Chapter7 News – Spring 2003

http://www.tlio.org.uk/chapter7/newestnews.html

 

Chapter   7 News

No   12 Spring 2003

The Urban/Rural   Divide

Vision 20/20

Policy

Planning Appeals

Housing

Bits and   Pieces

Pigs and   Planning

Dear Planner…

Announcements


The   Urban Rural Divide

KJ   Moon, writes: “Why don’t you cover more urban issues; team up with squatters   network etc? You seem to be re-affirming the urban/rural divide.” This   is a good question and deserves an attentive response.

Chapter 7   emerged out of a small bunch of people called the Rural Planning Group formed   to Defining Rural Sustainability which provided criteria for sustainable low   impact developments in the countryside. We consciously got rid of the original   name in order to take on wider and urban issues.

Chapter 7′   s main objective was and still is to advocate a proactive DIY approach by supporting   people putting forward sustainable and affordable developments and planning   proposals. We do not focus upon opposing ghastly unsustainable developments,   because there are other organizations who do that.

One of our   main aims was to extend the direct action approach to the planning system exemplified   both in the “P ure Genius” squat at Guinness’s Gargoyle Wharf in Wandsworth,   and the creation of new villages at places like Kings Hill and Tinkers Bubble.   We wanted to support urban groups who were putting forward alternative planning   proposals, and to further the idea that squatters could add substance to urban   land and property occupations by backing them up with planning applications.

In the early   issues of C7 News we carried a number of articles on urban issues – for example   covering the alternative proposal made by BUDD in Brighton, the Coin Street   coup, the brilliant things achieved by the Exodus collective in Luton, and a   critical analysis of the corporate rhetoric which tainted the Bed-Zed project   when it was unveiled.

The reason   that we have carried less urban coverage in recent issues, is that it is simply   not coming in. Bed-Zed has delivered but people power hasn’t – or if it has   we are not hearing about it. The editors, Jyoti and Simon, both live in the   countryside, and we have no first hand knowledge of what is happening in the   city. Every so often we have a useful discussion with an urban person about   development and regenera tion issues in their city and we ask them for news or   articles, but very little comes back to us.

Unfortunately,   this “ruralization” is self-reinforcing. The more Chapter 7 News covers   rural issues, the more rural its readership becomes, and the more rurally-orientated   the feedback that we get from our readers.

This is not   the aim of the editors. We would like to see more urban and suburban issues   covered in Chapter 7 News. But because we live in the countryside „ and because   the rural issues on their own give us quite enough work – we are not in a position   to do much about it.

If Chapter   7 is to cover urban issues, its up to you townies to send us in material. If   there is someone sharp and competent out there who would be interested in becoming   urban editor for the magazine, then give us a ring.

Earth   and Oil

The other   point that KJ Moon raises in his letter is that we “seem to be reaffirming   the urban/rural divide.”

Yes we do,   and we do so firstly because there are powerful forces set on muddying the distinction   between town and country. We trumpet rural distinctiveness because the more   this is undervalued, the easier it becomes for planners and environmentalists   to argue that nobody needs to live in the country and everybody (except the   wealthy) should be herded into towns.

Why do we   want to live in the country? Mainly because the countryside offers access to   land, and to its resources. If you have land you can build your shelter, grow   your food, harvest your water, gather your fuel, generate your energy, provide   your entertainment, recycle your waste and bury your dead. This doesnÍt mean   that you have to be entirely self-sufficient; it means that you can choose how   independently you live.

People who   live in cities donÍt have that choice. Beyond what can be achieved in a small   garden or allotment, everything must be bought. City dwellers are condemned   to engage ( enthusiastically, compliantly or recalcitrantl y) with the global   economy for nearly every material item they consume.

The distinction   goes further than this. Rural land-based resources, except for mineral deposits,   are renewable, the fruit of the elements: earth, sun, rain, wind. The commodities   provided by the urban economy come from land somewhere, but one mineral resource   underwrites all the rest: oil provides the energy and the transport; oil provides   the chemicals and plastics; oil provides the nutrients for food and fibres;   and oil provides the collateral for ever-increasing levels of debt. The more   oil gets drilled, the more dollar bills the US can print without them losing   value. If the oil economy collapses, the cities collapse, and that of course   is why Texas oilmen have led us into war in the Middle East. The rural/urban   divide reflects the global transition from diverse land-based peasant cultures   to a monolithic oil-dependent market economy. In the UK, the urban economy has   now permeated the countryside to such an extent that many people have forgotten   that there ever was, or ever could be, such a thing as a sustainable, renewable   land-based economy.

The reason   why Chapter 7 reaffirms the urban /rural divide is to keep these distinctions   alive. Where does this leave urban people? That is for them to decide, but we   would like to see city-dwellers examining their footprint upon the land, understanding   and making use of the land and water immediately around them, reclaiming space   from the motor car, converting offices into gardens, yards and workshops, getting   back in touch with the earth beneath them. But maybe this is all a bit too much   to ask.


Vision   2020

Jyoti   Fernandes reports on UK funded plans to clear 20 million peasants off their   lands.

ñOf   all of the poverties of the rich countries, one of the saddest is that the expense   of housing makes it ever more difficult for young people to experience building.   If we donÍt grow up building, we will never be fully at home in the act – or   in our houses.îThe Book of Bamboo

I have recently   returned to Chapter 7 after a short mission to the Deccan Plateau in Andhra   Pradesh where 70 per cent of the population work in agriculture. About half   of these are small farmers cultivating as little as two acres. The other half   work as hired agricultural labourers for larger farmers.

I was working   with farmers on a campaign to convince the UK Department for International Development   to change its attitudes towards what constitutes development. DFID has committed    £65 million to a plan called Vision 2020 which aims to convert the state of   Andhra Pradesh over to industrialized agriculture oriented towards the export-economy.

The plan was   drawn up by a right wing US consultancy called McKinsey, which boasts amongst   its former employees William Hague and Jeffrey Skilling, the former head of   ENRON. (McKinsey was also commissioned by the UK government, under shadowy circumstance,   to write a report called Driving Productivity and Growth in the UK Economy,   which concluded that planning regulations were discouraging

the location   of go ahead international companies i n Britain, and which is thought to have   had considerable influence over Stephen ByerÍs Green Paper on Planning.) The   most controversial element of the plan is the land consolidation programmes   it envisages. Vision 2020 expects, over the next two decades, to reduce the   proportion of the population deriving its income from agriculture from seventy   to forty percent, replacing them by machines, chemicals and GM crops. Not only   would this deprive 20 million farmers of their livelihood, it would completely   destroy the cultural fabric of the region. Once development agencies and corporations   start to pull threads out of the cultural fabric, they will create more types   of poverty than they could ever hope to predict.

The cultural   agrarian traditions in the Deccan Plateau are very much alive. Villagers plough   their fields with bullocks, weed their fields with hand tools, and grow a wide   diversity of crops from seed that has been saved and adapted for generations   to their environment. Life in the villages revolves around agriculture. Women   spend their days tending fields alongside their children, the elderly join in   with simple tasks. Nights are spent cooking the food they have grown. Festivals   through out the year celebrate the passage of the seasons and the fertility   of their land. Despite the fact that most of the villagers earn less than a    £1 a day, people are genuinely proud of their skills as farmers.

Housebuilding   is one of the many threads of life dependent on agriculture. Traditional houses   in Andhra Pradesh are made from a mixture of earth, straw and cow dung. The   thatching materials are by-products of the traditional crops. The houses are   built by the villagers , with help from housebuilders and children, who mix   the cob up with bare feet. Once built, they are brightly painted then garlanded   with ears of grain. Modern concrete block housing is slowly creeping into India,   but in this part of Andhra Pradesh the low-impact houses are still the norm.

The migrant   agricultural labourers live in small bender and sugar-cane teepee camps. The   wage labourers earn an appalling 20-30 pence for a days labour, but would rather   have the work than no jobs at all.

All of the   farmers and labourers that I spoke with were strongly opposed to the governmentsÍ   plans to push th em out of their livelihoods. In Andhra Pradesh there are few   jobs available for illiterate, low-cast people. When the farmers no longer have   their land, they will move to the slums that encircle every major Indian city;   Bombay already has 18 million people „ how many will it have in 2020?

The British   government sees this mass clearance of the peasantry as a necessary step along   the path of development. It describes the destruction of traditional agriculture   as ñalleviating the peasants from centuries of toilî. But, as one of the women   farmers stated, ñ we have chosen to develop our own forms of agriculture, based   on our culture.î The farmers of the Deccan Plateau are very aware of the implications   of a conversion to mechanised agriculture. They have formed widespread coalitions   reflecting the interests of over 150 million small farmers. These coalitions   have created grassroots land reform programmes to promote sustainable agriculture.

Last year   a delegation of farmers visited the U.K. to confront DFID. They noticed the   differences in the scale of farming and village life.The women shook their heads   and clucked with disapproval at the  state of village life in Britain. They were   quick to understand why small farmers in Britain have to struggle against the   flood of these imports; and the problems of living in a countryside , where   community, family life and farming are no longer intimately linked.

Farmers in   India may be poor but they do not have to fight for years to build their own   homes. Every square inch of rural India is living, working countryside. The   small farmers are now fighting a battle that many Chapter 7 readers will recognize    „ a battle to preserve a way of life where housing is integrated with farming   life.

To find out   more about a campaign against Vision 2020 contact Jyoti at the Chapter 7 office.   


The   Welsh Low Impact Development Report

In 2001 the   Countryside Council for Wales (CCW), with support from the Welsh Assembly commissioned   a report on Low Impact Development from a team headed by the University of the   West of England (UWE). The University were given a four month deadline in which   to research and write the 180 page report, which was completed in March last   year. It then took the sponsors until December to vet the report; and then another   three months until they eventually agreed, under pressure, that it could be,   well not launched, but quietly released.

CCW and the   Welsh Assembly may have been sitting upon the report for a year, but fortunately   they donÍt seem to have left much of a bumprint on it. The reportÍs authors   come out unequivocably in favour of Low Impact Development, which they say can   deliver significant environmental and social benefits and modest economic benefits   and „ which is quite unusual „ provides all three of these together, whereas   so often there is a trade off between them.

Another, perhaps   surprising, finding was that the number of Welsh speakers on the low impact   sites was significantly higher than the Welsh average. Critics of low impact   in Wales have often alleged that itÍs adherents tend to be English settlers   rather than Welsh people.

UWE carried   out a survey coverin g about 180 people on over 20 sites, and makes sustainability   appraisals of five case studies, including Tony WrenchÍs house at Brithdir Mawr,   and Chris and Lyn DixonÍs smallholding at Tir Penrhos Isaf.

The report   recommends that:

´ Planning   Policy Wales and development plans covering rural areas should contain policy   for LIDs

´ Development   plan policies should provide criteria which all proposed LIDs should meet; the   criteria suggested are not dissimilar from the 15 criteria put forward in Defining   Rural Sustainability.

´ Developments   should be secured by planning obligations and where possible by vesting the   land in a trust, co-op or similar.

´ Pemaculture   design may be an important part of the overall site plan.

There is also   a 24 page commentary on the implications of the Human Rights Act for LID, by   Murray Hunt of Matri x Chambers. CCW and the Welsh Assembly seem to be reluctant   to associate themselves with the report and will do little to publish it, so   it is up to advocates of LID in Wales to get the report out, onto the desks   of MPs, members of the Welsh Assembly, and planning departments. The report   will soon be put up on Chapter7Ís website; until it is, contact us and we will   e-mail you back a copy.

University   of the West of England and Land Use Consultants, Low Impact Development „    Planning Policy and Practice, Countryside Council for Wales, December 1992.


A   Glimpse inside the Inspectorate

Simon,   together with, James Shorten, on of the authors of the Welsh Low Impact Development   report recently gave a talk to about 100 planning inspectors at the Inspectorates   annual training weekend at Warwick University. The event, which gathers together   all of the countryÍs 350 planning inspectors was revealing.

Planning inspectors   are solitary creatur es who habitually eat their lunch in a remote corner of   the pub because theyÍre not allowed to talk to anyone involved in the appeal.   When you tumble upon hundreds of them noisily jostling for beer at the Uni bar,   its almost as exciting as David Attenborough discovering a flock of barn owls.   Planning inspectors, the majority of whom are male, middle class, white-haired   and white-skinned, undergo very rigorous training „ everything they do is ñmarked   as if we were school children; to pass we have to get 90 per centî. Towards   the end of their first year they are allowed to tackle written appeals, but   it may be two years before they are given public inquiries. But senior inspectors   still do written appeals.

There seemed   to be general agreement that public inquiries are easier than hearings. Inquiries   ñrun themselvesî, whereas in hearings you have to work hard to elicit the information.   Inspectors specialize in certain kinds of appeals, and there is one section   of the Inspectorate which does only enforcement appeals, and which is statistically   more likely to encounter the sort of appeals which C7 News readers put forward.

It seems that   while planning appeal inspectors focus on policy issues , enforcement appeal   inspectors are more interested in finding a workable solution between the local   authority and the appellant. They may, for example, dismiss your appeal on policy   grounds, but in a way that allows you to proceed. It also suggests that if you   have lost a planning appeal, this doesnÍt mean that all is lost at the enforcement   appeal; which in turn suggests that it is probably better to get your planning   appeal in before they put an enforcement order on, so that the planning appeal   is heard separately from the enforcement appeal. This is certainly borne out   in the case of Steward Wood, who were trounced by the Inspector at their planning   inquiry, and then unexpectedly won at a written enforcement appeal.

Our presentation   on low impact development seemed to have been well received. A high proprtion   of the younger (under fifty) inspectors were present. The most notable audience   response was when James stated that Planning Policy Wales was far more advanced   than its English equivalent, and a warm ripple of agreement (one doesnÍt expect   cheers from Inspectors) spread around the audience.

Planning Policy   Wales lays down nine principles for sustainable development and 18 objectives,   including climate control, renewable energy, the precautionary principle and   the proximity principle, which emphasizes the value of local solutions. English   planning policy lags a long way behind, and Inspectors clearl;y recognize that.   The Inspectorate still acts as one body across England and Wales, even though   English appeals are held under the authority of the Office of the Deputy Prime   Minister at Bristol, while Welsh appeals are under the authoity of the Welsh   Assembly at Cardiff. Inspectors are thus aware both of the Welsh guidancxe and   the English. With this in mind, we see nothing to lose in submitting the sustainabilty   principles and objectives in Planning Policy Guidance Wales as evidence in English   appeals, on the grounds that they are a more advanced definition of sustainability.

The Inspectorate   is a peculiar institution- an academy offering a refuge for people who have   made some headway in public life but who want to retreat from the fray and the   corruption, whilst still retaining an influence. The most paradoxical thing   about it is that although decisons at appeals are made by  one person, the system   is surprisingly democratic. Local planning committees are elected, and their   decisions reflect dominant local poitical interests. Legal decisions are made   according Acts of parliament which reflect the will of the majority, and we   know what blunt instruments they can be. In between lies the Inspectorate, 350   inspectors, empowered, without any electoral mandate, to analyse the issues   to a level of detail way beyond what elected local councillors or MPs have time   to deal with. In 40 per cent of the cases they overturn what the elected councillors   have decided. This is a fairl;y healthy response, for which we should be grateful.


Appeals

The   Hollies

Planning permission for   the Hollies ecovillage in Ireland has been given at the third attempt. They   have received permanent permission for two eco-homes, outline permission for   two more, and permission to rebuild their study centre

. The HolliesÍ success creates   an exciting pre cedent in Ireland for a ïthird wayÍ in Irish rural planning.   The argument about rural housing is bitterly divided between rural regeneration   types who believe ñone-off housesî (typically hacienda-style bungalows) will   create a ñdynamic rural societyî and conservation lobby, who want to see all   new houses should be in existing centres. The Hollies have now created a third   option „ clustered low energy, low impact buildings, designed in sympathy with   the landscape to create livelihoods for residents and the surrounding community.   The residents of the Hollies hope that their ecovillage will prove to be the   first of many such developments around the country.

They will soon begin work   on cob and timber homes roofed with tiles made from recycled car tyres.

Steward   Wood, Safe at Last

A High Court judge has   upheld the planning permission granted to Steward Wood last year. The Dartmoor   National Park Authority (ïDNPAî) was attempting to overturn the decision, but   the judge ruled that the inspector was justified in finding that the sustainable   project being carried out by t he people at Steward Wood was worthwhile. The   folks at Steward Wood are greatly relieved to be able to get on with things   and stop worrying about planning for a while.

The planning permission   lasts for 5 years. It is mainly for the existing structures, but new structures   can be erected with written permission from the DNPA. In the future, the members   of the project hope that they will be able to establish better relations with   the Park Authority. Comments from the authority after the case was over, seemed   to indicate a basic willingness to work with them to further the projects aims.

It will be interested to   see how this relationship changes over the next five years. In our experience   as projects establish them selves, Local Authorities often move from opposition   to support.

The   Future of Ben LawÍs House

Virtually everybody except   the Chapter 7 editors, it seems, saw the recent TV programme on Ben LawÍs woodland   enterprise and house, and everyone thought it was brilliant. However, several   people h ave expressed their concern that because it is a personal permission,   the house would have to be dismantled if Ben wanted or had to give up the running   of the holding, and that therefore he could not sell it on.

Although technically this   is the case, in practice it is not actually like that. What would happen is   that if Ben found a potential buyer, then that buyer would have to put in an   application to the committee to vary the condition to allow them to occupy the   building on the same terms as Ben „ in other words they would have to provide   evidence that they were willing and capable of carrying on the enterprise.

This ought to be a good   arrangement. Ben would not want to sell his land on to somebody who ran down   the operation which he put so much work into building up; the local authority   wouldnÍt want to see the home going into the hands of someone who ran down the   business, claimed that it was unviable and got the forestry occupancy condition   removed. So there shouldnÍt be a fundamental problem with this condition, though   it would be safer if the right to pass it on to a bona fide forester were written   into the condition. Its certainly better than a conventional occupancy condition   which can be easily overturned.

There are a few worries.   One is the amount of time the local authority might take to make a decision   if there were an application from a prospective buyer. If the evidence were   weak, or the council were awkward, then it might drag on. The local authority   might have to deal with several applications from buyers who eventually pulled   out. There could be a situation where a prospective buyer might want to place   an option on the land contingent on getting planning permission, much as housing   developers do. This is not necessarily a bad thing, apart from the wait.

Enforcement   Fine Slashed

A man who was fined £10,000   with £2,000 costs in Leicester Crown Court for defying two enforcement notices   ordering him and his wife to stop living in a caravan, has had the fines drastically   reduced by a Criminal Court of Appeal Judge.

Mr Justice Mitting ruled   that the man had limited means and that the fines were more severe than the   case warranted. The manÍ s wife had severe senile dementia, and it was in her   interest to go on living in the caravan.

The maximum fine for defying   an enforcement order is £20,000; but in our experience first time fines are   often around £300 and rarely over £1000; the hearing is usually in Magistrates   Court. We are not sure if the man elected to go to Crown Court.

R. v Foxon, 24 March 2003.   

Human   Rights for Wealthy Non-Chicken Farmer

Readers of Issues 6 and   7, or of DIY Briefing no 9, may recollect an appeal in which a luxury house   in the New Forest was allowed on human rights grounds. Permission had been given   for a bungalow in connection with a chicken farm, but the appellant, a former   night club owner, who sends his kids to private school, and admits he could   afford a £259,000 house elsewhere, built a five bedroomed two-storey house allegedly   worth £750,000 „ without having a single chicken on the property. He even agreed   that what he had done was a ñshamî „ then subsequently claimed he didnÍt know   what th e word meant.

The original inspectorÍs   decision was quashed at High Court but now after a second appeal, the Secretary   of State has awarded temporary agricultural permission for the house, on human   rights grounds. The thinking behind the decision seems to be that it would be   better to allow temporary permission for the luxury dwelling, than permanent   permission for the original bungalow.

As far as we know this   remains the only appeal where a ñsmallholderî has been allowed to keep a dwelling   on Human Rights grounds. In every case we know involving poor but genuine smallholders,   an Article 8 defence has not been accepted.

Jim Aplin and Hayley Moreland,   who run a successful box scheme in Gloucestershire have to move their caravan   off their land. Ann Morgan who for 15 years has operated a permaculture holding   in a Somerset village has to move out of her mobile home. Yet here a patent   scam artist, clearly not in need of affordable housing, is given the go ahead,   under the Human Rights Act, by the Secretary of State.

New Forest DC, APP/B1 740/C/00/1050922

Test   Case for Luxury House

In an unusual decision,   an inspector has allowed the construction of a luxury dwelling in a garden on   the banks of the river Test in Hampshire on the grounds that allowing people   to live on site ñwould assist in the management of the river, improve nature   conservation value and assist in maintaining the high quality landscape value.î   The Inspector reasoned that ñthe owners would be able to operate sluice gates   on the land to control the flow of part of the river and prevent the risk of   flooding, while regulating river flows would also assist in supporting the salmon   population. The owners would be more likely to maintain the garden to its presently   high standard.î

Bearing in mind that the   site was already a landscaped garden, rather than agricultural land, the decision   will nevertheless be of interest to some of our readers. We get a number of   of enquiries from people who want to get permission to live on land in the open   countryside, not on the grounds that they derive a livelihood from it, but solely   on the grounds that they are managing the land in an environmentally benign   manner, and are causing no harm. We can see the benefits of this approach, which   accords to an extent with ideas advanced under the heading of Low Impact Development.   But we have doubts about the long term effects of policies which would permit   residences on landscape and wildlife grounds alone, without reference to other   criteria.

In particular, allowing   a series of such houses to be built without limitations upon car traffic would   create sprawling wealthy suburbs on the US ñan acre and three carsî model. There   is also a danger that ill-formulated policies along these lines would allow   rich people to acquire privacy and a view by buying up very large chunks of   land, sticking a few sheep on them, planting some native broadleaves and claiming   Countryside Stewardship grants.

This is already happening   with farms where there is an existing dwelling. This approach may be great for   wildlife, and for chocolate box landscapes, but it does not create a thriving   sustainable countryside. Instead it raises the price of land to a level which   people who genuinely want to live off the land canÍt afford; and i t makes the   UK even more dependent upon food and resources from countries where people are   less precious about the environmental quality of their land. If low impact development   begins to make some headway in the planning system, then there will be powerful   interest groups trying to push it in this direction. We may well return to this   matter in future issues of C7 News.

The quotes are from a DCS   abstract of the appeal, and not from the decision letter. Test Valley DC, Inspector:   Martin Andrews


Housing   

Mobile   Eco-Hamlets

Maureen Boustred has sent   us her proposal for mobile home sites which are small co-operatively run communities   committed to eco-restoration and sustainable land management.

She envisages people using   adapted mobile homes for immediate housing when they first move onto rural sites,   so they can adjust to their surroundings, get started working on the land an d   have time to build a permanent low-impact home designed for a specific position   and particular needs of the occupiers. Once the permanent home is completed,   the mobile home would be removed.

She proposes dwellings   consisting of two conventional units bolted together, insulated by straw bales   on the north , heated by a green house on the south, and powered with solar   panels.

Temporary secondhand mobile   homes are often used by individual smallholders who apply for temporary permission   , so that they can prove the viability of their enterprises . Maureen sees mobile   homes as useful for groups setting up eco-hamlets on the urban fringe, on Forestry   Commission land, and particularly in the ñgarden of Englandî, the South East.

Maureen also recommends   that local authorities encourage residents of traditional mobile home sites   to get together and buy their sites collectively, so that they can worry less   about unscrupulous landlords and more about creating a convivial environment.

High   Impact Eco-Villag es

The architects of the London   Eye have come up with their own solution to the housing crisis in London: 200   metre high ñSkyhouses,î of up to 50 storeys packed with flats.

These towers, we are assured,   will be very different from the unpopular towerblock s of the 1960Ís, because   every few floors there will be spaces for trees and gardens with communal areas,   restaurants, cr?ches, shops, and health clubs. On the top floor is a swimming   pool with a panoramic view. Doubtless there will be computerized shopping and   banking and people will be able to work at home from their computer. It wonÍt   matter if the tower blocks create a hostile, barren windswept space beneath   them, because their inhabitants will hardly ever need to go out.

We have seen this sort   of thing before from the likes of Le Corbusier, Paolo Solari and Dan Dare; the   difference now is that the blueprints are backed up by compact city arguments   and garnished with green features. The Skyhouses will cram unprecedented numbers   of plebs into a small area, thus saving countless acres of countryside from   developments of the kind p roposed by Maureen Boustred. And they will be powered   by solar panels and noiseless wind turbines, and harvest rainwater (though there   will be 50 times less rain falling on each dwelling than would fall on one of   MaureenÍs mobile homes, and a lot less sunshine).

If a vertiginous, climate   controlled, digitally-monitored, virtual lifestyle is what people want, and   if Skyhouses really are environmentally sustainable, then we should build them.   It would be interesting to know how many people would like to live in a Skyhouse,   and how many in the sort of eco-hamlet Maureen describes. And it is worth remembering   that an ecohamlet dwelling would cost a fraction of a Skyhouse flat.


Bits   and Pieces

Walter   Segal Trust In Difficulty

The Walter Segal Trust has   launched an urgent financial appeal to raise £75,000 needed to keep the organization   afloat. The Trust was established in 1989 to promote self-build housing and   the philosophy behind it. It has done a lot of  good work and promoted some excellent   schemes, and it will be a great shame if it is forced to close.

We do however sometimes   wonder whether the Trust has not made a mistake in neglecting the field of planning   policy and in failing to respond to government consultations on affordable housing   and other relevant policies. Self-build is not mentioned in PPG3 on Housing,   nor in the recent parliamentary commission on affordable housing, with the result   that opportunities for affordable self-build are not coming forward. Is there   a lesson to be learnt here- that if you donÍt lobby for space, you may be squeezed   out?

To support the Walter Segal   Trust contact them at 15 High Street, Belford, Northumberland NE70 7NG; 01668   213544; www.segalselfbuild.co.uk

The   Octopus is Still Growing

One organization which   is lobbying for self-build is Herefordshire Friends of the Earth, who in C7   News 3 described how they were trying to influence the Herefordshire Unitary   Development Plan. Three years later, FoE, are still working on the UDP and have   submitted a response about the lack of affordable housing provision in rural   areas.

FoE is urging the council   to give proper recognition to the gross distortion of land values that results   from restrictive planning policies, and the dominant financial position of the   volume builders.

They argue that owner-builders   could receive permission for the construction of isolated small dwellings in   the vernacular tradition provided that the owners met criteria for needing affordable   housing and for a sustainable development (as defined in Defining Rural Sustainability).

Info: Brian Richardson,   01497 831546

Community   Group Outbid by Housing Musclemen

Chapter 7 has consistently   argued that the governmentÍs policy to cram dwellings onto brownfield sites   in cities squeezes out less lucrative uses. The theme has recently been taken   up in a short book published by David Nicholson Lord, called Green Cities „and   Why We Need Them. The author argues that ñhigh land values are a serious obstacle   to developing new low-intensity usesî, and that the governmentÍs target of building   60 per cent of new homes on brownfield sites should be scrapped. More on this   next issue.

Meanwhile Phil McLeish   has sent us a typical example from Islington, where local people, in order to   save their community centre, are being asked to pay the hope value that the   property has as potential housing.

ñMy daughter goes to a   kids special needs centre called Palace for All in Archway. We spent two years   talking to the London Borough of Islington about the PalaceÍs freehold and in   Spring 2002, they accepted our offer. But in December we found the Palace was   being sold to housing developers Derwent Valley Holdings PLC, as part of a larger   property portfolio. The Borough gave us 48 hours to submit a bid for the Palace   and then rejected it.

ñWeÍve now gone into partnership   with Barnsbury Housing Association who are putting together a bid to buy the   building. Barnsbury are being rushed into buying it before coming to a proper   agreemen t with the Palace about the buildingÍs future

ñThe present rent on the   Palace is £8,500 per annum, and the estimated value of the property is about    £400,000. Yet Barnsbury are currently being pressured to bid £500,000 plus another    £500,000 for ñhousing nominationsî in order to compete with Derwent who apparently   have said that their bid for the entire portfolio would drop by £800,000 if   the Palace were taken out.

ñThe Palace is currently   registered as being D1 Use Class (Non-Residential Institution), and Islington   planners informed Palace that D1 status should remain as long as there is a   demand for it. How then can the council force us to choose between a property   developer and a housing association when weÍre a D1 and they know that eitherÍs   only possible financial interest could be in ending at least some of the PalaceÍs   D1 status, and that the price patently reflects that ? How do we save D1 space   and demand that a fair sale should mean a fair price?î

David Nicholson Lord, Green   Cities and Why We Need Them, New Economics Foundation, 020 7089 2800

How   to Price Yourself Out of a Job

One of our readers, who   lives in a well-heeled part of Southern England, tells us how she recently heard   a local authority planner explaining publicly why their service was not up to   scratch. Planners, he explained were impossibly overworked and couldnÍt keep   up with the work-load. The reason they were overworked was because there werenÍt   enough of them. And the reason why there werenÍt enough of them was because   they couldnÍt afford the price of housing in the locality. The poor key worker   didnÍt have an opportunity to pursue his reasoning any further because the audience   had collapsed in laughter.

Not   in Our Name!

Down the road from Chapter   7, green developer Stewart Black is trying to reopen an old lime quarry „ lime   being a preferable alternative to Portland cement because it lets buildings   move and breathe, it involves less heat and oil in its manufacture, and it can   be produced at a small local scale.

Unfortunately StewartÍs   application has met up with opposition from a bunch of NIMBYs „ the sort of   people who think that dust and noise should be banned from the Somerset countryside,   and that we should import cement from Third World countries like Tunisia or   Yorkshire where the natives donÍt mind that sort of thing. These worthy folk   meet up to plan their campaign in the local hostelry. The name of the pub? .   . . The Lime Kiln.


Pigs   and Planning

David   Gillet has been mentioned in previous issues of Chapter 7 News in relation to   his success in gaining planning permission for a 33 acre smallholding focusing   on pigs in woodland. We thought his plans for integrated pig management were   interesting enough to print. They give insight into the nature of the integrated   multifunctional systems typical of many of the smallholders we represent.

My intention is to earn   a living from my 33 acre plot. The economic cornerstone of the venture is the   production of high welfare pork and poultry, adding value, e.g. smoking bacon   and sauasages and selling direct to the customer through farmers markets. I   also produce artists charcoal, from fast growing willow clones, and fungi grown   on hardwood thinnings.

Half of my land was clear   felled conifers. This country has rather too many regimented plantations of   conifer smothering our hills, so I propose to plant a wide diversity of broadleafs.   That is when we have dealt with the bracken, bramble couch and rose bay willow   herb. Which brings me to why we bought the land. Pigs! We make bacon.

The pig is a woodland creature   and if you keep a pig in a woodland it express its natural behaviour. In short,   it wants to root. Now we DONÍT want bramble because they have big roots that   outcompete trees. The pig DOES want them because the roots have lots of tasty   nutrients. While the pigs are happily rooting, they are developing the taste   and texture that so much supermarket meat lacks.

We run the pigs on a patch,   then move them on, broadcast forage crops, then bring the pigs on to harvest   them. When we have done this for three years the land is clear enough to broadcast   seeds, say two days  before removing the pigs so they can trample in the seeds.   We broadcast any small seed such as birch and alder. I can almost hear conventional   foresters gasping ñdonÍt you know birch is a weed?î But, what is a weed? IÍve   mentioned a few and theyÍre pig food. I use the birch logs for growing edible   fungi. Around these birch stands we will plant oaks (for acorns for the pigs),   coppice and timber trees.

We still have the problem   of weed control in the birch stands and it is at this point that I introduce   another woodland creature, chickens, which will quickly peck out any fresh young   green weeds; but then they must be moved so they do not scratch out the roots   of the young trees.

For additional pig and   poultry food I sprout local peas, and make them a few gallons of yeasty beer   which they are more than a little partial to. The forage provides them with   the vitamins, minerals and diversity of amino acids neccessary for a healthy   diet but, more importantly, it provides them with an interest.

You may think this all   sounds rather complicated. It is. Nature is complicated. You can try to meet   Nature head on and beat it into submission with great gas-guzzling machines   and tons of petro-chemical, but for how long? You can try and understand how   nature works and work with it, using it to your advantage.

The pigs and I have a great   deal to learn. In my first year here I had only a few pigs or weaners and they   did not know much about forest life. I was puzzled when they had stripped the   leaves from the brampbles, but left the fruit. So I climbed in with them, picked   some blackberries and offered them to a pig. I was ignored. Then I crushed them   in my hand and, this time, she got the idea. Within a week, they had eaten all   the fruit. I also had to teach them to eat hazel nuts. What did I learn? We   had to keep breeding sows that could teach their progeny things about being   a pig in the forest; things I, a mere human will never know. By looking at the   effect they have had on the land I learned we can keep five sows to an acre,   penning them and moving them on as their offspring grow. Indeed, the success   of this venture depends on the close observation of plants and livestock, being   here to look after them and taking the appropriate action.


<b>Escape   from Metroland

ñThe   sustainability of the house and the self sufficiency of the lifestyle do not   override the basic planning policiesî was what development control officer Catherine   Milner said about Tony WrenchÍs house in our last issue. In response, Roger   Crawford has sent us a letter he sent to his local planning authority who are   taking enforcement action against him.

Dear Planners,

I am somewhat surprisedthat   it has taken a further six months for you to reply to my last letter. I have   explained why we have been unable to conform to regulations and do not intend   to go over this again.

To quote from your response:   ñplanning controls exist for a reason and, in principle, not to take action   against persons breaching them would question the need for them in the first   placeÍ.

I do question the need   for them. As far as I can ascertain, the planning control in the U.K. countryside   was the result of vociferous protests by largely upper-middle-class people (usually   town-dwellers) at what they saw as the destruction of the countryside during   the inter-war years. People such as Clough Williams-Ellis and Patrick Abercrombie   (who thought it acceptable for themselves to have second homes in the countryside)   wrote impassioned articles, broadcast their views on the BBC, and founded organisations   such as the Council for the Preservation of Rural England.

I grew up in Kenton, Harrow,   a suburb created in the 1930Ís. I thought it a sterile, artificial place and   took every opportunity to get out of it into the true countryside. I took the   Metropolitan Line out to Chesham, Great Missenden and Wendover. I joined the   C.P.R.E., and the local naturalists trust, the Chiltern Society and the Bucks   Archaeological Society, no-one keener than I to conserve the local landscape   and to prevent development. From there, my love of the land, moved me into horticulture.

Since the sixties many   of my views have changed, but my love of the countryside and of the land has   remained constant. It is a part of my psyche. It now goes hand-in-hand with   a regard not so much for the ri ghts of people as the needs of people, and a   growing sense of the injustices and absurdities of the current planning system,   as it affects everyone. At last, over fifty years since the Town and Country   Planning Act was passed, it is being recognised that the current planning laws,   as they relate to the countryside, are outdated in many ways and unfair in many   more. Based on the ideas of a number of well-off people in the 1930Ís, and their   views on how the countryside should look, they are elitist, and discriminate   against poorer people.

The current system has   put living in the countryside out of the reach of a very large section of the   population and has disenfranchised almost every young person wishing to make   a living on the land. This in turn is destroying any chance of a vibrant, living   rural community, and indeed the whole fabric of the countryside and its market   towns. A land ïfit for heroesÍ is now a land only fit for commuters, and wealthy   ones at that.

Poorer people, young people,   fringe groups such as travellers and gypsies, plotholders, smallholders, allotment-holders,   peasant-craftsmen are all discouraged, prevented, barred. All of these in the   past have been able to contribute in their different ways to making the countryside   interesting. Now they are planned-out of existence to be replaced by agribusiness   and estates of dreary ñexecutive homesî.

The planning system is   is making our lives poorer, not richer; whilst it purports to ñpreserve the   countrysideî it in fact destroys that which it is entrusted with. It is remarkable   that even in the 21st century the planning laws can be seen as more important   than even the most basic humanitarian ones. It should be the inalienable right   of anyone to live and work on their land in peace , over and above any planning   consideration. The presumption should be for, not against, having a home on   your land, as long as it does not disadvantage anyone else. I am sure the Highland   clearances were deemed legal at the time, but no-one of sound mind now believes   that the law and the way it was enforced was right. The principle is surely   as wrong now as it was then.

It is no surprise to me   that all those who truly love the countryside, past and present, hate the planning   system „ poets such as John Betjeman, philosophers such as J.B. Priestley, anyone   who recogn ises that the beauty of the English landscape is enhanced by people   living and working in it, not in estates dumped all over, but on individual   plots. It doesnÍt matter if they are viable or not, If they love the land and   care for it, they do more to bring life and vitality and beauty to the countryside   than any planner could achieve or even dream of. I submit that if the full force   of the law is brought against us, it will not be because you see us as a threat   to the countryside. A threat to the system , perhaps, but is that a good enough   reason?

Roger Crawford


Announcements

Big   Green Gathering

Chapter 7 will once again   have an information booth at the Big Green Gathering. The Gathering will take   place from the 30th of July until the 3rd of August near Cheddar in Somerset,   but on a different site from last year. For more info see: www.big-green-gathering.com

NewLandOwner

We wrote about NewLandOwner   agricultural consultancy, run by organic farmers David Morris and Robert Jeffery   in our last issue, but we stupidly forgot to give their contact details. New   Land Owner, can do agricultural appraisals for small acreages, among other things,   and we have had good reports about them from several of our readers. Tel 01283   585410, Fax 01283 585735. Mobile 07971 566907; r.jeffery@farmline.com; www.newlandowner.co.uk

Low   Impact Homes on Web

Over 100 images of low-impact   dwellings in Britain can now be seen on the website, www.dwellwell.org. Selena   Merrett has been touring with this collection as a slideshow and talk since   1999. It covers structures, sustainable living, and planning issues. She is   now going off travelling and so has made her research available on the internet.

Allotment   Conference

The Rural History Centre   at the University of Reading is hosting a c onference about The Allotment- Its   Past, Present and Future. Speakers will discuss the history of allotments, their   place in contemporary society, and campaigns to protect allotments from development.   It takes place on Saturday 31st of May, 2003. To book send £25 with your details   to Dr. Rachel Stewart, Rural History Centre, University of Reading, Whiteknights,   P.O. Box 229, Reading, RG6 6AG, UK

Doomsday   for Landowners

Domesday 2000 is a body   set up to encourage wide debate and analysis on one of the central issues of   economic injustice in the UK: the holding of vast sections of the land mass   of the UK by the Aristocracy. They are taking a more directly political line   to Land Reform as a follow up to Kevin Cahill’s work Who Owns Britain (see C7   News 10). land@domesday2000.co.uk

Steward   Wood

Steward Community Woodland   are hosting a residential course starting on the 4th of August and running for   two weeks. Devin Ashwood will be teaching the 90 hour perma culture design course.   Students can stay in one of the low-impact dwellings on site, camp on the land,   or use other local accomodation. Vegan food is provided. The course is non profit   and low-cost. Bursaries available for low incomes. The community is also looking   for new members interested in permaculture, woodland conservation management,   and veganism. Contact Devin 0845 456 1246 or Dan at 01647 440233

Start   Your Own Community Woodland

Reforesting Scotland is   selling a new set of advice sheets with all of the information you need to know   to set up and manage a community woodland. The advice sheets are very specific,   ranging from legal practicalities to woodland managements and marketing. The   complete info pack costs £15. Individual sheets are £1 each. Reforesting Scotland,   62-66 Newhaven Road, Edinburgh, EH6 5BQ, Scotland Tel: 0131 554 4321 Email:   info@reforestingscotland.org

Woodland   Planning Study

Clare Ferguson won the   Oxford Brookes School of Planning directo rs prize for the best dissertation   of last year for her study of sustainable forestry and planning. The study highlights   the benefits of woodland businesses on the countryside, and the problems created   for these businesses through a lack of clear definitions of forestry and misapplication   of the functional and financial needs tests. It assesses reasons why authorities   need to resolve these problems. For a copy of the study contact Chapter 7.

Another   Kind of Space

Alan Dearing and Graham   Meltzer have edited a new book Another Kind of Space: creating ecological dwellings   and environmentswhich collects together the personal stories of people who have   chosen to live in alternative dwellings, living spaces and environments around   the world. The book shows how an eclectic mix of people are working to promote   their own visions of the future. £13.99 + £2 p&p from Enabler Plications, 3   Russell House, Lym Close, Lyme Regis, Dorset DT7 3DE

Job   Offer: Starting Up Co-ops

UpStart Wor kers co-op is   looking to recruit one or two more part time employee members: a trainee accounts   technician and a fieldworker/trainer. We will be doing co-op accounts, promoting   community enterprise in deprived communities round the South West, developing   innovative new co-op business ideas and running training courses. We expect   to provide good training, so qualifications and experience will be of secondary   importance to commitment and common values. Phone Alex or Sara 0845 458 1473   

Help   the Underprivileged

All over the UK countless   local authority planners are deprived of the opportunity to read Chapter 7 News.   Adopt a Planner For only £5 you can buy a planner a yearÍs subscription. Send   us the name and address of your chosen planner or planning office „ or we can   select one for you.

FUNDING

Chapter 7 has received   enough funding to carry us through the next year from several donors. We wish   to thank them for their support and confidence in us.

 

 

 

a Landrights campaign for Britain

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