deforcements. Plus there were still demonstrations – at the ‘Pairc Deer Raid of Lewis’,  in November 1887 the crofters organised a deer-hunt (the venison distributed to the needy.) in protest at their treatment by The Matheson’s, landlords of the Lewis Estate. The authorities panicked and sent a contingent of police and marines to quell what they thought was a full-scale rebellion. Six were arrested and sent to trial in Edinburgh but all were acquitted. Today, most of Pairc is still a sporting estate in private ownership.

And then there was the ‘Aignish Riot’, also in the Lewis, in January 1888, crofters, despite the presence of a force of marines, drove stock from a large farm. It took the bayonets of the marines and the arrival of company of the Royal Scots, however, made them realise there was little more they could do and to keep them at bay. Eleven prisoners, were escorted aboard HMS Jackal, and taken to Edinburgh where they were  found guilty of the crime of mobbing and rioting and sent them to prison for periods ranging from twelve to fifteen months.”

In Glasgow, in 1909, a second Highland Land League was formed as a political party. This organisation was a broadly left-wing group that sought the restoration of deer forests to public ownership, abolition of plural farms and the nationalisation of the land. Also they resolved to defend crofters facing eviction by their landlords and they supported home rule for Scotland. During the First World War politicians made lavish promises about reform which would follow the war, and of course many croftsmen lost their lives in the war itself. After the war the words of politicians did not translate into action, but croftmen returning from the war were in no mood to accept government inaction. Land occupations began again. In January 1918 in Tiree a number of cottars from Cornaigbeg took possession of a 13-acre field on Balephetrish farm and at once proceeded to prepare it for a spring planting of potatoes. The Balephetrish raiders were all old men – two at least being in their seventies – and all had sons on active service. But none of that prevented them from being sentenced to ten days‘ imprisonment as a result of legal proceedings initiated by the Duke of Argyll.

When faced with new land seizures the government responded by giving the Board of Agriculture the money and powers to do something like what had been promised. The Board’s work was assisted by a downturn in the profitability of sheep farming and, by the late 1920s, perhaps 50,000 acres of arable land and 750,000 acres of hill pasture had been given over to establishing new crofts.

In August 1918 the new Land League  affiliated with the Labour Party, with four candidates for the 1918 general election being joint League-Labour. By the 1920s they had fully merged with Labour, under the unfulfilled promise of autonomy for Scotland were Labour to gain power in the forthcoming years. Land League members were then key to the formation of the Scottish National Party in 1934.

The Crofters Act of 1886 was not the remedy. It gave the remaining Highlanders security of tenure but froze the crofters on the marginal land to which they had been driven. In the forty years between 1891 and 1931, on the other hand, in a period in which it was virtually impossible under Scottish law to evict a Highland crofter from his holding but singularly easy to evict a Lowland farm labourer from his cottage, the population of the Highlands & Islands counties fell by 26%, that of the Lowland group by only 16%. The law seems to have done nothing to slow down the drain of men from the Highlands. Some twenty-three Not-for-private-profit organisations own, lease or manage by agreement around 5 percent of the Highlands and Islands’ land area – some 506,725 acres. The state sector (Forestry Commission , Scottish Natural Heritage, Dept. of Agriculture, etc) whose land holdings comprise just over 14 percent (1.4 million acres) while the private estate sector owns some 80 percent (8.1 million acres).

Homeless offered a year’s rent to leave New York permanently

City offering to pay homeless a year’s worth of rent if they leave town

By Yoav Gonen September 29, 2017 | 9:04pm

The city wants the homeless to get out of town — and is offering to pay a full year’s rent to those willing to abandon the five boroughs.

http://nypost.com/2017/09/29/city-offering-to-pay-homeless-a-years-worth-of-rent-if-they-leave-town/
Under a pilot program quietly launched last month, shelter residents who have been in the system for at least 90 days and have a source of income can get 12 months of rent paid up-front virtually anywhere they can find an apartment.
Their travel expenses to vamoose would also be paid under a program already in place known as Project Reconnect.
“The plan to send some families outside of New York City only speaks to the devastating lack of affordable housing here for low-income families,” said Giselle Routhier, policy director at the Coalition For The Homeless. “While it could be beneficial to a small subset of families, we would also be concerned about the short-term nature of the assistance and the stability of families at the end of the year.”

The Department of Homeless Services recently notified shelter providers of 17 apartments available across the river in Newark, according to WNYC radio, which first reported on the initiative.
Asked if they were on board with New York City providing financial incentives for its homeless residents to move to their city, Newark officials there would only say they knew nothing about the initiative.
DHS officials declined to provide the cost of the program, saying there’s no specific allotment while it’s evaluated for interest and effectiveness. They also didn’t provide figures for the maximum allowable rent the city is willing to pay.
SEE ALSO
Albanese rips de Blasio’s $98M homeless shelter plan

Albanese rips de Blasio’s $98M homeless shelter plan

At the same time, they repeatedly referred to it as an old program while providing hoards of information unrelated to the pilot.
“For decades, the city has helped our homeless neighbors seek housing where they can best get back on their feet; sometimes that includes outside the five boroughs,” said DHS spokesman Isaac McGinn.
In the past five years, the city has paid $1.2 million in travel expenses — the only expense that was previously covered — for 2,512 families who relocated outside the five boroughs. Last year, the top destinations were Florida, Puerto Rico and North Carolina, according to DHS.
With the shelter population hovering near 60,000, the city is desperate to find new living spaces for the homeless.
Asked about the initiative, GOP mayoral candidate Nicole Malliotakis said the city should be focusing more on job training and local support services.
“Once again Mayor de Blasio believes hardworking New Yorkers’ pockets are bottomless pits,” she told The Post.
Additional reporting by Rich Calder

NEF map reveals public land suitable for affordable housing is being sold off instead

By selling our land to private developers the Government is failing to build the affordable homes we need. Enter your postcode here to see the local authority sites being sold near you.

Public land, private profit

Less than 1 in 5 of new homes built on public land sold off are affordable. Will you help us do something about it?

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Aussie couple builds off-grid mobile home with two shipping containers

Aussie couple builds off-grid mobile home with 2 containers

Paul Chambers had began building a home out of two shipping containers as a project, but when his wife got tired of suburbia and put their four-bedroom home on the market, his project became the couple’s full-time home (Paul’s ebook: www.buildshippingcontainerhous­e.com)

Paul and Sarah Chambers were living in rural Scotland when Paul received a job offer in Australia. They packed their belongings and moved to a large home with a pool in an Australian suburb. After only a few months, they began to tire of spending so much of their income on their home. They also felt they’d lost touch with nature and a more active lifestyle (“there weren’t even any trails for walking”, explains Sarah).

So they sold their home and moved with Paul’s “project”: two shipping containers he’d been transforming into a kitchen/bathroom + bedroom/living room. They found someone willing to let them park their new home on their rural property in exchange for making improvements to the land.

When the couple first moved onto the property, the home was a very simple shelter and over the following three years, they built the containers into a proper home.

Their home is completely off the electric and water grids. When they first moved to the bush they used a 3kw Honda generator, but they’ve since installed 2Kw of photovoltaic panels and a bank of batteries and phased out the generator. They have enough energy to power their home with all its conventional appliances, including a standard fridge/freezer. For heating, they rely on firewood (collected from fallen trees on the property; they have “not cut down a single tree”). For air conditioning, they use fans and AC “during really hot days”.

In the beginning they had to rely on water deliveries, but Paul has since installed an extensive rainwater capture setup- both on the roof and gutters beneath the home- which provides for all their water needs: 65 square metres of rain water collection in 10,000 liters of storage. The indoor bathroom includes a shower, but Paul built an outdoor, open air bathtub which they heat with solar in the summertime.

They’ve also created an extensive vegetable garden inside a netted garden cage (after the animals and hot sun destroyed their first attempts). For eggs, they have two hen houses. Paul has published an ebook explaining how he built the home including a step-by-step guide: buying and moving shipping containers, a wiring diagram and schematics, installing solar panels and a breakdown of costs.

Paul’s youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/paulcreatesuccess

Original story: https://faircompanies.com/videos/aussie-couple-builds-off-grid-mobile-home-with-2-containers/

Co-operative socialism – The Fair World Project (FWP) – for a just global economy

The Fair World Project

Justice in the Fields

Mission:

  • people are treated fairly with dignity;
  • the environment is respected and nourished;
  • commerce fosters sustainable livelihoods and communities in a global society based on cooperation and solidarity;
  • fair market opportunities and fair government and trade policy defend, and support the contributions of farmers, workers, and artisans to our global society;
  • marketing claims have integrity and promote throughout entire supply chains, and support dedicated brands that put people before profits.

Goals:

  • To contribute to the movement to build a just economy that benefits and empowers all people especially those traditionally marginalized in our current system, including family-scale farmers, small-scale artisans, and food and apparel workers
  • To educate consumers, retailers, manufacturers and marketers regarding:
    • The standards, criteria, and possible fair-washing behind claims of fairness and justice on products they produce, sell and/or consume, including understanding the benefits and limitations of third-party verifications.
    • The ways government and international trade policies support or inhibit a just economy.
    • Key issues, theories, initiatives, policies, and campaigns related to fair trade, family-scale farmers globally, labor justice, sweat-free apparel, and trade and agriculture policy
  • To pressure companies to: improve sourcing and labor practices by obtaining fair trade, fair labor or other appropriate certification for major supply chains; make only authentic ecosocial market claims; and support public policies that benefit small-scale producers and workers
  • To promote certification labels, membership organizations, companies, and brands that further progress toward a just economy
  • To facilitate dialogue among and between movements working towards a just economy
  • To advocate for a better world by: educating and inspiring individuals and organizations through our twice-yearly free publication; providing educational resources and workshops for consumers, retailers, and brands; and collaborating with other organizations with similar values.

Co-operative socialism: a seven point action plan

1) Co-operatives and peace – not Corporations and coercion
Convert competitive, market-based businesses into workplace co-operatives, and remodel monopoly activities as stakeholder community co-operatives: each co-op having responsible, time-limited stewardship of land and knowledge resources, shared from the commonweal, with each co-op demonstrably working according to the Statement on the Co-operative Identity of The International Co-operative Alliance.
See points 2) and 5), below, for the funding mechanism for this;

2) Predistribution not Redistribution. Distribute the created wealth from these workplace co-ops through nationally collected, co-operative corporate taxation, distributed into local, democratically-controlled, Co-operative, Community Banks and, so, make money and credit available for eco-and socially-responsible wealth creation, community development and care,

3) Global stewardship for needs and care, not private resources for profit Maximise human needs and public service provision (health, life-long education, libraries, transport and so on) on a co-operative, free-at-the-point-of-use basis, thus only retaining money as a mechanism for access to discretionary purchases,

4) Fair, guaranteed incomes for all. Introduce guaranteed fair income for all, within upper and lower limits, and with elements of automatic liveable Citizens’ Income – and so do away with the need for direct and indirect personal taxation,

5) Banking as public service – not as global warfare
Abolish money-lending and credit-creation for profit: operate banking as a community co-operative public service (see point two above),

6) End global exploitation through financial speculation
Reintroduce international exchange controls, a Tobin Tax, etc, as necessary,

7) All our sisters are our brothers: and all our brothers are our sisters

Make capital grants (not loans) to developing countries

UK Housing Crisis Can Be Solved by Rich Land Owners

https://c-r-l.com/news/uk-housing-crisis-can-be-solved-if-the-rich-release-land/

January 6, 2016 by CRL Management

The richest landowners in England are being asked to help alleviate the national housing crisis by making land available for building new homes.

According to a recent recommendation from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS), those who own 5,000 of England’s largest country estate are in a position to create economic growth, employment, and housing in areas of the country where the population is declining. RICS is lobbying the government to launch more schemes to support building new homes on unused land.

At present there is a shortfall of 76% in rural housing, which is compelling people to leave country communities and driving up house prices to such an extent that homes are unaffordable.

The call went out as recent figures revealed that in December, house prices in the UK grew at their most rapid rate in eight months. This happened amid warnings that a deficit of new homes could drive price growth even higher.

Data compiled by Nationwide revealed that prices went up by an average of 0.8% in December, in increase from the 0.1% growth experienced in November.

Sir Peter Erskine, who has constructed 22 affordable properties on his family estate in the East of Fife, Scotland, commented that large estates represent a solution to dwindling population levels in rural communities.

The area near the Cambo estate lost a post office and grocery shop in recent times, and the local school is facing a dearth of pupils.

Sir Peter said that he cared about the well-being of the community, and as major stakeholders, landowners can do a lot of good.

150 staff are employed at the Cambo estate during the peak season, but he warned that if affordable housing is not available, the area’s slow decline can’t be halted.

Jeremy Blackburn, RICs’ head of policy, said that small quantities of affordable housing can make rural communities more viable. He added that the rural housing crisis could be solved if only 10 homes were built in each of the 1,600 small towns in rural England.

He pointed out that the issue was not so much about central government providing fiscal incentives to landowners to encourage building new homes, although it would be helpful. It was about encouraging landed estates and local authorities to work together to build homes, establishing affordable options for both young and old homeowners, especially tenanted farmers who will need somewhere to retire.

Sir Peter said that the TV programme Downton Abbey’s Christmas special showed that country estates were once the centre of social and economic activities in rural areas. He claimed that landowners across the country are willing to assist in bringing about positive social change, but high taxes and hostile political attitudes held them back.

Over the years, he said, there has been a hostile political atmosphere and a punitive tax system was in place until recently.

“We are now in an era where people will once again appreciate the value of these estates and what they can do for the community.”

Simple homes in the British countryside that need protecting

2017: Kate and Alan’s Burrows aka Mud Hut Woman, give a heartfelt account of what life is truly like for them trying to live in a Devon roundhouse they built on their own land – the council want to knock it down

Their application for retrospective planning permission has been refused and they have been ordered to remove their dwelling and vacate the land by December 2017.

Petition https://www.change.org/p/north-devon-district-council-save-the-round-house-in-the-woods

​Man builds mud hut in Watford forest


North Devon Council: Save The Round House In The Woods

https://www.change.org/p/north-devon-district-council-save-the-round-house-in-the-woods
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Petitioning North Devon District Council

Save The Round House In The Woods

Dinah Mason

Willand, United Kingdom

18,230

Supporters

Kate and Alan have built a beautiful home on the land they own from materials gathered from the land. Their application for retrospective planning permission has been refused and they have been ordered to remove their dwelling and vacate the land by December 2017.

Kate suffers from multiple chemical sensitivity and since living in the round house her health has greatly improved, having to move back into conventional accommodation will be seriously detrimental to her health and well being. 

They are lobbying the council and anyone who will listen for the One Planet Development scheme that is currently used in Wales and the low impact policy that has just been introduced in Dartmoor national park to be rolled out nation wide. Currently there is no provision in England for true sustainable development of this nature and this needs to change.

A short film about their project made by James Light can be found here

This petition will be delivered to:

North Devon District Council

Read the letter

Dinah Mason started this petition with a single signature, and now has 18,230 supporters. Start a petition today to change something you care about.

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Updates

1 day ago

17,500 supporters

6 months ago

Petition update

Save The Round House In The Woods

Kate and Alan will be live from the roundhouse on Monday morning on ITV’s This Morning

1,000 supporters

Dinah Mason started this petition

Reasons for Signing

Low impact dwellings on land owned by the individual should be welcomed with open arms by an overstretched council. Homes like this should be encouraged not blocked at every turn.
siddy langley, Plymtree, United Kingdom1 Mar 2017

The argument that “it’s not in the public interest to have dwellings popping up all over the countryside” is blatant nonsense. 
Frankly most people prefer modern houses with heating and, petsonally, I’d prefer a scattering of such dwellings to the huge estates big business covers whole acres with.
Mary McCarthy, Gloucester, United Kingdom1 Mar 2017

52

This is natural. They own their land and have built their own home, I don’t see the problem. Maybe if they weren’t putting it all to good use I would feel differently but they aren’t harming anyone in any way shape or form.
Sophie Edwards, Plymouth, United Kingdom 1 Mar 2017

100s of leasehold National Trust tenants told they face ground rent increases of up to 10,000%

Draconian new rules ban almost all forms of (legal) trail hunting

  • Ground rent increases of up to 10,000%
  • Draconian rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s property
  • Measures appeared on charity’s website on Tuesday this week without warning
  • According to the country sports lobby, they will render almost all trail hunting — a perfectly legal pursuit — impossible on Trust land 

Roger Westmoreland's wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter (pictured) who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd

Roger Westmoreland’s wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter (pictured) who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd

For more than a century, Roger Westmoreland and his ancestors have carved a living from the Troutbeck Valley, where drystone walls criss-cross the purple fells in a breathtaking part of the Lake District.

The 78-year-old hill farmer’s wife, Doreen, grew up raising sheep and cattle on a farm leased from Beatrix Potter, who lived near by and once employed her uncle Bill as a shepherd.

When the author died in 1943, she left much of the valley to the National Trust. Today, the charity leases roughly 300 acres of Troutbeck to Roger’s daughter, Helen.

Upland life is tough, with three generations, including Helen’s children, working side by side 365 days a year to keep the farm going. But while the financial returns are modest, their existence has its own rewards.

One has traditionally come every weekend from September until April, when they join dozens of neighbours following the Coniston Foxhounds, who have hunted the land since the early 1800s.

After the Blair government banned hunting in 2005, the pack continued to operate legally, pursuing an artificial trail created by dragging a rag soaked in fox’s urine. Like all members, the Westmorelands followed on foot.

But this year, the Coniston Foxhounds are unlikely to be visiting Troutbeck Valley. In fact, they may struggle to operate at all.

To blame are a set of draconian new rules governing trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales, including almost all the Coniston’s territory.

The measures appeared on the charity’s website on Tuesday this week without warning, to the unbridled delight of animal rights activists.

According to the country sports lobby, they will render almost all trail hunting — a perfectly legal pursuit — impossible on Trust land.

‘These rules represent a betrayal, simple as that,’ is how Roger Westmoreland puts it. ‘They are a betrayal of everything the National Trust is supposed to stand for.

‘They show it doesn’t understand the countryside, doesn’t understand farming and couldn’t care less about rural people and their traditions. They are trying to impose their petty urban values. It’s an outrage.’

Mr Westmoreland also believes the new rules represent an affront to Beatrix Potter.

For the creator of Mr Tod the fox was a keen follower of the Coniston (and a supporter of foxhunting) who stipulated in her will that the National Trust must always allow hunting to continue on her estates.

A set of draconian new rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust's roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales (stock photo)

A set of draconian new rules govern trail-hunting across all the National Trust’s roughly 2,500 square miles of England and Wales (stock photo)

‘My family and my wife’s family, the Hudsons, have been in this valley for over 100 years. So has the hunt,’ says Mr Westmoreland.

‘It’s a community thing which binds people together. Beatrix Potter knew that, and that’s why she protected it in her will. She would be horrified at what has happened this week.’

And the Westmorelands are not the only National Trust tenants outraged by what they see as its attack on their heritage.

A group of their Cumbrian peers this week sent a forthright letter to the Trust expressing shock and concern at the ‘completely inappropriate’ new policy.

The angry document accuses the charity of having shown ‘no duty of care whatsoever’ to its tenants and their families.

It argues that one particular new rule, according to which the Trust will publish online details of all farming tenants who allow trail-hunting on their land, will expose them to serious threats from animal rights extremists.

Written on Tuesday, just hours after the new hunting regulations were quietly added to the Trust’s website, the letter complains: ‘No one from the NT at a local or national level has been in contact with us to discuss such changes and the possible impact on us, our families and the local community.’

The letter originally attracted 36 signatories but by last night scores more Lake District tenants were understood to have pledged support for it.

Each of the farmers (who between them lease tens of thousands of acres) has threatened that, if the Trust does not reverse its new measures, they will deliberately flout them.

‘As far as we are concerned, as long as they continue to operate within the law, our local hunts will continue to be welcome on our farms,’ they say.

All of which leaves one of Britain’s largest charities on the brink of open warfare — against the very people who manage its most precious asset.

It is an extraordinary state of affairs that raises serious questions about the competence, judgment and integrity of the lofty collection of quangocrats and careerists who run the charity.

Yet at this once-loved bastion of British heritage — which, with five million members, is Britain’s biggest membership organisation after the AA — the latest self-inflicted crisis follows a depressingly familiar pattern.

Barely a month seems to go by without the Trust’s metropolitan rulers managing to engineer another PR disaster.

Yesterday it was reported in The Times that the NT stands accused of profiteering after hundreds of leasehold tenants were told they face ground rent increases of up to 10,000 per cent.

Dame Helen Ghosh, pictured, who earns around £185,000 a year, was responsible for the decision this year to remove the word 'Easter' from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them 'Cadbury's Egg Hunts' as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal

Dame Helen Ghosh, pictured, who earns around £185,000 a year, was responsible for the decision this year to remove the word ‘Easter’ from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them ‘Cadbury’s Egg Hunts’ as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal

And only a few weeks ago, dozens of unpaid guides at Felbrigg Hall in Norfolk staged a revolt after being ordered to wear rainbow-coloured lanyards and badges to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the legalisation of homosexuality.

Their objection was compounded by a decision to ‘out’ Robert Wyndham Ketton-Cremer, an intensely private poet and historian who donated the 17th-century property to the Trust after his death in 1969.

His alleged homosexuality was detailed in a five-minute film played to visitors and narrated by Stephen Fry.

Mutiny was averted only after Dame Helen Ghosh, the Trust’s Left-wing chief executive, agreed to make the wearing of lanyards (introduced as part of a trendy nationwide campaign called ‘Prejudice and Pride’) voluntary.

Ghosh, who earns around £185,000 a year, was also responsible for the decision this year to remove the word ‘Easter’ from egg hunts at several National Trust properties, rebranding them ‘Cadbury’s Egg Hunts’ as part of a lucrative sponsorship deal.

That sparked criticism not just from religious leaders but from Theresa May, who declared: ‘What the National Trust is doing is, frankly, ridiculous.’

A former civil servant whose career blossomed under New Labour, Dame Helen was appointed to replace Dame Fiona Reynolds (who previously ran the Cabinet Office’s women’s unit) in 2012.

Since then, she has managed to upset the Trust’s traditionalists regularly, presiding over a culture of endless modernisation in which Blairite values are sacrosanct.

Under her stewardship, opponents say, properties have simultaneously dumbed down and commercialised.

Believing that there is ‘so much stuff’ in old houses, Dame Helen once chose to replace antique furniture with bean-bags at Ickworth House in Suffolk.

On another occasion she declared wind farms beautiful and described global warming as ‘the single largest threat to our conservation work’. Lately, her Trust has been making stark pronouncements about Brexit.

This approach has over the years met with short shrift from many of the Trust’s 60,000 volunteers, who manage its 350 properties. But it delights the liberal Establishment and has done wonders for Dame Helen’s career prospects.

Next year, she will duly move to a new job as Master of Balliol College in Oxford, the city where she lives with husband Peter, an academic.

The search for a suitably PC replacement is under way. Meanwhile, her legacy was artfully summed up at the weekend by Sir Roy Strong, former director of the V&A museum, who called the Trust’s leadership ‘the Blair government in exile’ — a ‘Left-leaning’ cabal obsessed with ‘ticking the boxes of the disabled, the aged, LGBT and ethnic communities and the rest of it’.

This culture, now prevalent in so many of our institutions, is, of course, at the centre of this week’s events in Cumbria.

For years, tenant farmers have been growing weary of National Trust directives on everything from carbon emissions and the planting of trees to ‘sustainability’.

They complain that Trust employees, traditionally drawn from local farming families, are increasingly urban careerists with little understanding of their lives and heritage.

‘They are politically correct idiots and Dame Helen, in particular, is a disaster,’ says Robin Page, a former member of the Trust’s governing council who now runs the Countryside Restoration Trust.

‘The Trust has lost touch with its tenants. It has completely lost their confidence,’ says Lake District farmer Peter Allen, who can trace his family’s history in the Lowther Valley back 17 generations and sits on the National Park’s board. ‘But that’s what will happen when urban people try to dictate what happens in the countryside.’

So this week’s kerfuffle over trail-hunting hit a raw nerve. It began in early February, when the Trust’s 12-member board met to discuss criticism it was receiving from the animal rights lobby via social media.

Not one hunt has been successfully prosecuted for illegal activity on Trust land since the 2005 ban. However, anti-field sports activists believe hounds following artificial trails sometimes divert to real ones, killing wild animals in the process.

No laws are broken during such incidents (the deaths are regarded as accidental), so the wealthy charity’s Board of Trustees would traditionally have shrugged its shoulders.

For generations the powerful body was. after all, dominated by aristocrats, architectural historians and museum curators. Indeed, a decade ago its ranks contained no fewer than four Eton-educated landowners, along with a farmer.

‘While they might have been a stuffy lot who didn’t tick many diversity boxes, they knew about land management and understood about stately homes and estates, and protecting their heritage,’ is how one former member puts it.

Today, however, the Board has a very different flavour.

Its chairman is Tim Parker, a private equity tycoon dubbed ‘the prince of darkness’ in the City for his willingness to preside over mass redundancies.

His deputy, Orna Ni Chionna, is the wife of Adair Turner, the crossbench peer and former CBI chief who campaigns against a ‘hard Brexit’. Other prominent members are Gus Casely-Hayford, a TV historian, and Sandy Nairne, former director of the National Portrait Gallery.

The remaining members are largely academics and business people. Most live in London. The only old-school landowner in their ranks — David Fursdon — turns out to be a university friend and former flatmate of Tony Blair.

Little wonder, perhaps, that this metropolitan group decided in February to order a ‘review’ of the rules by which the NT allows legal trail-hunts on its land.

And maybe it’s no surprise that although their work spanned a six-month period, the authors did not once speak with tenant farmers or their representatives, or consult with anyone in the hunting community.

The only interested organisation the Trust did allow through its doors during the review was the League Against Cruel Sports. Its chief executive, Eduardo Goncalves, was invited to the Trust’s London office on March 1.

According to a PR statement issued by the League, he used the meeting to ‘share grave concerns’ about the manner in which the Trust ‘currently issues licences to a number of hunts to conduct trail hunts on its estates’.

The Trust, which ‘refutes in the strongest terms any accusation of bias’ on the issue of hunting, claims otherwise, however, insisting that its March 1 discussion with Britain’s most prominent anti-hunting activist was ‘nothing to do’ with the review of trail-hunting.

We must take them at their word. But Mr Goncalves will nonetheless be delighted at the six new rules the Trust announced this week. For these not only impose bureaucracy on trail-hunts but are likely to render them unsustainable.

One reason for this is that in future the charity will only permit hounds to follow an artificial scent, such as aniseed, rather than the animal-based products that are used at present.

The Trust claims this will ‘reduce the risk of foxes or other wild animals being accidentally chased’.

However, it is unable to cite a single piece of scientific research to support this hypothesis (and many tenants believe the exact opposite will be true).

Moreover, as all existing hunts operating on Trust land have bred hounds to follow animal-based scent, they will need to completely re-breed and re-train whole packs, a process that may take years.

Another new Trust rule will require hunts to post details of the times and exact locations of forthcoming meetings in advance, on the National Trust’s website.

The charity says this will provide ‘transparency’. But tenants take a different view, fearing it will lead to violent hunt saboteurs holding regular demonstrations on their land, and allow animal rights extremists from across the world to target their homes.

‘In the past we’ve had the odd incident where people have turned up wearing balaclavas and holding clubs and claw hammers,’ says Isaac Benson, a third-generation Trust tenant who allows hunts to meet at his hill farm in the Langdale Valley.

‘This website will give them a green light to do it every week. It will end in violence. And for farmers who host the hunts, you are opening yourself up to serious abuse on a non-stop basis, from some very nasty people. It will place tenants and their families in serious danger.’

The Trust, which traditionally conducts ‘risk assessments’ over everything from felling trees to walking on footpaths, didn’t consult with police forces about the wisdom of this policy though a spokesman says: ‘The safety of our tenants, our staff and those who take part in this activity is hugely important to us and this is why we have responded to the letter from our Lake District tenants to explore their safety concerns.

‘We’ll be listening carefully and, if necessary, seeking further advice from the police.’

The Countryside Alliance, which lobbies on behalf of field sports, says the new policy will end hunting on almost all Trust land, as ‘it will be too great a risk to farmers, staff and members to have meets advertised’.

Perhaps that is what the rules are ultimately intended to achieve.

Lake District farmer Roger Westmoreland certainly thinks as much. ‘The National Trust either doesn’t understand, or doesn’t care, what it’s doing away with,’ he says.

‘They are intolerant people with values that seem totally at odds with Beatrix Potter’s. For an organisation devoted to heritage, it’s all just so wrong.’

British property divide revealed as over five MILLION own second homes despite 250,000 homeless

British property divide revealed as over five MILLION own second homes despite 250,000 homeless

Second home ownership has rocketed by 30% in just over a decade, with one in 10 adults now having another property in addition to their main home

New homes are constructed on a new housing estate
Five million people own second homes in the UK

More than five million people own second homes, a report reveals today – but 250,000 are estimated to be homeless.

Second home ownership has rocketed by 30% in just over a decade, with one in 10 adults now having another property in addition to their main home.

An extra 1.6 million people scooped up an extra base, taking the total to 5.2 million, according to the Resolution Foundation think tank.

The finding highlights a deepening divide in property ownership; figures last year from housing charity Shelter estimated 254,000 people were living in temporary accommodation, with the housing crisis set to mount as population growth outpaces housebuilding.

Housing charity Shelter estimate 254,000 people are living in temporary accommodation

Resolution Foundation senior policy analyst Laura Gardiner said: “With young people much less likely to own a home at all than their predecessors at the same age, the growing concentration of property wealth among fewer families raises concerns not just for their living standards but for wealth inequality of our country as a whole.

“Recent steps to increase stamp duty on second homes and reduce tax relief on buy-to-let mortgage are attempts to address this challenge, but policy makers should consider what more can be done to ensure that home ownership doesn’t become the preserve of the wealthy for generations to come.”

The figures highlight the growing wealth inequality in Britain (Image: Getty)

The report highlighted a generational split, with baby boomers aged 52 to 71 the most likely to be multiple home owners, accounting for more than half (52%) of all the wealth held in additional properties.

Generation X, made up of 37 to 51-year-olds, accounts for a further quarter (25%) of additional property wealth.

But “millennials” – those born since 1981 – own just 3% of the additional property assets, the research found.

New homes are constructed on a new housing estate
Baby boomers aged 52 to 71 are the most likely to be multiple home owners 

Ms Gardiner said: “Multiple property ownership is still a minority sport, but a growing one that represents a significant boost to the wealth pots of those lucky enough to own second homes.

“People with second homes not only have an investment that they can turn to in times of need, for instance in later life when care is required, but if the property is rented out they also see a boost to their incomes here and now.”

The findings were drawn from a range of figures, including Office for National Statistics data.

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Sale of Peak District National Park woodlands, a sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

National Park in privatisation row as it sells woodlands

Dean Kirby – Thursday August 17th 2017

HATHERSAGE, UNITED KINGDOM – SEPTEMBER 09: Heather glows after sunset in Millstone Quarry in the Peak District on September 09, 2014 in Hathersage, United Kingdom. Much of the UK continues to enjoy mild Autumn weather with sunshine set to last for the next few days. (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Campaigners have hit out at Britains oldest national park and the birthplace of the fight for countryside access for selling off woodlands to the highest bidder. The Peak District National Park was formed in 1951 and nearly two decades earlier was the scene of the Kinder Scout trespass, where ramblers fought with gamekeepers in the first battle for the right to roam. Now the park authority, which manages more than 100 woodlands covering 417 hectares, has sold off 14 woodlands and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside.

Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. They’re a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesn’t have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says.

“It is very easy to get rid of access rights”

But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.
Read more at: https://inews.co.uk/essentials/news/environment/national-park-privatisation-row-sells-woodlands/

Sale of Peak Park woodlands is sign of growing “privatisation” of countryside, campaigners say

Campaigners have criticised a move to sell off woodlands in the Peak District National Park
REPORTER Email Published: 12:44 Friday 18 August 2017 0 HAVE YOUR SAY
http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/environment/sale-of-peak-park-woodlands-is-sign-of-growing-privatisation-of-countryside-campaigners-say-1-8710025
Campaigners have said the sale of woodlands in the Peak District National Park is a sign of a growing “privatisation” of the countryside. The Peak District National Park Authority has already sold off 14 woodlands, and is currently in the process of selling six more. It says anyone can buy the woods including members of the public and community groups and any access rights will remain. But campaigners have hit back saying they fear the move is a sign of a growing privatisation of the countryside. Cat Hobbs from We Own It, which wants public services to stay in public ownership, said: These beautiful woods belong to everyone. Theyre a public asset we can all be proud of and enjoy. Selling them off for a quick buck is wrong and it could be a slippery slope. The Peak District National Park had a duty to safeguard precious public woodland for our children and grandchildren. Why is it handing over ownership to the highest bidder? The park acquired the woodlands when it was designated a national park, with the aim of securing these important landscape features and rescuing woodlands which were under threat or in need of restoration. It also took over some woodlands as part of countryside estates. The park authority says it has restored the woodlands and is now returning them to the community by selling them to reduce its liabilities and make the most of our resources. It says anyone can buy the woods, from members of public to community groups and people who love trees, adding that it could be adjacent landowners, but it doesnt have to be. Once sold they will stay as woodlands and any access rights will remain intact, the authority says. It is very easy to get rid of access rights But Tony Gosling, from land rights campaign group This Land is Ours, said: Its ludicrous that land that has been available for public use is being sold at a time when people are spending more and more of their leisure time in the countryside. Saying that the land is being given to the community is just spin. It could be bought by a foreign investor. Even if a covenant is put in place, once land becomes privately owned, it is very easy for a landowner to get rid of access rights. The six woodlands currently being sold include the 4.7-acre Flagg Moor woodland of sycamore, ash and beech trees, near Buxton, which is up for sale at 20,000. Another, Jacksons Plantation in the Peak Forest, has been sold after being tendered at the same price. A spokesman for the Peak District National Park said: There are covenants in place to ensure the woodlands are maintained to protect the wildlife and to prevent development. Money raised from the sale of the woodlands will be re-invested to look after the National Park and help people enjoy it.

Read more at: http://www.derbyshiretimes.co.uk/news/environment/sale-of-peak-park-woodlands-is-sign-of-growing-privatisation-of-countryside-campaigners-say-1-8710025

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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