Letter from the Lone Editor
I ‘m afraid this is a not a very festive issue of Chapter 7 News, consisting mainly of horror stories about refused appeals and rejected applications, and our reflections on the difficult matter of enforcement actions. It is also ( mercifully) on the short side. This is for two reasons. The first is that Jyoti is away in Andhra Pradesh, India, for 6 weeks, where she is campaigning with local farmers. The peasants there are facing a planning problem of an altogether different scale. The Vision 2020 strategy for the state of Andhra Pradesh, funded with money from the UK Government, schedules the removal from their lands over the next two decades of some 20 to 25 million peasants ‘ 30% of Andrha Pradesh ‘s population ‘ to be replaced by machines, chemicals and genetically engineered crops. The majority of peasants are less than enthusiastic about being herded into sprawling metropolises like Bombay to manufacture baubles for the developed world. Jyoti will report back next issue.
Our Report on PPG7
It is also shorter because we have been concentrating on the 40 page report which we shall be presenting to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister, and to other bodies, on our proposals for reform of Planning Policy Guidance 7 on the Countryside. PPG7, which is up for review or replacement shortly, contains much of the policy that makes it so difficult for people to establish a low impact life in the countryside. Our report has been drawn up with the help of the PPG7 Reform Group, which has been corresponding on the subject for over a year. The thrust of the report is three-fold: 1. The policies on agriculture, and on agricultural dwellings in PPG7 do not reflect the current situation, and do not provide for the needs of smallholders, independent woodland managers and similar people whose enterprises can only be sustained if they live on their holding. 2. PPG7 does not provide for highly sustainable residential developments in the countryside, even though it does allow large well-designed country houses. 3. PPG7 says nothing about the affordable housing problem in the countryside, and does not consider the potential for various forms of low impact development to help resolve this problem. The report offers a number of recommendations for changes to PPG7 (or whatever replaces it), although in the case of number 3, low impact housing, we consider that Government research into the matter is the most immediate requirement. Our report is supported by over 90 short case studies. We will be sending all our subscribers a four page summary of the report, due out early next year. We need as much help as we can get publicizing this document. The revision of PPG7 is, by all accounts, going to be a major one, and possibly provide a model for more widespread changes to policy guidance. It is the biggest opportunity there may be to get things changed for some time. If you are willing to help with publicizing the launch of this document, either nationally or locally, please get in touch. Thanks to all of you who have contributed to Chapter 7 and its magazine over the year and a Happy New Year to you all. from Simon and Jyoti. Most of the next issue will devoted to the subject of ‘Transport’, and in particular to how more people living and working in the countryside could result in less car transport, rather than more. If you have anything you want to contribute ‘ articles, cuttings, cartoons or photos ‘ do send them in. And thanks to all of you who sent us material for this issue.
Chapter 7 ‘s New Year Competitions
The Art Competition
We are looking for a very simple line drawing, woodcut or similar black and white image to go on the fro nt cover of our forthcoming report (see this page) which sums up or evokes what we are saying. Remember, the report is going to the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister and various other august bodies, as well as the press and the public. Whoever sends us an illustration that we use will receive a prize of £50, plus a complete set of Chapter 7 News back issues. Runners up will be published in the magazine.
The Literary Competition
We still haven ‘t found a good title for our report. The nearest we have got is something like Creating Opportunities for Sustainable Livelihoods and Affordable Homes in the Countryside. This is a bit of a mouthful and would do better as a subtitle.Whoever thinks of a snappy, eye-catching title that we use will receive £20, plus a complete set of back issues. Deadline for both competitions: sometime in the first half of January, but phone us for more details.
Gypsy Site Trashed By Council
Over the last three months a vigorous campaign has been run to assist a large group of Romany travellers at Woodside in Hatch, Mid Beds.T he travellers had collectively paid £300,000 for a site which had planning permission for holiday caravans, but were persistently refused planning permission for a permanent site, including at two public inquiries. Apparently Prescott turned down a called-in decision, but we have been unable to verify this; on the whole Prescott has had a good record in gypsy cases. Mid Beds have spent half a million pounds on enforcement procedures, and on 4 November sent bailiffs in who trashed the electricity, water fittings and hardstanding on a number of vacated sites. Cliff Codona and his family are still on the site pursuing a Court of Appeal case re-examine the way the application was handled is due to be heard. Local authorities tend to have less compunction about enforcing against gypsies and travellers than they do about other people. A similar case is coming to a head, at Dale Farm, near Basildon. About 30 traveller families are seeking planning permission on a former scrap yard, right next to existing traveller ‘s plots, but have been served with enforcement notices and stop notices. One of them, Patrick Egan, told us ‘The Government has told travellers to buy sites, but wherever we buy them we get refused. If we buy them in the country they say it s spoiling the countryside; if we buy expensive development land they say they don ‘t want us on their doorstep; if we buy plots next to other travellers, they say there ‘s too many of us.’
Contacts: Woodside: Gratton Puxon 01206 523 528; Dale Farm: Patrick Egan 07788 732951.
When Enforcement Means Eviction
In Chapter 7 News No 9, we warned that the Green Paper on planning raised the possibility of making development without planning permission a criminal offence, and of penalizing people who put in retrospective planning applications. This would severely affect many of our readers who are either facing enforcement proceedings to evict them from their homes, or are putting in retrospective applications to keep their homes. The government now, thankfully, appear to be backing off from this agenda. In September the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister issued a consultation paper entitled Review of the Planning Enforcement System in England which states:
~ ‘The Government . . . believes that criminalization would be an inappropriate and disproportionate response. Criminalization seems too draconian a penalty given the minor and often unwitting nature of the vast majority of breaches of planning control. We would welcome views on this issue.’
~ ‘Retrospective applications continue to have a role to play in legitimising unauthorized developments’; and ‘higher fees for retrospective planning applications would be counterproductive . . . We would, however be grateful for further views on this’
This is a great relief. These measures were probably aimed at other targets such as unscrupulous businesses, but, as we pointed out to the government in our response to the green paper, they would cause huge problems for people trying to stake a home for themselves. The most worrying thing in the enforcement consultation paper is a proposal to abolish the 10 year rule for a certificate of lawful use (which affects residential caravans), but not the 4 year rule for certificate of lawfulness of a dwelling house. This would discriminate against the poorest section of the community, (the fact that caravans have to wait 10 years, while dwelling houses only have to wait 4 years is already discriminatory). Chapter 7 is urging the Government, if it goes ahead with scrapping the 10 year rule, to slot residential caravans under the 4 year rule.
Lessons from the Death of Mrs C . . .
Over the last few weeks Chapter 7 has been giving advice to a couple ‘ lets call them Mr. and Mrs. C ‘ who are facing an enforcement notice, The couple, decided they wanted to do something constructive in their forthcoming retirement, and so they sold their bungalow and bought 15 acres of land to operate a refuge for wild and semi-domestic animals. They had the backing of the RSPCA in this project.
For the first 18 months, while they were setting up the project, they stayed in a mobile home on a friend ‘s nearby farm. However, an enforcement notice was served, they had to leave the farm and they moved onto a mobile home on their own land. Another enforcement notice arrived within a matter of weeks, and here Mr C made a fatal mistake. He failed to understand that he had only 28 days to appeal, and missed the deadline.
It was at this point that Mr C contacted Chapter 7, in a state of desperation. We advised him to put in a planning application for the caravan, and to look at other possible ways of living on the land that might not be in breach of the enforcement notice.
Then in the middle of November, we heard from another Chapter 7 subscriber, that Mrs C, one evening, had walked out of the caravan and taken her own life. The prime reason for her depression was the enforcement notices and the looming realization that they had sold their home for a piece of land that the local authority would not let them live on.
We have since heard from Mr C, who tells us that he intends to fight on. ‘It was our dream . . . They have taken my wife, I am not going to let them take everything.’ We are sure that readers of Chapter 7 News will join us in offering him our sympathy and support.
Coping With Stress
In the three and a half years that Chapter 7 has been in existence, this is the first case of suicide we have encountered, but it is by no means the first case of severe stress. We have been told of people who died of stress-induced illness after being enforced off their land, of people who have suffered breakdowns and are now on sedatives, and of families that have split up because one of the partners couldn ‘t hack it. We have had a man on the phone close to tears after losing thousands of pounds in a high court case; and a woman, facing enforcement who answered our phone-call with the words: ‘Please, I can ‘t bear to talk about the planning,’ and put down the receiver.
The stress, we suspect, is more often felt by wives (though not especially by single women). This could have something to do with a greater need on the part of women for a secure home, but there is another factor. As one smallholder who recently conducted his own appeal told us: ‘Its been OK for me because I ‘ve been doing all the negotiating with the council; its been more worrying for my partner, because she hasn ‘t been so involved, and she feels powerless.’
It is partly for this reason that we recommend that people having planning difficulties do not hand over the whole problem to a planning consultant, but take an active role in negotiating with the local authority, with or without the aid of a consultant. We also recommend that, where a family situat ion is becoming stressful, both partners take an active role in formulating a response to the planners.
At Chapter 7 we are trying to improve our counselling skills, because we know that people turn to us, not just for advice, but also for moral support and for the knowledge that they are not the only people facing eviction from their home.
Enforcement that Leads to Eviction: A Special Case?
We hope, also, that the planning authorities may learn something from Mrs C ‘s death. Enforcement procedures are currently under review by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister. At present the procedure is exactly the same for an unscrupulous business which has changed the use of its land, or for a householder who has erected an unlawful conservatory, as it is for somebody who is threatened with eviction from their only home.
Furthermore, any criminal, however petty their crime, is automatically offered the services of a duty solicitor, and under certain circumstances can get legal aid. When homeowners are faced with enforcement, under the planning system, they are not criminals, but they are presently offered nothing in the way of legal or consultancy support until they are actually hauled up in court.
We shall be recommending to the Government that, whether or not they tighten up enforcement procedures, planning decisions and enforcement actions which could render people homeless should be placed in a special category, and that there should be some safeguards. In particular, we recommend that:
~ planning applications which, if refused, could lead to eviction should not be delegated to the planning officers but should go to a committee meeting;
~ that when an enforcement notice involves eviction from an only home, the family or individual(s) affected should be immediately offered a free consultation with a solicitor, qualified in planning law, who can be selected from a list provided by the local authority; and should have the same opportunities for legal aid as they would have if they were accused an offence.
Of course, such measures do not tackle the root of the problem. The reasons why Mr. and Mrs C. ‘s efforts to undertake a worthy and beneficial project led to tragedy, are complex. It is the long term task of Chapter 7 to unravel this problem; but in the interim, we believe that Government should take measures to ensure that there are no more casualties.
. . . And from the Death of Harry Collinson
Enforcement action to evict people from their homes in the last 10 years has been taken in the shadow of one traumatic event: the shooting of Harry Collinson, principal planning officer of Derwentside District Council, on 20 June 1991, by Albert Dryden.
Collinson was at the head of a team of council employees and bulldozers, converging on Dryden ‘s home to destroy it. Dryden had threatened to shoot Collinson dead, and that is what he did. He was convicted of murder and imprisoned.
The events are described in Derwentside DC ‘s own internal report into the affair.1 The conduct of the planning department is exonerated in respect of fulfilling its obligations. Dryden comes across as a difficult, violent character; Collinson as exceptionally brave, because he knew what he risked when he walked towards Dryden ‘s house, for a cause that few people would chose to give their lives for.
But one also feels that Dryden was unnecessarily messed around. He wanted to pursue his agricultural,firewood and car-mechanics businesses, and wherever he tried to do it there was a reason why he couldn ‘t. He had a measure of support from people in the community: one supporter was blocking the path of the bulldozer when Collinson was shot. No civilized person could condone what Dryden did; but one can understand how someone facing the bulldozing of their home might become unhinged, or driven to extreme measures. It was a tragedy, in the true meaning of the word, and the report describes how it unfolded.
Since then, local authorities have rightly handled enforcement cases involving eviction gingerly, except in the case of gypsies who (presumably) are considered to be accustomed to shifting. Planning Policy Guidance 18 leaves it to the discretion of local authorities whether and how they should pursue enforcement, and policies vary greatly. Information is difficult to get hold of, and Chapter 7 only has a very partial view of the situation. Her e is a summary of what we have gathered over the last six years.
Aside from traveller and gypsy cases, so far we know of
: ~ one case where a house was bulldozed;
~ one case where a mobile homeowner was imprisoned;
~ a case where a local authority towed off mobile homes;
~ one current case where a smallholder is facing having his mobile home towed off at his expense;
~ one case where someone living in his workshop on a smallholding was fined £1,500;
~ several cases where people have been fined in the order of £200-£300;
~ many cases where enforcement has been delayed, often many years, by a war of attrition involving numerous applications, appeals and court cases;
~ several cases where the applicant has no legal recourse and is threatened with imminent enforcement action;
~ and a few cases where a local authority has declined to take any action.
We have been told, off the record, that one local authority has an unspoken policy of not pursuing enforcement action where it leads to eviction, and we suspect that there may be others with this policy.
This ‘flexible’ approach is something that does not exist in law, and is a peculiar characteristic of the English planning system which Chapter 7 values. We welcome the move by the ODPM not to criminalize development without planning permission, because this would make the matter of the right to stay in one ‘s home an inflexible legal matter from the start ‘ and that could lead to more tragedies.
We agree that there is a need to tighten up on enforcement on some abuses of the planning system, but this should not entail measures which force local authorities to evict people from their only home. The solution, we suspect, is to make special safeguards for enforcement cases which could lead to eviction; and to formulate a set of procedures which protect people ‘s right to a home, as guaranteed under Article 8 of the European Convention of Human Rights ‘ and that includes gypsies.
1. Derwentside District Council, Report of an Internal Inquiry into the Handling of the Planning Dispute with Albert Dryden, May 1992. If you can ‘t get a copy of this from Derwentside, Chapter 7 can photocopy it.
Tony Wrench ‘s Roundhouse: The Park Responds
Tony Wrench ‘s low impact roundhouse must be be demolished by March 2003. In the last issue we published an article by Tony, describing tricks that he felt Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority had carried out in the course of processing his applications. We invited his Development Control Officer, Catherine Milner, to respond, and this is a slightly shortened version of what she sent us.
It is with some concern and no little trepidation that I accept the invitation to respond to Tony Wrench ‘s article entitled Jiggery Pokery (C7 News 10).
I feel that I am representing all those planning officers who, whilst tr ying to do the job set out for them by Central Government, in advising Members on planning issues, are being accused of being ‘prejudiced, underhand, bullying, prying or corrupt’ ‘ or perhaps all five. On their behalf I take great exception to this generalized criticism of my profession and to the implication that in printing the article, I am guilty as charged. (Editor ‘s note: these were not Tony ‘s words, but were used by Chapter 7 in the introduction to his article, to describe the sort of allegations we frequently hear from smallholders and other people. We acknowledged that these were unsubstantiated, but said that they were so widespread we could not believe they were all without foundation.)
The Roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr has been the subject of a long and painful saga not only for Tony Wrench and Jane Faith, but also for officers and Members of the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.
First of all the facts:
Tony Wrench ‘s house is in the National Park. ‘National Park’ is the highest designation that can be given and reflects the extremely high quality of the landscape. The Park authority is charged with conserving and enhancing the natural beauty, wildlife and cultural heritage; and promoting the understanding and enjoyment of these special qualities. It also has responsibility for producing an overall plan for the Park, and the determination of planning applications.
At Brithdir Mawr, a 165 acre holding in the foothills of the Preseli Hills, various unauthorized forms of development were found. A group of people were living there who had specifically chosen not to apply for planning permission because, as they later indicated, they knew they would not get it. The majority of the issues were settled either by retrospective planning applications, or, in one case, the granting of a Certificate of Lawfulness.
The issue of the Roundhouse, however, remained. However designed, this was the erection of a new dwelling in the open countryside, totally contrary to both the central and local government policies. An Enforcement Notice requiring the vacation and demolition of the dwelling was served.A retrospective application was submitted and refused on policy grounds. An appeal against the enforcement notice was held at a th ree day public inquiry.The Planning Inspector visited the site on two occasions. He quashed the enforcement notice, but considered there was no justification for the dwelling, and granted temporary permission for 18 months to enable the applicants to make alternative housing arrangements.
Towards the end of the 18 months an application was made to retain the dwelling for a further two years on the grounds that a report on low impact development was awaited and presumably might lead to a change in policies. The Authority, even though it recognizes the problem and had indeed part-funded this research, could not assume that even when published, it would make recommendations of changes to policy, or whether any recommendations would be taken on board by the National Assembly. Such shifts in policy take a considerable time given the necessary opportunities that have to be made for public consultation and debate.
Again an appeal was lodged, and this time it was dismissed outright (see appeals section). A further enforcement notice was served. This has not been appealed against and gives the occupants until March next year to demolish the roundhouse.
No one can say that the democratic process has not been fully explored in this case by Tony Wrench.
So now to the so-called ‘tricks.’ The points made by Tony Wrench in his article are summarised in italics
TW: Telling the committee that ‘no case had or could be made’ for the functional test, despite a Pembs County Council report saying that ‘in terms of the functional requirements of the community’ there was a need.
~ I did not invent the functional and viability tests that every applicant wishing to erect a new dwelling in the countryside has to meet before any Authority can give planning permission. Whilst the couple may indeed work full-time on the holding there is no functional need for them to live there to do that. There are a number of other adults legitimately on site for the ’emergency’ situation that might arise.
TW: Members have been subtly advised against seeing our house for themselves.
~ Members of authorities do not see the vast majori ty of sites on which they make planning decisions. In this particular case a ‘higher authority’ ‘ two independent Appeal inspectors ‘ have visited the site, heard the arguments and found for the National Park Authority.
TW I have been denied a request to address the committee while applicants for a gaming alley were allowed to present a video to the committee
~ At the time Tony Wrench made this request, the planning committee did not permit applicants to address the committee. The video referred to was submitted as part of a planning application to illustrate to members the nature of the gaming centre. The applicants did not address the committee.
TW: The comments of the Town Council were not reported to the committee members.
The written comments of the town council were not received in respect of this application and a verbal message was not passed on to members. I have apologised for this.
TW: I asked three material considerations to be taken into account , but these were not reported by Ms Milner to the committee.
All the points made by Mr. Wrench were reproduced in the committee report that was placed before the members. I take great exception to the assertion that the committee has only been told half the story. That is not true, as the committee reports will testify. Even if this were the case in appealing Mr Wrench had the opportunity to ensure that the Inspectors had the whole story. They did not find in his favour.
Planning policies were not designed to purposefully stop Tony Wrench having a house in the countryside. They were designed to stop everyone having a house unless they could prove a justifiable need for the same. I am sure Mr Wrench would not like to see all the areas of open countryside built on. No such case on the basis of the present policy framework has been made.
The sustainability of the house and the self sufficiency of the lifestyle do not override the basic planning policies. This seems to be the belief that runs through the whole of Chapter 7 ‘ because we are doing something different and laudable, planning policies should not apply in the same way to us a s they do to the rest of the population.That is not a basis on which a democratic and civilized society can survive.
Prescott Takes Over the Green Paper
John Prescott’s retreat from some of the proposals made in the planning Green Paper sounds a bit airy.
As we anticipated, Stephen Byers disappeared soon after the publication of the Planning Green Paper ‘ and back came John Prescott, to head a department, now shorn of its Transport responsibilities, and called, in his honour, the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister (or ODPM, pronounced ‘oddpum’).
This may not such a bad thing because (a) Prescott appears to be human, unlike his predecessor; and (b) despite his two jags, he does go on quite a lot about sustainability and ‘sustainable communities’. Even if his interpretation of sustainability is different from ours, that ‘s better than phasing the concept out as Byers was trying to do.
Prescott was left with the mess of the Green Paper on planning to sort out (see C7 News 9) ‘ including the re cord 16,000 responses to the consultation draft. He moved quite quickly to winnow out some of the dross, and on July 18 delivered a statement outlining how the department planned to proceed (see below). But not knowing quite what to put forward, he has let the planning system drift towards the trendy, undefined field of ‘spatial planning’ (see below).
What is Spatial Planning?
The phrase Spatial Planning (which has nothing to do with galactic bypasses) was hanging around in articles and papers on planning for quite a time before we managed to fathom what it meant, so we imagine many our readers are still in the dark. The Planning Green Paper bravely described it as ‘planning jargon.’ But since then the Government has advocated both regional and local ‘Spatial Strategies’, so now it is policy; soon you may be corresponding with your local authority ‘s Spatial Planning Department.
The nearest thing we have found to a definition of ‘spatial planning’ is in the Royal Town Planning Institute ‘s attempt to rebrand itself as post-modern, in a document called A New Vision for Planning.
‘In developing a New Vision for Planning we therefore use the term spatial planning. We do so to emphasise that planning is as much concerned with the spatial requirements for, and impacts of, policies, even where these do not require a ‘land-use ‘ plan, as it is with land-use zonings. The inter-relationships, for example, of governmental policy can only be properly demonstrated by consideration of their aggregate impacts.’
What this appalling piece of prose is trying to say, we think, is that land use planning policies should take more account of the objectives emerging from other government departments ‘ ie more joined-up thinking, better integrated policy-making. This is an admirable aim, but it would help if everyone understood what they were talking about; and if one got rid of the pretentious and meaningless word ‘spatial’.
Main Points from Prescott ‘s June 18 Statement
~ The proposal to decide on major infrastructure projects in parliament has been dropped, after intensive opposition from environmentalists, and the parliamentary committee which responde d to the green paper. ~ The proposal to drop county structure plans and increase the importance of regional guidance (now called Regional Spatial Strategy) is going ahead. This is worrying as the County Councils are elected while Regional Assemblies aren ‘t.
~ Local plans will become known as Local Development Frameworks (and inevitably are expected to deliver a ‘spatial strategy’). However, since there is now no hint of the proposals in the Green Paper to make them simpler, to reduce the reliance on site specific policies, or to rely on criteria based policies as a basis for development control, it is hard to see how they will be much different from existing local plans. The main change seems to be that local authorities will be able to update them bit by bit, rather than all at once, which may not be a bad idea.
~ Business Planning Zones are still in the pipeline. They will be required to supply an Environmental Impact Assessment before they go ahead.
~ The period of validity of a planning permission will be reduced from five years to three.
~ The Gen eral Permitted Development Order is going to be ‘updated’. In another statement it was announced that the 28 day rule (which allows activities like camping to carry on for 28 days in the year) is not going to be abolished.
~ There will be a target that 90 per cent of all planning decisions will be delegated to the officers, rather than heard at committee. So much for democracy! However, Prescott does say that ‘clearly this does not mean that decisions that are inappropriate to delegate should be delegated’. Chapter 7 will be campaigning to get an assurance that planning applications which if refused could involve someone losing their home should not be delegated.
~ The time for an applicant to decide whether to lodge an appeal will be reduced from 6 months to three months.
~ Local authorities will be expected to let the public speak at planning committee meetings.
The Mormons at Mareham Lane
‘Girls gripping their handbags tighter, stared at a religious wounding . . . ‘
Betsy Ann Harper was born in Sleaford, Lincs, on 9 June 1850. Like many of her generation she took an emigrant ship from Liverpool; then she journeyed by train across the Eastern United States, and by steamboat to Florence Nebraska. There she joined a contingent of 50 horse teams, ten persons to each wagon. Betsy reached Salt Lake City, Utah, where, in 1871 she married Joseph from Colsterworth, who had been baptised a Mormon in 1857 and who had already married Sarah in 1868.
Betsy ‘s husband worked for the Union Pacific Railroad Company and was at Promontory, Utah on the famous day when the silver spike was driven in to join up the continental railroad. Betsy was buried in Smithfield, Utah, next to Sarah, in 1913. Their husband, who lived to be 91, was buried with them in 1931.
Seven decades later, the church that Betsy married into is buying prime farmland all around Sleaford, Lincs. In an echo of that silver spike, the year 2002 saw the built up area of Sleaford meet, eyeball to eyeball, with Mormon landholdings across Mareham Lane.
No Tea, No Beer
Jesus Christ looks down from the office wall at AgReserves Ltd, headquarters of the largest foreign farmland owner in Britain. Gasping for a cup of coffee, I am politely told that tea and coffee are not served. Clive Jolliffe, the General Manager has agreed to answer my questions: ‘2,500 acres is now the viability threshold in arable farming’ he states. I think back to Tooreenbeg, my own former farmhouse in West Cork. When it had 150 hill acres it was the largest farm for a long way.
In the shadow of Bass Maltings, a monument to booze, prairie farming is now conducted by people with principles. One of them is that no crops are grown to make beer, another is no Sunday working. A third is that there are no genetically modified crops, though this may be a nod to European sensitivities until or politicians fall in line with Salt Lake City.
I ‘m so nervous about misquoting Mr Jolliffe, that I write out my notes and send him them for correction:
‘We have experienced problems farming in the urban fringe (theft, vandalism etc) but are amenable to public interest issues and positively i nterested in switching the subsidy regime to address environmental concerns . . . We accept the long term planning framework of Sleaford Civic Trust. We are open and receptive to discussion about the implications of urban fringe advances towards Lodge Farm . . . and about buying land in Brauncewell.’ Sleaford surrounded!
‘We Farm the Land, They Get the Bibles’
My partner ‘s daughter ‘s boyfriend is the son of a Lincolnshire farmer. A real, hands dirty get-up-early farmer between Market Deeping and Bourne. I ask him: ‘why are you getting out of farming?’. He replies that there ‘s no money in it. So what ‘s in it for the Mormon Church and the Crown Estate, who between them encircle Sleaford?
Mr. Jolliffe says that it is to obtain a commercial return which is more than the capital they would get earning interest in a bank. It is used to fund missionary work in less developed countries. It makes commercial sense because the taxpayers of the EU and the US pay for production subsidies weighted towards arable prairies of 2,500 acres, shutting out and impoverishing the world ‘s less developed producers.
Since the Roman occupation, Mareham Lane and its like have been depopulated. Betsy Ann left the land in the 1940s; my partner ‘s daughter ‘s boyfriend is leaving it now. The public wants subsidies reduced to sensible levels and directed to wholesome food, humane production, smallholdings, hedgerows, coppice, clean water, variety in the landscape. Where better to start breathing life back into the countryside than Mareham Lane?
Brynley Heaven (shortened version)
Welsh Low Impact Report
The report on Low Impact Development commissioned by the Welsh Assembly, scheduled for release in September, has still not been released. It is apparently subject to a restricted consultation process, and has been viewed by a number of bodies, including the Planning Inspectorate.
Inquiry into Sustainable Housing
The Parliamentary Committee on the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has initiated an inquiry into ‘sustainable housing and communities’. Chap ter 7 has sent a response to the inquiry which is available from us, on request.
Thumbs Down All Round for Group Applications
In September, Tony Wrench lost a second appeal to save his turf-roofed roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr community , in the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park.
The Inspector dismissed the appeal on the grounds that there was no need for Tony or his partner Jane, to live there, even though he acknowledged that they couldn ‘t carry out their work properly if they lived somewhere else.
‘The appellant,’ he wrote, ‘has acknowledged that no one in the community is indispensable . . . Consequently . . . I conclude that there is no essential need for Mr Wrench and his partner to live in the roundhouse.
‘There are already a considerable number of people living and working at Brithdir Mawr and there must be a limit to the number who can justify the need for a dwelling on the holding itself. Otherwise there would be no limit and any number of people could use the same argument to justify a new dwelling in the open countryside. That would be a nonsense.’
Of course there has to be a limit ‘ nearly all communities set limits to their numbers to ensure a balanced group of people in line with the carrying capacity of their land. Tinkers Bubble currently has a ceiling of 12 adult members, legally agreed with the local authority. The Inspector makes no attempt to find out what Brithdir ‘s limits on numbers are, and seems to be implying that they haven ‘t got any.
The logical conclusion of his line of argument is that communities should be restricted to the minimum number of people necessary to ensure that chickens are put away, goats are rescued and so on. Effectively, this means that there should be no new communities at all in the countryside.
Contrary to rumours that have been circulating, Tony ‘s roundhouse is still standing. www.thatroundhouse.info ; Brithdir Mawr, Newport, Pembs. Appeal ref: APP/L9503/A/02/1095455)
Steward Wood ‘ Tried and Tested
In a surprise decision in an enforcement appeal, an Inspector reversed the decision of an earlier planning appeal Inspector, and allowed permission for the bender community at Steward Wood, in Dartmoor National Park, on the basis that the functional and financial tests in Annex I of PPG7 were inappropriate.
Not altogether surprisingly, Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA) are challenging the decision in the High Court, arguing that ‘the Inspector should have applied (as the previous Inspector did) the test of functional and financial viability set out in Annex I of PPG7, but failed to do so.’
Pete Cow, a member of Steward Wood commented: ‘we are disappointed by this move, which will mean a lot more time and energy and money being spent by us and the DNPA on an issue we thought had finally been resolved. It seems strange and sad that just two months after the Government gave the National Parks a million pounds to promote sustainable development, that they are so obstinately and expensively trying to close down our sustainable project.’
What sort of sustainable developments are these funds aimed at? According to Martin Fitton, Chief Executive of the Association of National Park Authorities ‘These Funds will challenge organizations, individuals and businesses to come forward with new ideas for achieving a more sustainable way of living in the countryside, and they will be aimed at innovative ideas so that they can be tried and tested.’
Tested according to Annex I, and tried in the law courts, it seems.
Contacts: 01647 440233; affinity@stewardwood. org; appeal ref: APP/J9497/C/01/1067412.
Warren Fruit Farm
Not really a community, but this farm divided into smallholdings and rented out mainly to former seasonal agricultural workers , elicits much the same panic reaction from planners. An application by four of the families for 12 months temporary permission in order for them to assess how best to operate their holdings was turned down by Tewkesbury DC. Jim Aplin and Hayley Moreland, who run a box scheme from the site, (see photo) for a temporary agricultural mobile hom e, were also refused permission for an agricultural residential caravan They went to public inquiry on 19 November, where Chapter 7 gave evidence, but the appeal was dismissed , on the grounds of lack of functional need, and the fact that an absence of suitable accommodation in a nearby village had not been ‘conclusively proved’. Contact: via Chapter 7
Holywell Fields Refused
After three years of negotiation and hassle, Holywell Fields were refused planning permission for a low impact settlement, with five dwellings, on 28 acres of land in Buckinghamshire. the group has been running a box scheme and poultry enterprise, and plans to expand into cattle, honey, fruits, and crafts using local materials.
Aylesbury Vale planning officers recommended against giving the project permission on the grounds that the sustainability of the project, the provision of employment and affordable housing, the revival of traditional local crafts,the provision of local food and other material considerations did not ‘have sufficient weight to justify a decision that would be contrary to Central Government advice contained in PPG7, and the Development Plan policy.’One wonders what would have sufficient weight.
Mike George, Pond Cottage East, Cuddington Road, Dinton, Aylesbury, HP18 0AD, 01296 747737; email@example.com
Ann Morgan, lost her appeal for a temporary dwelling on the permaculture site in Somerset where she has lived for the last 15 years (see C7 News 9, p.11).
The Inspector viewed that ‘the appellant ‘s pursuit of a lifestyle based in Permaculture derived from a genuinely held belief and that this was capable of falling within the rights conferred by Article 9’ (of the European Convention on Human Rights, the right to freedom of thought, conscience and religion.) Making her leave her land would be an interference with this right. But he viewed that the reason for the interference was because insufficient food-growing was taking place on the land for the project to qualify as permaculture. ‘In this sense the action was not an interference with a right to manifest the belief, but a response to the Appellant ‘s failure to pursue it consistently.’
Just before going to press, Ann lost her appeal to the High Court, where it was ruled to the effect that ‘without any visible productivity it is just a personal preference.’ Ann, who is in her sixties, is very bitter that her teaching activities on the land are not regarded as productive.
Chicken Farmer Ordered to ‘Wind Up Business’
As we go to press L Radwan and his wife are applying to Cherwell DC (Oxon) for a silo, barn and temporary mobile home on their 45 acre chicken farm. They presently have 3,000 hens, and are aiming for 7,000 organic birds. The local authority recommended has recommended refusal with these extraordinary words: ‘Either the business [with its structures] should stay, or it does not and the enterprise should be wound up. The Head of Planning and Development Services recommends the latter approach . . . and to take Enforcement action.’
The application was supported by the NFU, the Soil Association and the Diocese of Oxford. One letter from a member of the public stated: ‘The profits shown on his calculations will put most other farmers ‘ books to shame ‘ many of them farming much larger acreages. If the applicant ‘s figures are correct he is bucking the national trend.’ This was cited as an objection, presumably on the grounds that the writer was suggesting that the calculations were not correct. Our experience is that smallholders who get their act together do buck the national trend.
More Horror Stories
In S Norfolk, John Fisher a rabbit farmer, with a wife and three children, has had a Section 178 Notice to remove his caravans within 28 days, or have them moved by the local authority at his expense. This is an unusually vicious reaction, and seems particularly harsh, since Mr. Fisher hasn ‘t even had the opportunity to go to appeal. The land, already had an enforcement notice against caravans on it when he bought it. Mr. Fisher was given 12 months temporary residence in 2001, but when he came to renew it, the application didn ‘t even g to committee, but was delegated and refused.
David Doe, a Romany, whose cattle a nd poultry operation in Wychavon D (Droitwich) has returns of £21,000. He phoned us in a state of shock, since he had just been to High Court and lost his appeal for a mobile home (partly on viability grounds) and landed up with a bill for £12,000.which he has to pay out of his life savings. He had been advised to go to court by a lawyer who (Doe was later informed by a traveller ‘s support group), ‘is definitely to be avoided’.
Finally, in one of Chapter7 ‘s longest running cases, Ann Ridley, a 70 year old woman running a 250 acre organic farm in Devon from a wooden shack subject to a 1998 enforcement notice is being taken to magistrates court by S Hams DC for the second time. The first time (in 2001) she received a fine of £300.
There are a few bits of good news. David Gillen, (who we call the pig man at Chapter 7, because when he ‘s phoned up we have ended up talking more about pigs than about planning) has received 5 years temporary residential on his 33 acre agroforestry holding in Shropshire.
Meanwhile Robin Gillan (no relation) managed to get temporary permission for a mobile home on a 50 acre chicken farm near Sidmouth. However, this and other planning problems cost him £19,000 in consultancy fees.
STOP PRESS The Hollies in Co. Cork Ireland has been given permission, at the third try, for 4 low impact homes, in a location where normal housing was unacceptable.
Interested in Buying Land?
It is an unfortunate fact that, because of the demand for pony paddocks, small plots of land sell for high sums; in many regions in the South of England a single acre sometimes sells for as much as £20,000, and 5 acres can go for £5,000 per acre. It is often only when you get above the 25 acre mark that you can start to buy land at agricultural prices.
It therefore makes sense for smallholders to club together to buy a large area of land. This is one reason why the community at Tinkers Bubble came about. Its 40 acres cost £1,350 per acre.
However, there are many people who, understandably, shy away from totally communal set-ups, and would prefer to have a measure of independent ownership, even though they might welcome having access to some common land and living in a ‘hamlet’ of people with similar aspirations and interests.
In 1999 Chapter 7 drew up a proposal for a consortium who wanted to buy a 145 acre arable and beef farm near Yeovil and divide it into smallholdings. The Bridge Farm project projected half a dozen smallholdings of three to eight acres, each with a low impact dwelling, and a number of live/work rural craft units in some converted farm buildings. The rest of the farm, about 100 acres was to be owned co-operatively and run, at least initially, by a farm manager who would convert it to organic. About 20 acres of woodland would be planted, and there was to be a farm shop. Smallholders would have the opportunity of renting more land from the co-op or of buying (with money or through work) hay, feed, use of machinery etc from it.
The consortium put in a bid of £510,000, but this was unsuccessful and the farm went to an expanding beef farmer for about £550,000. The main problem was the farmhouse, which doubled the value of the property, and didn ‘t fit well into the Bridge Farm sch eme. The consortium was trying to locate a sympathetic user for the house.The investors went on to put their money into other things, but Chapter 7 is now thinking of reviving the scheme, and has one potential farm, coming up for sale, in mind.
Meanwhile, Chas Griffin has outlined a proposal for a similar project in the Henry Doubleday Research Association magazine The Organic Way. The New Leaf Project, as it is called, envisages buying a 500 acre farm barley farm in East Anglia and splitting it up into a number of different holdings:
‘The split up might be into one 150 acre farm; two 50 acre holdings, ten 10 acre holdings , plus 50 acres split into twenty lots of varying sizes.’
This leaves 100 acres to be managed collectively, as in the Bridge Farm project, but New Leaf envisages a 100 acre training and visitors centre for woofers, holiday-makers, university agronomists gardening clubs etc. At that size, it sounds like an alternative to Stoneleigh Agricultural Centre.
The article in The Organic Way doesn ‘t mention anything about planning, but doubtle ss this is among the ‘snags and problems’ that Chas states that he has been thinking about.
Despite the difference in scale, both schemes are similar. Chas told us that he had many responses to his article, though there there was considerable variation in what people actually wanted.
We suspect there are many people who would be potentially interested in such schemes, at Chapter 7 we are beginning to compile a list of people who might be interested.
If you are interested, write to Chapter 7, and/or to Chas Griffin c/o The Organic Way, Ryton Organic Gardens, Coventry, CV8 3LG
The Ripple Project
The aim of the Ripple Project is ‘to establish an area which will be used as a prototype an training centre to promote labour-friendly, self-sufficient, environmentally sustainable, bioregional, autonomous spaces to meet the need of the immediate community, sell surplus foodstuffs and craft work on site, and to promote bioregional eco-activity’. The project envisages 50 acres of lan d: 35 would be put down to forest farm, 10 acres for animals (hens, geese, goats, pigs and draft animals); 5 acres for veg etc. and an acre or two for accommodation. The project sounds good , but it its just on paper, no land as yet. The Ripple Project: atgrallen@ yahoo.com
Consultancy for New Landowners
‘Back to the Future in Rural Britain’ is the slogan of Robert Jeffrey and David Morris, two organic farmers who have started up a consultancy called NewLandOwner, directed towards new entrants into farming and land management, particular on smaller acreages. They offer advice on farming methods, conservation,, grants, designing business and management plans, dealing with bureaucracy, and planning, and they also can conduct property searches.
The consultancy is run from Aston House Farm, a 250 acre grass and arable farm, which went into organic conversion two years ago. This is how it is described in their brochure:
‘Robert, the third generation of his family to farm at Aston House, can remember the argument between hi s grandfather and father concerning the wisdom of ordering the first load of fertiliser. Shortly afterward a sprayer arrived and they were on the slippery slope, along with every other farmer, cajoled and encouraged by ICI and ADAS. Yields increased, costs increased and after an initial improvement profits decreased . . . Having farmed without chemicals since 97 Robert now realises how well Mother Nature copes without them when managed sympathetically. Once again we feel like real farmers, working with the soil, the stock and the seasons.’
Friends and Families of Travellers
FFT now have a planning section on their website: www. f-f-t,demon,co.u/planning/index.htm
Earthships ‘ US designed solar powered homes and work-spaces built from tyres and earth ‘ have come to the UK . The first project is in Fife, and there is another in Brighton. Chapter 7 ‘s local authority, South Somerset DC, nearly took up the package for its waste tip three years ago, but a straw bale structure was chosen instead.
Being rural Luddites, we are not sure why you can ‘t build earthships out of just earth, or earth and wood; but waste tyres have to go somewhere, and they offer a structural advantage, particularly in earthquake-prone areas.
The Brighton Project is pioneered by the Low Carbon Network, which focusses upon ‘buildings which dramatically reduce CO2 emissions and are easy to build and run’. They aim to complete construction by Autumn 2003.
Contact Darren Howarth at firstname.lastname@example.org
Wealth Attracts Wealth
One of the main mechanisms favoured by the Government for increasing the numbers of affordable homes is to make developers provide or pay for a percentage of affordable homes on any large residential site, through the use of Section 106 Planning Agreements.
Recent research from the Rowntree Foundation reports that in 2000, about 12,000 affordable homes were provided in this way, out of a total of 38,000 affordable homes ( which is well short of the 67,000 -80,000 needed each year).
The Rowntree researchers say that as two thirds of these planning agreements involve Social Housing Grant money, they are simply providing sites for homes that would have been built anyway, or (in high cost areas) bringing schemes within the Housing Corporations cost limits. ‘The main result to date is to change the geography of new social housing provision, not to increase the total amount of affordable housing provided. On current evidence, were the Section 106 policy to reach its full potential, it would use up all and more of the additional SHG made available for new housing.’ The more you look at it, the more it looks like yet another Blairish scheme to attract ‘key workers’ and wealth to the South and let the North take a long walk off a short pier. Indeed the whole system of developers ‘ contributions to the public purse through Section 106 planning agreements favours the wealthy parts of the country, because rich areas can extract much larger payments from developers than can poorer parts of the country. Planning Gain and Affordable Housing: Making It Count, by T. Crook et al, from York Publishing Services, 64 Hallfield Road, Layerthorpe, York. YO3 7ZQ..; 01904 430033.
Letter to the Editor Our review of Kevin Cahill ‘s book Who Owns Britain, suggested that the Irish rural economy is healthier than the English because land ownership is less concentrated. It elicited this response, which has been shortened.
On paper the Irish land ownership figures may look more ‘democratic’ than in the UK, but most Irish farmers know far less about soil and food values and production than most urban Britons, as can be seen when the latter move on, and get a cottage and an acre or two. Though the number of farmers may be 153,000, quite a few of them are are non-resident farmers who live in the nearest town and visit a piece of land with cattle on it twice a week. Often there is an empty farmhouse , or it is rented out expensively to non-nationals. Irish farmers pay one per cent of the income tax paid in the republic and are up to every scam imaginable. The bungalows are a plague and even Irish people complain about them. ‘One-off’ holiday houses do not distribute wealth in my opinion. While there may be no council tax as such, because rates were abolished as a political ploy, there are refuse collection charges of a couple of hundred pounds a year, plus the cost o f a large wheelie bin, another £150, The alternative is to dump a ton of rubbish in the countryside, which is what the previous occupant of my house ‘ a British forestry worker ‘ has done. While it is probably easier in the Republic to live on a few acres by stealthily building a home out of a caravan or similar, the official attitude is that even 70 acres isn ‘t enough to support a farmer, his bungalow, his four-wheel-drive, an abandoned JCB, etc, and the smallholders ‘ dole pays out £30 million a year to about 7000 small farmers. There is certainly no tradition of intensive agriculture, and local materials for building are scorned. There is a whole swathe of community activities absent from Ireland ‘ urban allotments, parish councils, the hospital car service, the Coop bank etc. If life is so marvellous here, why do you think the majority of Irish people prefer to live in the UK and elsewhere? Very best wishes Shri Krishna Shulerwallah, Ireland
Hemp Paper: The Medium is the Message
The inimitable John Hanson, champion of tree-free paper and one of England ‘s most refined Luddites, has persuaded us, as part of a complicated deal concerning the paper you now have in fr ont of you, to distribute his facsimile edition of the 1764 translation of Marcandier ‘s Treatise on Hemp.
We agreed to this against our better judgment at first, since we try to restrict our merchandise to publications on planning and land rights issues. But John persuaded us that we ought to be extolling the virtues of the paper we are printed on.
Marcandier has some relevant things to say about the essentially rural nature of the hemp industry: ‘The commerce of France carried the principles of M. Colbert to an extravagant height, by multiplying prodigiously all the different manufactures that are settled in towns, without taking sufficient notice of those that ought to be dispersed through the country . . . Hemp, from its own nature, ought to be the object of a manufacture dispersed through the country . . . it can never, with any advantage, be the business of a manufacture crowded into a town.’
Current rural planning policy, as we have argued previously (see The Dowry, C7 News No 8) is part of a 250 year old conspiracy to do away with rural livelihoods and cram everybody, except the rich, into towns and suburbs. Marcandier ‘s treatise makes it clear that the hemp industry was to become another victim of the same process.
Aside from being a historical and economic commentary, Marcandier ‘s treatise is also a practical handbook on hemp growing and processing, with tips on cottage-scale retting, heckling and bleaching that anyone wishing to produce their own hemp fibre today is likely to find useful.
Marcandier ‘s Treatise on Hemp, 1755, translation 1764, with a commentary by John Hanson, 101 pages, facsimile on hemp paper, is available from Chapter 7, £10, including postage.
Publications available from Chapter 7
Books and Reports
Low Impact Development, Simon Fairlie, published by Jon Carpenter, 1996.
Why English rural planning is unjust and unsustainable, and how low impact development offers a solution. £10 Defining Rural Sustainability: 15 Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside, together with 3 Model Policies for Local Plans, TLIO 1999 The document to give to your local planner or cite in your planning application; also available on our website: £5(£3 conc)
Planning for Sustainable Woodlands, Lucy Nichol, Simon Fairlie, Ben Law and Russell Rowley, published by Chapter 7 and the National Small Woods Association, June 2000 Planning problems faced by woodland workers. £2.50
Permaculture ‘ A New Approach for Rural Planning, Rob Hopkins, 1996 A study of the success or failure of various different permaculture projects in acquiring planning permission. £8.50
Cotters and Squatters, Colin Ward, published by 5 Leaves Books, 2002 A historical appraisal of British squatters and the ‘one-night house’. £10.00
A Treatise on Hemp, by M. Marcandier, facsimile 1764 edition edited and published by John Hanson, 1996. How to grow and process hemp, and why its production is beneficial for rural economies. £10.00
Planning DIY Briefings
There are now 10 do-it-you rself planning briefing sheets available. Minimum order £2.
No 1 Introduction to the Mysteries of the Planning System 6 pp. £1.20
No 2 Should I Move on First or Apply First?
3 pp. £0.60 No 3 Putting in a Planning Application 8 pp. £1.60
No 4 Caravans: Permitted Development and Seasonal Use 3 pp. £0.60
No 5 List of Low-Impact Friendly Consultants 4 pp. £0.80
No 6 Appeals 11 pp. £2.20
No 7 Certificates of Lawful Use: The Four and Ten Year Rules 3 pp. £0.60
No 8 Agricultural Workers Dwellings: Annex I of PPG 7 8pp. £1.60
No 9 Human Rights 5pp. £1.00
No 10 Permitted Development Rights 3pp. £0.60
or £9.00 for a modestly bound looseleaf edition of all 10
Mike Fisher ‘s How to get Planning Permission to Live on the Land 30pp. £3.00 Two page essay together with a copy of his successful planning application
Chapter 7 has a growing library of planning documents and reports relating to a number of low impact and sustainable applications. If you telephone us at the office we can research what you need and supply photocopied excerpts. Prices 12 to 20 pence per page, depending on size and research, inc p&p.
Appeals: Tinker ‘s Bubble, Brickhurst Farm, Par, Plants for a Future, Brithdir Mawr, Kings Hill, Dommett Wood, Hugletts Wood and many others.
Case Law: Petter and Harris, Jarmain (agricultural viability), Millington (food processing), Tinker ‘s Bubble (permaculture), Chapman v UK, Varey v UK and Porter v S. Bucks (human rights).
Applications. We have the full submitted paperwork for successful planning applications for agricultural residence including: Northdown Orchard (box schem e), Guilden Gate (smallholding) and Rawhaw Wood (woodland management).
Section 106 Agreements: Tinkers Bubble and Lothian Lowland Crofting
Chapter 7 News Back Issues
£2 each, 10 for £14, or complete set of 11 for £16. When we have the time we will produce an index.
Why Does the Government Ignore Smallholders?
If you read your way through the recent Curry Commission report on Farming and Food, you won ‘t find the word smallholder once. All you will find, on page 53, is a few paragraphs on those farms ‘which are considered part-time’ (which means farms that produce less than what is deemed necessary to provide a full-time minimum wage). These account for about 50 per cent of all farms in England, and in the Commission ‘s words ‘play a crucial role in the social and cultural fabric of rural areas’; yet only 0.3 per cent of the report is specifically devoted to them. The Commi ssion has no targeted policies to offer these farmers other than to advocate that they should become even more part time:
‘The real driver of success for these farmers will not be changes in agricultural policy but the health of the rest of the economy in the rural areas in which they live. A vibrant rural economy, outside agriculture, will offer the opportunities for diversification upon which their future success lies . . . It is important for many of these farmers that the focus of government policy is switched away from just agriculture and towards a wider range of rural businesses’.
In other words, small farmers are expected to either become, or be replaced by businessmen. This special Chapter 7 News feature on smallholders takes a more searching look at the farmers the Curry Report ignores. We conclude that the nations ‘ smallholders are not going to go away; that the special benefits they bring need to be acknowledged and built on; and the problems they face need to be addressed.
Of Mice and Cormorants
Current policy towards smallholders is in line with the UK tradition of getting rid of peasants But there was one period in recent English history when small farmers were taken seriously.
The Curry report ‘s dismissive approach to half the agricultural workforce would be unthinkable in any other country in Europe; in England it is entirely in accord with the dismissive approach taken by the establishment towards peasants and small farmers over the last five centuries.
The process of enclosure has been well documented and there are many eloquent denunciations of the way in which the English gentry progressively forced peasants off their land, but none more graphic than that of Bishop Latimer who in 1552 complained:
‘Such boldness have these covetous cormorants that now their robberies, extortion and oppression have no end . . As for turning the poor out of their holdings, they take it for no offence, but say their land is their own and they turn them out of their shrouds like mice. Thousands in England , through such, beg now from door to door, which have kept honest houses.’
The encl osure of the commons, and the anti-peasant ideology which accompanied it , continued for over 400 years in England. There was a good deal resistance from squatters, rioters and self-taught lawyers. But a parliament stacked with landowners ensured that the process continued to the point where farms are now on average over twice as large as anywhere in Western Europe, and the nation has a smaller agricultural work-force, relative to the population, than probably any other country in Europe.
Is there any connection between the concentration of farmland and the current crisis in the English contryside? Why, has UK agriculture acquired a reputation for being the most unhealthy and perverse in Europe? Why, as Kevin Cahill points out, does Ireland, with farms a third of the size of ours, have a booming agricultural economy? These are questions one might reasonably have expected the Curry Commission to examine ‘ were one not able to guess in advance that they were going to do their very best to ignore the issue.
Defeating the Machine
There was, however, one period in recent Engli sh history, from about 1900 to 1939, when smallholdings were openly espoused as a key solution to many of the problems caused by a serious agricultural recession. Various Smallholdings and Allotment Acts laid the basis for the County Farms estate which still offers an affordable way into farming for new entrants; the Liberal Party introduced tax legislation that helped to break up some of the large aristocratic estates ; and schemes such as the Government sponsored Land Settlement Association placed thousands of families onto holdings of a few acres.
The fact that smallholdings were not necessarily models of economic efficiency was not then seen to be a great problem, partly because there was no other work available and partly because then the ability to live and work on the land was perceived to have a value in itself. Sir John Russell, observed: ‘Land settlement and food production are quite distinct problems, and we shall only confuse the issue if we mix them. If more men are to be put on the land it must be for the purpose of giving them occupation, and this can only be done by defeating the machine, either by settling the men on holdings too small to allow of the purchase or use of big implements, or by grouping them in col onies or communities that will forswear the use of machines for the purpose of displacing men.’
Smallholders have to work long hours to make ends meet, but, as Russell notes, they cheerfully accept this, because of their love of farming and their desire for independence. He goes on to compare English smallholders, with their more efficient counterparts in Denmark and New Zealand, who, in a given region produce: ‘exactly the same things and of as nearly as possible the same quality, then collect their produce, assembling it at one central place run by experts who grade it, pack it and sell it in large consignments as one brand . . . They have to produce for export, and an export trade must be in large bulks of uniform produce.’
The English smallholder on the other hand ‘sticks to his individual production because his local market accepts individual products: he may even be able to hawk them round and sell them retail.’ Smallholders, Russell continues, could improve their market effectiveness by combining in co-operatives, but he then goes on to offer another solution: ‘A promising alternative is for some interested group of people to organize a market to which smallholders are encouraged to bring their produce. This has been done at East Grinstead, where a collective market, run by Mrs Herbert Musgrave is held once a week. Tables are let to smallholders, cottagers and allotment-holders either as individuals or as groups . . . This market greatly encourages the smallholders because it offers them the prospect of retail prices for all that they can produce . . . Organised collection and transport by motor lorry would still further widen its scope.’ Mrs Musgrave, if she were alive today, would no doubt be thrilled to see that her project in East Grinstead is being emulated by the farmers ‘ markets popping up all over the country, even if they are arriving 70 years too late.
The resettlement schemes of the 1930s were not wildly successful, but they were by no means all failures ‘ in the early 1970s the average earnings of the tenants of the Land Settlement Association were well above the average agricultural wage. However the paternalistic structure of many of the settlements ‘ so at odds with the spirit of independence admired by Russell ‘ and the fact that these ventures were at the mercy of a fickle international market rather than embedded in the local community, led the majority of these ve ntures to collapse sooner or later. The surviving Land Settlement Schemes were privatized in 1982, and within 10 years many had fallen victim to the supermarkets ‘ aggressive buying strategies.
How times have changed! In the 1930s there was great enthusiasm for land resettlement and smallholdings, but pace Mrs Musgrave (and leaving aside the boom period for local producers during World War II) this does not seem to have been backed up with any widespread strategy to protect these fledgling producers from the vagaries of the market or to pinpoint alternative markets for them .
Now we have the same lack of ‘joined-up thinking’ in reverse: local foods have become politically correct, there is a sudden proliferation of farmers markets, and local branding and adding value on the farm are seen as a key to survival ‘ all strategies enthusiastically supported in the Curry Report. Yet they are not backed up with a single land-focussed policy to encourage the formation or ensure the survival of the smaller holdings which are ideally suited to deliver goods at a local scale; instead small farms are expected to diversify into a ‘wider range of businesses’.
There is a simple explanation for this contradictary approach: local food policies have been driven from the bottom by demand from environmentally aware consumers for better and fresher food, and by the keeness of some farmers to produce it; the push for diversification comes from the top ‘ from influential large-scale farmers who would rather move their land and buildings out of farming and into something more lucrative, than cede them at a realistic agricultural price to a new generation of farmers. They are represented by the CLA, which last year changed its name from the Country Landowners Association to the Country Land and Business Association; and by estate agents like Strutt and Parker, whose magazine Land Businessis written by and for modern day cormorants.
Small is Resilient
What future is there for smallholders in this conflicting policy context? One thing is certain: that there will continue to be a strong demand from those who cheerfully choose that way of life. Farming offers one of the few opportunities left for those who prefer manual labour, working outside, or working with animals. As mainstream society becomes more urbanized, plastic and ‘virtual’ the number of people seeking an independent hands-on rural way of life is almost certain to increase. For much the same reasons it is also likely that the demand for locally marketed produce will contine to rise. But there are limits to local marketing, and these will depend upon the degree to which the green belt areas around large towns ‘ traditionally the stronghold of the market gardener ‘ can be recaptured for food production . The hope value on such property often places it beyond the reach of smallholders.
Indeed access to land may become an increasing problem for smallholders. At present it does not appear to be an overriding constraint; it is agricultural dwellings which are unaffordable for anyone wanting to make a modest living from agriculture. But pony -paddock prices are absurd, and there are signs that the demand for amenity land from wealthy incomers could inflate land prices in some areas to levels that are prohibitive ‘ particularly if, as Curry recommends, non-farmers get area-based grants for sticking a few pet sheep on it.
But there will always be a substantial body of people whose dream is to acquire a plot of land and make a modest or subsistence living from it ‘ and it will take a lot to stop the more determined of these. If property prices continue to rise then the only way to make smallholdings viable will be to buy bareland holdings with a view not just to farming them but alsoto living on them. This is what many of the smallholders featured in this issue are doing; and, as many of our readers know from personal experience, it can entail a fight against eviction, lasting five or even 15 years. In some ways things haven ‘t changed that much since the time of Bishop Latimer ‘ although the dynamics of dispossession have become more subtle.
Faced with agricultural policy that takes it for granted that small farms will be diversified out of existence, planning policy that encourages the asset stripping of the agricultural patrimoine and development control policy which threaten those unable to afford a house with eviction from their land, smallholders are in for a bit of a battle. But this is nothing new, as a class they are used to battling. Peasants are society ‘s mice: no matter how often you try to get rid of them they keep coming back.
Smallholders Today: Who Are They? How Many Are There?
No one knows how many smallholders there are in this country, because nobody has bothered to count. In 1872, there were 217, 049 small proprietors with an average sized holding of 18 acres, plus 703, 289 cottagers; but as Kevin Cahill points out nothing even approximating such an analysis could be made today. There is a Devon Association of Smallholders which numbers nearly 2000 members. The Smallholder magazine has sales of around 13,000. NFU Countryside, a branch of the National Farmer ‘s Union provides services for rural landowners has a membership of 80,000 members, which it considers will continue to grow as farms are fragmented or “downsized”. But many smallholders belong to none of these bodies.
None of these bodies have any discernible political stance, (though NFU Countryside ‘s big sister certainly does) and the main reason is probably that they represent a very divided constituency. There are two rather different kinds of smallholding: which increasingly are becoming typified by those which have a house on their land , and those which don ‘t. Twenty acres without a house in the South of England can be had for around £40-60,000. Twenty acres with a house will cost in the region of £250,000-£300,000. You are never going to be able to pay off the mortgage on a property like this by growing cabbages or keeping sheep
That is not to say that there are not many people who have bought or inherited smallholdings with a house who maintain productive and often exemplary farming enterprises. But it is easy to see why there may be a tendency for those who seek to make a living in the poorly paid agricultural sector to gravitate towards the cheaper ‘bareland’ holdings, while the houses with land tend to get snapped up by well-to-do people who have a very minimal interest in farming, or none whatsoever.
We have an extraordinary situation in this country where anybody who has made half a million pounds in development, or the music industry or any other urban occupation can buy a few acres with a house and move into it, without having to provide a shred of evidence to anybody as to what they are going to do with the land, or how much money they are going to make from it, or why they need to be there ‘ while somebody who takes on a few acres of bare land, with a view to living on it and producing vegetables or free range eggs or coppice products, is subjected to unbelievable scrutiny as to the viability of the enterprise they are proposing and their ‘functional’ need to live on the land, and is quite likely to remain under threat of eviction for years or even decades.
Even more extraordinary, we have had , in the space of 6 years, two rural White Papers and a farming Commission, all purporting to analyse the crisis in the rural economy, and all of totally ignoring this issue, even though what is happening is quite obvious to everyone who lives in the countryside. The drafters of these documents can hardly plead ignorance: Chapter 7 has submitted evidence to all of them , but we might as well have sent our submissions to Father Christmas.
So much for democracy! But , at Chapter 7, we still believe in it and the primary purpose of this issue is to give a voice to some of those who are struggling against this perverse approach to the management of the countryside.
Smallholders Speak Out
The next six pages tell, briefly, the stories of 13 different smallholders. These individuals represent a small fraction of those we have talked to over the last few years, which is a fraction of the number out there. We have selected each story to highlight one particular aspect of the general problem; and recounted them as far as practicable in the speaker’s words.
Margaret Young: Hiding in the Barn
Margaret Young grew up in the countryside and as a child developed a passion for goats that she retains to this day. When she met her husband 30 years ago they decided that they wanted to be farmers. They rented land for a while, and started keeping goats and growing vegetables on a part-time basis, but they wanted their own patch of ground. In the the mid 1990s they sold their cottage and bought 36 acres without living accommodation — a house would have been way out of their price range.
The Youngs needed to live on the land to attend to their animals, but they were afraid that they would not be given residential planning permission, because their enterprise was not up and running yet. They didn’t want to take a chance that they might not be allowed to live on the land, so they moved into two small caravans hidden inside a shed while they built up the herd.
Now, four years later, they have 80 dairy goats, 45 ewes, 2 horses, 7 donkeys, and pigs. The goats are hand-milked, and Margaret sells milk, yogurt and cheese for sale locally. She feels that they now have enough goats to show that they have a reason to be there, but she is still worried that they don’t make enough money from them to be considered viable by the planners. The Youngs have moved out of the sheds and are living in a more visible caravan now, but they are glad that they chose to move on to their land before starting their business. “If we had tried to start the business without being here, the planners might have said that that proved we didn’t need to be here at all.”
Margaret finds it strange that she should be viewed as a threat to the countryside because her farm may not be viable. “What the planners don’t understand is that this is all we want out of life. We don’t need much money. I work 70 maybe 80 hours a week with my only holiday being a day at the local county show, but that should show that we are happy being where we are and living on our little farm.”
Margaret believes that small scale enterprises are the life of the countryside because they are more eco-friendly and the animals are treated with pride and love — and without them the country side would be empty — the houses all full of commuters. “The land would not get looked after properly, all the wildlife and hedgerows would suffer — without us you end up with a countryside that is not very…well, not very nice.”
Mary Harvey – 14 Years of Insecurity
Mary Harvey lives on an 8 acre smallholding , where she operates a free-range duck and chicken egg business, with a net profit hovering around £10,000-£14,000 per year. She recently won permission to live in a small timber building on the holding, after a 14 year long struggle, costing £25,000 in consultancy fees (paid for by a relative), in which the planners went to great lengths to try to expose her enterprise as a fraud.
Mary moved onto Horton Farm in 1985 after obtaining temporary permission for a caravan. She soon discovered that living in a caravan can be damp and uncomfortable, so she moved into one of the wooden buildings that was on their land Waverley Borough Counc il served her with an enforcement order saying she must remove the building.
Over the years the planning authority went to quite astonishing lengths to prove than she was not serious about her business. Mary has shown us the notes taken by a chief enforcement officer who spied on her movements on 26 occasions over a period of three weeks from a car parked outside her gates. On one occasion he followed her in his car to see where she was going. The object was to show that she spent almost no time on her holding, a conclusion which two Inspectors did not accept.
The planners calculated how many ducks might die in the 20 minutes it would take for her to travel from the village, arguing that the number was “acceptable”.
At appeal, the planning officer calculated how many ducks might die in the 20 minutes it would take for her to travel from the village in the event of an emergency, arguing that the number was “acceptable”. A vet wrote in Mary’s support saying that he was “amazed and apalled “ that the planners should suggest that she should lower her levels of stockmanship, by leaving her ducks unattended.
Towards the end of the saga, when the local authority won an appeal on the grounds that accommodation was available nearby, Mary was queue-jumped up the housing-list, and offered an unfilled council flat in a development designed for elderly people.
Mary got her permission in the end; but her story makes one wonder what it is that makes planners so obsessively opposed to the idea of smallholders living on their land.
Sue Place: The Inconvenience of Living Off-Site
The first time that we contacted Sue the shipping s ervice had dumped a polytunnel into her front garden and she was puzzling how to shift it to her land. Delivery companies won’t deliver there because it is not an official address. On another occasion a consignment of strawberry plants died because Sue wasn’t at home when they arrived and the company took them away again.
Sue and her husband Stephen have a herd of Jacob sheep and chickens and run a small organic vegetable scheme supplying people with fruit, vegetables, eggs and meat direct from the farm. They also have other jobs to pay off capital investment, but between them they do about 50 hours per week on the holding. There is plenty of produce and happy customers, but one problem is that the family lives about 10 minutes walk from the land.
Ten minutes doesn’t sound like a lot, but it means that every time Sue wants to check her sheep, or pop the laundry in, or go to weed the carrots, or get something out of the computer, or open the polytunnel doors, or go back home to greet the kids after school, she waste s 20 minutes on a round trip. Sue and Steve are likely to do the round trip two to four times per day, often more. Sue may make special visits to her land at dawn and dusk to pick off the slugs. She remembers that one day during the foot and mouth crisis she had to disinfect 16 times!
When the kids were younger, she often had to stay with them, so her workday on the holding was cut short at 3:00 pm. Now the children spend much of the evening without their parents.
Sue and Stephen want to move onto their land and build a house, but when they spoke to the planners, they were told that it was becoming increasingly difficult to do this. If they do apply, the planners may well quote PPG7 at them: “Normally it will be as convenient for [agricultural and forestry] workers to live in nearby towns or villages.”
Sue who grew up on a smallholding in the days when farming was integrated with family life, doesn’t agree:
”Lots of people who visit our farm say ‘You should apply for permission to live here.’ Everybody can see what sense it would make. . . . Planning has to catch up with what’s going on. Everyone agrees we need more fresh and local food; If they value small farms, the planners should support us.”
John Gill: Widower Goes Back to the Land
Chapter 7 has heard from several older people who were born and bred in the countryside and wish to retire to a simple life working for themselves. Here are some excerpts from letters we received from John Gill.
“Your letter has really gotme thinking and given me something to occupy my mind since losing my wife. I am now saving like mad and hope to be able to afford to buy a smal l plot and get back into the countryside again as I worked on a farm as a herdsman in the late 50’s. My day dreams send me back to the head herdsman’s house where I used to be sent to sleep listening to the rush of water going past the house that was was an old water mill where I lodged with the head herdsman and his wife (I suppose some rich person owns it now) I am now 59 years old and my wife of 32 years has died. My house is paid for and my children are grown up and scattered all over the country. So, I haven’t got anything to hold me back.
“To be honest I really want to have a load of animals so my grandkids will come and visit me. I remember my old granddad having his plot full of animal and we used to have such a time when we would go to visit him. The land is where I learned everything I know.
“M house is only worth £45,000 so a country house is way out of my price range, but I could get a coppice wood. Once I have got the plot, I will get in touch with Mr. Lloyd of Cumbria to learn about the trade of charcoal burning. I know now I’m not the only person with ancient back to basics beliefs. Mr. Lloyd sounds like my sort of person. Most people think I’m a daft dreamer.
“I don’t want to give my house up yet, though. What I’ll do is run the business from here, put a caravan on, stay there now and again, get the business up and running, take early retirement from my boring job of Council Car Park Attendant; put some livestock on like chickens, pigs (to clear the ground) and maybe a pony to pull the fallen trees out. Then tell the authorities I need to be there for the animals, and charcoal burning.
“When you say you believe that the poorer people in our society should get a chance to live and work in the country, it is as if you have read my thoughts as that is exactly what I think and I’ve always wondered why others don’t hanker for a small plot that they can keep a few animals on instead of spending thousands on household toys and big cars”
John hasn’t found any land yet for sale close enough to his wife’s grave, but he’s still looking .
Jim Aplin : Travellers Turn to Farming
At Warren Fruit Farm, in Gloucestershire, 60 acres of abandoned, but still productive orchards have been divided into 14 smallholdings and rented out — mainly to travellers who have settled and started small land-based enterprises, including fruit and veg, fruit juice, and poultry. But ,the eight or so travelling families who have moved onto the land have traded one set of hassles for another. Tewkesbury Borough Council are not only threatening enforcement action but even tried to ban them from selling goods at the farmers market.
For Jim Aplin and his partner Hayley Morland, who lived for years on the road doing seaso nal picking or planting, this was a rare opportunity to gain a bit of land at an affordable price. Hayley was pregnant and parking up got to be more and more difficult. So they decided to rent one of the plots.
Now Jim, and Hayley run a box scheme from one acre of their 3.7 acres. At present they produce 30 boxes, plus extra veg for the farmers markets, as well as plums, pears and free range eggs. They plan to double production next year. Box schemes have proved to be a a great way for them to be able to “carry on for ourselves, making our own decisions”. Their scheme has proved successful, but not enough for the Tewkesbury planning department. After sitting on his application for a temporary caravan for over 9 months, they employed Reading Agricultural Consultants to pull his project to pieces, and then turned it down.
Jim is going to appeal, and despite years of being moved on by the authorities, remains hopeful:
“If you are sat on your arse doing nothing, then you’re making the case for the people you want off the land. But if you’re working hard for what you believe in,and letting people know the good you’re doing for sustainability, the environment and the local economy, then you’re building your own case, and you’ve got a fighting chance.”
Tinkers Bubble: Community Smallholding
Tinkers Bubble is a community of 11 adults and 4 children who together manage an agricultural and forestry smallholding of forty acres. The original group of people who bought the land chipped in together because none could afford to buy their own little plot. Tinkers Bubble cost £1,300 per acre in 1994, while £5,000 per acre was the going price for pony-paddocks. Collective ownership also gave the community the opportunity to work cooperatively. The members of Tinkers Bubble now manage a wide variety of micro-enterprises including orchards, timber, vegetables, cheese, meat and g reen woodwork.
Tinker’s Bubble now has five-year temporary permission for a low impact settlement in association with agricultural and forestry business. But it took them five years to get it, during which time they went through three applications, enforcement notice, a failed Article 4 direction and stop notice, a public inquiry, High Court, Court of Appeal and refusal for the matter to be considered by the House of Lords. The legal costs of this process were over £20,000.
After all that, the local planning committee gave them permission, against the recommendation of the planning officers, because it was becoming apparent that the project was, potentially at least, a good one. Even some of the planning department ,who recommended against it, have signalled, that they were in favour of the project, but were constrained by national policy. As one of the original Bubblers commented “We knew from the start that we would never in a century get permission if we applied beforehand. The only way to get planning consent w as to move on without permission and show that the project worked.”
Why couldn’t Tinkers Bubble fit into national policy? Well firstly, while it might be possible to argue a functional need to live on the land for one or two people, there is no way that you can argue it for a whole tribe: communities are ruled out from the start by the guidance on functional need in PPG7.
Secondly, none of the agricultural and forestry businesses at Tinker’s Bubble are large enough to be considered viable by the standards usually applied. Most provide enough for subsistence and a minimal income averaging around £1,500 per year. This is adequate: each adult resident of Tinker’s Bubble pays no more than £20 cash per week for their food, shelter, water, heating, lighting, agricultural infrastructure, tools and insurance. But try explaining this to agricultural consultants like ADAS, who gave evidence against Tinker’s Bubble, or Reading Agricultural Consultants. Such firms claim that “the generally accepted standard is that enterprises should be able to provide a return at least equivalent to the minimum agricultural wage (£10-£11000) for each labour unit on the holding, as well as a small return on capital investment” — but there is no statutory basis for this figure.
“Policy allows little l atitude for the new smallholder who wants to be self-sufficient and live and work in the countryside. We all claim to want a living, working countryside. Well, councillors will need to take some brave decisions to ensure that we achieve that .” Baroness Miller
Fortunately the majority of councillors on the planning committee had more vision than the “experts”. Sue Miller (now Baroness Miller), the leader of South Somerset district council at the time commented:
“Policy allows little latitude for the new smallholder who wants to be self-sufficient and live and work in the countryside. We all claim to want a living, working countryside. Well, councillors will need to take some brave decisions to ensure that we achieve that . . . Red tape and outdated policy have failed to strangle South Somerset and we are proud of that.”
Liz Bond: Fined for Living Where She Was Brought Up
Liz Bond and her partner Tony have lived for seven years in a mobile home on four acres in a the West Country , where they keep chickens, horses and other animals. At present they are both occupied looking after their youngest son who is seriously ill. Liz, who is 40, was brought up in the house next door and inherited the land from her father, who had sold the house.
“The guy next door runs a scrap business; yet the planners say that it is we who are spoiling the countryside by living in the place where I was brought up.”
For several years the couple have been living under threat of an enforcement notice, and two years ago they were taken to court and fined £250. Since then they have been left alone, although the planners have come to make inspections. Says Liz: “The insecurity and the worry about whether we are going to be thrown out of our home is very draining. The guy next door runs a scrap business, burning plastic and disposing of asbestos; yet the planners say that it is we who are spoiling the countryside by living and sleeping in the place where I was brought up.”
Charlie Cox: Affordable Home on an Acre
Charlie and his family live in Essex. They are ordinary people who work hard, don’t go for anything too posh, and in their words “haven’t a chance in hell of buying our own home”. For the past 20 years they have managed an acre (plus a bit next door that they have claimed through adverse possession), keeping themselves supplied in food with a vegetable plot, chickens, pigs and goats —“it’s surprising what you can get out of a little piece of ground”. On their little plot of land they have lived in a caravan part-time for the past five years, shuffling back and forth between their home and the plot. Charlie has finally gotten the caravan up to standard so that his 14 and 16 year old girls can “keep themselves in the manner that they are accustomed to”. Now, they are thinking of moving into their caravan full-time.
They aren’t sure what sort of reaction they will get, but they feel confident. As Charlie put it, “ the caravan has been on that bit of land for so long that the planners know someone will be able to live there. I get an offer from a gypsy every week for it, so they know what it ’s worth. “ Charlie (in a variation of a strategy known by development consultants as the “fall-back” approach) says that he will sell the land to Gypsies if he can’t get permission to live in the caravan, (in planning policy there are exceptions made for gypsies, which aren’t available for non-gypsies ). “Not that I’ve got anything against Gypsies: we’re just like them.”
The district council have recently revealed plans to build affordable housing in open countryside near Charlie’s plot. One might have thought that the council could allow caravans as affordable housing in the countryside — at least when they are linked to a land- based way of keeping costs down for an average family.
Chris Dixon: Temporary Permission Brings No Security
Getting temporary permission does not guarantee you a secure home, as permaculturalists Chris and Lynn Dixon have found out. They bought Tir Penrhos Isaf, a seven acre holding in Coed Y Brenin in the Snowdonia National Park, in 1986, when it was an over-grazed, close cropped sward with little variety under scattered mature trees. Wet areas were damaged by poaching, dry areas succumbed to drought.
For five years the Dixons lived four and a half miles from the land , but after lengthy negotiations with the National Park they acquired permission to live on their land in a caravan in 1991. Since moving on they have been able to devote more time to increasing the diversity and productivity of the holding and now have a deer-proofed, perennial forest garden which shelters raised annual beds designed to become more productive and easier to garden each year. The Park’s ecologists have been impressed by the Dixon’s permaculture experiments and this was helpful in getting renewals of permission in the 1990s.
However recently there has been a new flush of councillors, from livestock backgrounds, who are disdainful of the “chaotic” nature of the holding. On a site visit, the councillors couldn’t identify productive plants in complex, mixed systems or indeed many native species (well, it was January) — and their attitude was was characterised by one of the councillors who stated “what this place needs is a bit more order”.
The Dixon’s 2001 application for a permanent low-impact dwelling was refused, and turned down at appeal, partly on the extraordinary grounds that their income was so low that they could not afford to build a house. Even worse, in 2002 their application for renewal of temporary permission was refused, so now, after living on their land for 11 years, the Dixons, with their young son, find themselves threatened with eviction.
Keith Burdett: The Costs of Commuting
Keith Burdett, Amanda Young and their two children live on a small woodland holding in Wales, where they manage and process a timber crop, grow herbs, and keep chickens. Theirturnover is over £10,000, but their net income at present is much less than the minimum agricultural wage. This would normally be viewed as inadequate to justify a dwelling; but their needs are low— as long as they can continue to live on site.
In order to support their application Chapter 7 asked the family to draw up a rough estimate of the extra costs involved if they had to move to a house elsewhere, whilst continuing to farm their holding. We thought at first the figures provided were somewhat exaggerated, but the Burdetts were adamant that affordable housing was impossible to find (they had tried) and that the figures given are accurate.
Three scenarios are imagined: a house at the nearest town 12 miles away; a house in a 6 miles away; and a house in the up-market local vil lage, one mile away. At present, living on site, the family only runs one vehicle, a land-rover.
As can be seen, below, the total costs of living away from the holding are nearly the same as a minimum agricultural wage, which is also the approximate level of the average net farm income across the UK for 1999-2000 (£8,700) and 2000-2001 (£9,900).
Mike Fisher : It Can Be Done
It would be foolish to give the impression that it is impossible for smallholders to acquire planning permission. Mike Fisher operates a very successful organic vegetable box scheme on 12 acres near Basingstoke. In 1995 he received temporary planning permission for a dwelling on his property by submitting a “by the book” planning application illustrating how he met the financial and functional needs tests as a “stockless horticultural enterprise growing vegetables outdoors and in polytunnels”. The application included a business plan with very extensive documentation — itemized literally down to the last centimetre of distance between the rows of cabbages — to demonstrate that he would be able to generate £9,000 profit by the second year of business. Mike expected to go to appeal but was given temporary planning permission for three years. Since then his business has grown to a turnover of £50,000and he has been given permanent permission for a wooden house.
“The functional and financial tests are quite valid measures, otherwise every builder would buy a field, put some sheep on it for a year, build a house, cash in and repeat the exercise until he retired to the Costa on the profits. The difficulty is that these guidelines are often seen as being applicable to farmers with substantial capital behind them, not small scale organic growers or permaculturalists. However with 12.5 acres, a lot of hard work and the support of frien ds and families, I’ve got temporary permission . . . But it has been won at some cost and only after the compromising of ideals”
Getting permission at the first application is comparatively rare. It has to be said that Mike is an unusually efficient and focused person, probably capable of getting Virgin trains to run on time, if he were given the chance. Many people don’t necessarily want to operate at quite this level, and a policy that excludes them from living in the countryside on that basis is not, in our view, a very constructive one. Besides, if Mike sold his permanent house and business on, there is no guarantee that the new occupant would operate the business efficiently or profitably.
Mike tells us that two other smallholdings which submitted applications along the lines developed by him have received temporary planning permission for dwellings.
For a copy of Mike Fisher’s application and his p aper How to Apply for Planning Permission, contact Chapter 7.
Ed Revell: Waiting for a Low Impact Use Class
Ed farms a 9 acre smallholding on Gower peninsula in Wales and is the only organic producer in the Swansea area. He operates a vegetable box scheme with 70 customers, supplying only seasonal vegetables — no imports. At present he lives in Holtsfield chalet village, right next to his own land, but does not think he will be able to carry on with this indefinitely.
He would like to be able to build a low impact dwelling on his land, but will not do that because his land is in a prime development zone. If he gets permission, that could later be passed on to someone who would build a “horrible posh housing estate”. The man who sold him the land made Ed sign a statement saying Ed would have to give him half of the increased v alue in the property, if he gained planning permission for a dwelling. So in the future, Ed is particularly interested in the Welsh Assembly coming up with some clear distinctions between low-impact developments and high impact housing in planning law.
At the moment , however, Ed is simply trying to stay in business in the face of planners who hassle him unecessarily:
” I am trying to be an organic vegetable grower in an economic climate which favours cheap imports produced with high chemical inputs.
“I have been trying to get retrospective permission to retain four small sheds made primarily from straw and turf, used solely for the purpose of storing and packing my vegetables. After fruitless letters, scale drawings by architects, and now agricultural questionnaires and most expensive of all (unless I can somehow blag it) a consultant’s report. I have come to the following conclusion:
“We no longer need to do anything in this country except serve each other, as all our goods are now brought in from the developing countries. However, society says that it is not good to be unemployed. This need for lots of people who would be otherwise be producing things to do something else instead results in the generation of increasing amounts of bureaucracy and paperwork.
That would be fine if the people who choose to delve deeper into the endless details of our society’s written rules didn’t expect me to get drawn into their abyss.”
Caroline Barry: Local Lass Builds Sustainable Home
Caroline Barry was born in the village of Butleigh, Somerset, where her parents kept the local pub for 20 years. After taking an NVQ in agricultur e, she started rearing calves. This was profitable, and in 1995 she sold her cottage to buy a smallholding in Butleigh with a caravan that had been lived in for many years. She applied for a certificate of lawful use, but was refused.
Having built up a part-time business around calves and pigs, in 1999 she was (somewhat unusually) given two year temporary permission for her caravan.
However Caroline’s caravan became increasingly damp and disagreeable and she learnt that in 1997, the guidance had been changed to allow temporary agricultural worker’s to reside in “wooden structures that can be easily dismantled” as an alternative to a caravan. So she bought a secondhand wooden frame and erected it with walls made of straw bales, and cordwood logs. (see photo)
Mendip local authority immediately put an enforcement notice on the structure, claiming it was a permanent house and Caroline went to appeal. The Inspector agreed with her that the structure was acceptable as a temporary house — but dismissed the appeal because her temporary permission had run out. Caroline now has 4 months before the enforcement notice comes into force.
Meanwhile other local organizations, including the local authority supported Somerset Trust for Sustainable Development have heaped praise upon Caroline’s house for its sustainable attributes — it is the first straw bale house in the area — and Caroline has been employed to help build a non-residential straw bale building at the County recycling centre.
Caroline feels under pressure to become a full-time farmer, even though she is more interested in a subsistence part-time approach: “I can live cheaply on my own land eating my home-grown vegetables: my lifestyle allows me to generate my own electricity via solar panels and a wind turbine and all my heating is provided by my own timber and dead trees from hedge-laying. I would find it impossible to carry on these activities if I lived some miles from my land.”
Chapter 7 has visited six of these holdings, has carried out agricultural appraisals for two of them, and has met eight of the people concerned, and so we are able, to some extent, to verify their stories. In two cases, names and minor details have been changed to protect the speaker’s anonymity. These case studies, along with others, will be presented as evidence to the Ministry when PPG7, the planning guidance on the countryside, comes up for revision in the near future.
At Chapter 7 we repeatedly hear allegations from smallholders about the tactics employed by some planning officers ‘ who are accused of being prejudiced, underhand, bullying, prying or corrupt. Almost everyone tells us that their own particular local a uthority is one of the worst. Mostly we do not print these allegations ,because we cannot verify them, though they are so widespread we cannot believe they are all without foundation. Here, however is a shortened version of an article by Tony Wrench , originally published in The County Echo, describing the tactics he claims have been used by Pembrokeshire National Park planners to orchestrate a refusal of the application for his roundhouse. We have invited Catherine Milner to respond to Tony ‘s allegations.
Greetings to citizens of sustainable communities! That may be you. If you live in Pembrokeshire Coast National Park you ‘re definitely living in one of these ‘sustainable’ communities. Its OK, you don ‘t have to live more sustainably ‘ its just their way of getting kudos without actually doing anything.
Why do I care? Because I ‘ve been trying to live sustainably for 20 years. Our roundhouse eco-home was turned down again by planners last month. This time we asked simply for two years extension until the report into Low Impact Development, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly, and part funded by the Park, was taken on board. But no. Ms Catherine Milner, development control officer, says pla nning rules are fixed and unyielding. Dwellings in the open countryside must be ‘strictly controlled’, ie stamped out. Dwellings for ordinary live humans, that is. We could have had permission had I been a cow, a horse or a dead iron age chieftain.
The national Park is failing to safeguard this beautiful landscape of ours, which grew with and through the actions of people. They formed the small cottages, laid the hedges and walls, made the lanes. Their homes were part of the landscape. They lived where they worked. Its more sustainable that way, without cars and tractors. They wouldn ‘t get permission nowadays.
What happens if someone challenges planners ‘ assumption that nature and people don ‘t mix? Here are a few tricks played by one officer to ensure that the members of the Park committee did what she wanted.
~ Telling the committee that ‘no case had or could be made’ for the functional test for an agricultural dwelling. Both Jane and I work at Brithdir full time. She gardens, milks the goats, makes cheese and a host of other things; I have built the goat and cow sheds, and carried out many other agricultural activities as well as making a livelihood turning bowls and platters. We have, because of this lifestyle, managed without our own car all the time we have been here.
On our first application, Ms Milner asked the Pembs County Council ‘s Principal Estates surveyor, Geoff Kingston, to advise on this question. He visited us and wrote a report which stated: ‘the question of do the applicant and his partner have to live on site . . . If you look at the diverse range of work undertaken at Brithdir Mawr by the applicant and his partner, then it is fairly clear that in the terms of the functional requirements of the community, that the answer would be yes . . . not because of one overriding need, but because of the number of essential daily tasks and unforeseeable minor emergencies, coupled with input into group projects, which would make their alternative of living off site, in say Newport, totally impracticable.’
Kingston recommended a three year temporary permission. This was never reported to the members of the committee. If you are a member of the committee, you probably believe Ms Milner when she asserts ‘no case has or could be made.’
~ Members have been subtly advised against seeing our house for themselves. Last year we had 950 visitors; not one of them was a member of the committee that turned us down. One member has seen it, our nearest councillor. He was advised that his interest in our case could be prejudicial so he cannot speak or vote on it.
~ I have been denied a request to address the committee. Two years ago I attended a committee at which a bunch of business smoothies presented a five minute long promotional video for a gaming alley in Tenby. What ‘s the difference between a woodturner and a gaming alley owner? You tell me.
~ Planning laws are not carved in stone. Policies do not, says the law, have to be rigidly applied if there are ‘material considerations’ suggesting otherwise (Section 54a of the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act). This is not something, as far as I can see, that all members are aware of. I asked three material considerations to be taken into account by the committee. How many did Ms Milner report. None.
~ Finally, Ms Milner reported to the committee that no comment had been received from Newport Town Council. In fact that council had had a long debate on our roundhouse the previous week and taken the decision to support it. Despite three separate attempts to make sure that this was made clear to the committee, it was not. Don ‘t lets bother members with the facts, eh?
Now fellow Sustainable Community dwellers, what do we do? Take all this jiggery-pokery lying down? Appeal again and trust that the inspector likes turf roofs a bit more than the last one? Hundreds of people have visited our house and said: ‘They can ‘t make you pull this down!’ Well they can, even though they don ‘t play fair and only tell their committee half the story.
To support Tony contact: www.thatroundhouse.info; Brithdir Mawr, Newport, Pembs.
The Food: Where Will It Grow?
How do we get fresh local food to the millions in the big cities? Could peri-urban smallholdings provide an answer? And how does this fit in with current thinking on the green belt?
The campaign for local foods has come a long way in the 10 years since the concept of ‘food miles’ was first elaborated; the Curry report on food and farming gives the promotion of local foods strong backing, which is only one step short of it becoming Government policy.
But in the enthusiasm for box schemes, farmer ‘s markets and other means of distributing food locally, one question seems to have been forgotten ‘ where is the local food going to be grown?
So far this has not proved a problem because the farmer ‘s market phenomenon has evolved in smallish market towns, in areas like the West Country where there are plenty of small farmers. But the majority of people don ‘t live in market towns ‘ they live in conurbations like London, the West Midlands and Greater Manchester; and there are millions of them. Who is going to provide them with fresh local produce ‘ and where?
From a geographical point of view, the answer is self-evident: in the countryside immediately surrounding the conurbation. This is where fresh food production for cities has traditionally taken place: not so long ago many places in Bucks, Herts, Essex and Kent were centres for market gardeners who produced much of the veg for a city of 8 million people.
But there ‘s nothing like planning for making a simple solution complex. T hese areas are now ‘greenbelts’: typically swathes of more or less blighted countryside, straddled by pylons, where nags keep the grass down while landowners let their farm buildings out for industrial storage and sit on their land in the hope that one day it will realize its development potential. Not the sort of area where a would-be organic grower can easily pick up a few acres of cultivable land at a reasonable price and stick a mobile home on it while they build up their business. Small wonder that organic veg growers tend to head for the West Country, where the land is cheaper and less tainted.
A solution to this problem is unlikely to come from organic producers (most of whom would prefer to live in the West Country anyway). But perceptive planners are working on it and the matter is creeping up the agenda. In C7 News No 4 we described a visionary proposal from Mark Fisher and colleagues for low impact smallholdings in the greenbelt around Bradford. Here are four other approaches from planners.
The Upminster Town Wall
Tom Young in his study of the West London suburb of Upminster1 looked at the problem f rom an urban planner ‘s perspective. ‘So much of Upminster ‘s boundary with the countryside is back garden fencing ‘ the ‘Upminster Town Wall ‘ . . . Garden fencing or ordinary houses are fine grain elements, but repeated hundreds of times they take on the scale of the open land all around.
‘Our own research has revealed how divorced Upminster has become from agriculture. Food producers say local people have no interest in working on the land, preferring jobs in warm offices. They cite the supermarket-led transformation of food distribution in the 70s as the main reason for the disappearance of market gardens which supplied London ‘s markets . . . Local farmers do not take part in the market for local waste products. The NFU say, disappointingly, that they plan no initiatives to integrate agricultural and suburban economies.’
Those of us familiar with the agricultural sector have long since learnt not to be disappointed by the NFU; but it is pleasantly surprising that an urban planner should think to consult them.
Sustaining The City Region
Meanwhile, Joe Ravetz, of t he University of Manchester has been putting together City Region 2020, a vision for the sustainable development of the entire city-region of Greater Manchester.2 One section of his very big picture focuses upon the fringe areas:
‘Does sustainable farming mean local production for local markets? . . . If half of Greater Manchester ‘s grassland was converted to organic horticulture, which supplies an average of two households per acre with fresh native foods, up to 10 per cent of local seasonal food demand could be provided . . . It would generate up to 20,000 land based jobs, or six times existing farm employment.’
In fact Ravetz ‘s figures are underestimates since an acre of land will supply far more than two households with fresh seasonal veg, more like ten or twenty. An acre could provide two households with all their food. But he ‘s got the right idea. He goes on to advocate US style ‘community land trusts ‘ as a way of safeguarding land around cities (see C 7 News Nos 1 and 6) More recently Ravetz has reiterated these proposals in a report for the Countryside Agency which advocates: ‘Low impact communities in selected locations to enable eco-restoration via organic farming, tele-working, local workshops and social economy.’
Ravetz ‘s report on Greater Manchester was published as a book by the The Town and Country Planning Association, and Ravetz ‘s ideas have been taken several steps further in a recent TCPA policy statement on green belts. 3The TCPA calls for a more environmentally positive approach to land use in green belts, including local food production, renewable energy and low impact dwellings for people carrying out these activities. The document states:
‘The restrictive nature of green belts, and their large geographical extent around many conurbations inhibit the scope for encouraging new forms of development in rural areas and for diversification of their local communities . . . Progress towards the improvement of the environment in green belts has been slow, given the importance of such areas for recreation by the urban population, and has failed to encourage the production of food for local markets . . . ‘To make settlements more sustainable, green belts should now be conceived as eco-belts, so that land around towns becomes a zone for a range of ecological and sus tainable uses, such as smallholdings for organic market gardening, community woodlands, composting projects, wind farms, and small-scale biomass power stations . . . ‘In return for green belt status, local planning policies should make specific provision for countryside access; sport and outdoor recreation; landscape protection and enhancement; the reparation of damaged and derelict land; nature conservation; and farming, forestry and related uses. Policies to promote sustainable land management with mixed organic farming and community woodlands should allow, where appropriate, small-scale, low-impact, live-work units for those engaging in local food production, woodland crafts and other land-based activities . . .’
We couldn ‘t have put it better. If all goes well, views like this could be seeping into planning policy guidance in about four years time. But before a good idea becomes accepted you have to take it to its logical conclusion. This job has been left to Swedish systems ecologist Folke G?nther, whose revolutionary proposals ‘ which fly in the face of conventional theories about cramming everybody into ‘compact citie s’ ‘ prompted one of the authors of the TCPA policy statement cited above to comment: ‘I think it is going a bit far .. . but it is interesting.’4
G?nther ‘s theory is that in order to return the nutrients (in particular phosphates) necessary for human survival back to the soil efficiently so that more can be grown, consumption will have to take place closer to production. He predicts a gradual ‘ruralization’ of urban communities as they integrate with the surrounding countryside, instead of importing resources and nutrients, with unsustainable energy use, from distant locations to which they cannot practically or economically be returned.
G?nther sees this taking place through eco-units of about 200 inhabitants, living off areas of about 50 hectares. These communities would be largely self-sufficient in terms of food, animal fodder, water, energy and waste return to the soil. He describes a scenario where an urban centre of 33,000, with a population in its surrounding area of 3,000, after 25 years has a population of only 12,000. with 24,000 living in the periphery. After 50 years the region would be ergonomically decentralized and self-sustaining, with the town centre serving mainly as a cultura l and decision-making centre.
This is permaculture on the grand scale. Whether G?nther ‘s vision for what could happen to a provincial town in sparsely populated Sweden can be applied to an overpopulated metropolis like Manchester is another matter. Gunther claims that to 0,2 hectare per person are required, which amounts to only half the land available per person across the UK.
His vision needs to be taken seriously, not least because it would be a good idea, before it is too late, to find ways of avoiding throwing hundreds of millions of third world peasants off their lands and herding them into unsustainable metropolises of 20 or 30 million people. Peasants (the word means people who live in a district) already have the ergonomic relationship with their land that G?nther believes civilized folk need to re-establish. Why throw this away? Why not use modern technology and know-how to build on this foundation?
What the Dinosaurs Think
All of this, of course, is above the heads of the mainstream planning establishment. In May there was a flurry of interes t in the future of greenbelts recently from organizations with huge memberships supporting small policy units, but they have come up with few new ideas.
In May, the Royal Town Planning Institute issued a policy statement on Green Belts 5 which called for a reassessment of policy (which is a mealy-mouthed way of saying ‘why not let developers move in?’). The sum total of what it had to say about farming, in 16 pages of text, was this: ‘There need to be explicit strategies for farming and forestry in green belts.’ What kind of strategies? ‘Farming may have a limited future in the urban fringe . . Farming in the urban fringe has long been only marginally viable and can be expected to be the first to be abandoned’. Given that most land in the green belt is agricultural, this is a grotesque abdication from any kind of strategic thinking whatsoever.
The CLA (formerly the Country Landowners Association, recently reborn as the Country Land and Business Association) have issued their own policy statement on the green belt. As far as farming is concerned, their main worry seems to be that approvals for new buildings associated with ‘agricultural diversification ‘ (ie non-agricultural use of farmyards) are , horror of horrors, 12 per cent less likely to be given in the green belt than in the rest of the country, and something must be done.
The CLA and the RTPI (together with estate agents Strutt and Parker) advocate regular reviews of green belt policies ‘ which sounds well-meaning and innocuous enough, until you consider that this will encourage landowners to sit on their land in anticipation of the next ‘review’ and hike up its price, thereby increasing the blight.
The NFU is watching from the sidelines. Their members, spokesman David Glasson told us, have ‘mixed interests’, and while one of these is farming, another is selling land for development. No prizes for guessing which makes more money.
Meanwhile NIMBYs , represented by the Council for the Protection of Rural England have been quoted in the press as condemning any change to green belt policy,: ‘We don ‘t see any evidence that green belts are not working. ‘ There ‘s none so blind as those who will not see; but the public (to the evident dismay of the RTPI) continues to support the CPRE ‘s stance, and quite understandably, because at the moment greenbelts, however unsatisfactory they may be, are the only strong mechanism we have to stop the inexorable spread of ghastly edge-of-town sprawl.
In the midst of this muddy debate, which has hardly advanced in the last ten years, the TCPA ‘s policy statement stands out like a jewel. The TCPA has come under fire from Friends of the Earth and other environmentalists in recent years, sometimes justifiably, sometimes not. It is interesting to see that, 100 years after it first launched the idea of new towns, the TCPA can still come up with more original thinking than the rest of the big organizations put together.
1. Thomas Young, Reinvigorating Upminster, 80 Lamble St., NW5 4AB, 2001. 2.Joe Ravetz, City Region 2020, TCPA/Earthscan, 2000. 3. TCPA Policy Statement Greenbelts, May 2002. 4. Contact: Folke.Gunther@humecol.lu.se. 5 RTPI, Modernising Green Belts, May 2002. 6. CLA, A Living Working Greenbelt, May 2002.
Here are the main conclusions which Chapter 7 has drawn from our extensive contact with smallholders over the last few years.
1. The demand for smallholdings and number of smallholdings is likely to increase. Smallholdings offers one of the few opportunities left for those who prefer manual labour, working outside, or working with animals. It is true that in the near future much farmland is likely to be concentrated into bigger farms; but it only requires one farm to be subdivided to create a number of smallholdings ‘ and the financial advantage to be derived from subdivision is potentially greater than from concentration. Preventing subdivision would require draconian planning constraints
2. Small farmers have an important role to play in the provision of local food. Smallholders and small farm enterprises are in many respects better suited than large indstrial units for providing the public with locally distributed and fresher foods. In particular land will need to be provided for market gardeners and similar around large conurbations.
3. Smallholdings are a benefit to the local economy. Smallholdings employ more people per acre of land than large farms; typically they will provide a living for one family on every 10 or 20 acres, while industrial farming currently provides a living for one family every 100-200 acres. This will have obvious effects upon the viability of local village centres and rural economies.
4. Small labour intensive farms are potentially more productive per acre than large ones; However this potential will not be realized onn a widespread level unless it is recognized in policy. There is a shortage of training and extension services for smallholders (many smallholders are new entrants, whose enthusiasm is often greater than their experience); and there is a shortage of co-operative outlets for distributing food locally. Local authorities in particular have a role to play.
5. Small labour intensive units are potentially more responsive to environmental and animal welfare needs. It is evident that (other things being equal) the more workers there are per hectare, or per animal, the more attention can be given to ensuring that the environment and animals are properly cared for. However the extent to which this principle can be applied in practice is dependent upon the signals and financial incentives coming from Government.
6. Many smallholdings can support people living on the land, but not in the commuter economy. While a great many smallholdings can provide a living for a family living in modest but happy circumstances on the land they own, very few smallholdings provide sufficient surplus to pay for the costs of a house in a nearby village plus the costs of commuting to and from the land.
7. Existing policy which states that smallholders should live in nearby towns or villages is unrealistic. The statement in PPG7 that ‘normally it will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby towns or villages’ is simply not true. We have a great deal of testimony that it is highly inconvenient for smallholders and small farmers to live away from their holdings, and it causes unnecessary commuting.
8. The functional and financial tests in Annex I of PPG7 are unsuitable for assessing the needs of smallholders. Case law *( eg. Petter and H arris v SoS and Chichester DC 1999, Jarmain ) has confirmed that the detailed guidance in Annex I is not necessarily appropriate for assessing the performance of smallholdings in terms of ‘the underling purpose of the policy’. Annex I needs to be redrafted so as to allow bona fide smallholding projects to proceed, whilst precluding speculative development.
9. The need for research into solutions for this problem The current thrust of policy deterring smallholders from living on their land (although it derives from a well-intentioned attempt to stop speculative development in the countryside), causes extreme insecurity and anguish. Some of the people Chapter 7 deals with have lived for 15 years or more with the threat of eviction over their home. This sitation is unheard of in less developed contries unless they are in a state of war, is unacceptable in any society, and has a disastrous effect upon the rural economy. In order to resolve this dilemma, Chapter 7 advocates a move towards greater provision for sustainable low impact in the contryside. In he first instance we advocate that, as a matter of urgency, research is carried out into the benefits of smallholdings, the difficulties smallholders face, and the possible benfits that might result from providing for a measured amount of low impact development. Such research has already been initiated in Wales.
Who Owns Britain?
Who Owns Britain, by Kevin Cahill, Canongate, Edinburgh, 2002, hardback £25. Paperback sc heduled for September. Available from Chapter 7
Walk into the mairie of any village in France and ask to see the cadastre and no matter who you are you will be shown, free of charge, maps of the commune with all the plots of land numbered, and a tome in which is inscribed the current and past owners of each of these plots.
Just over a century ago you could do much the same in England. According to Kevin Cahill: ‘Every person in England, Wales, Scotland and Ireland was within walking distance of a free list of those landowners who most affected their lives at the local parish office. In the last 120 years the parishes have not been abolished, but their landowning records have.’ The centralized land registry we have now is between 30 and 50 per cent incomplete, is difficult to get access to and is prohibitively expensive for any systematic search.
Cahill’s groundbreaking book has three main objectives: The first is to expose the lengths to which the British land-owning establishment have gone to ensure that the rest of us have as little information as possible about what they own. The second is to provide up to date information about landow nership patterns in the UK, which he does with copious tables. The third is to draw some conclusions about the effects of the UK ‘s concentrated land ownership patterns, which he does most effectively by comparison with the situation in Republic of Ireland.
Cahill takes as his starting point the 1872 Return of Owners of Land, which was the last (indeed the only) comprehensive analysis of who owns Britain. It showed conclusively that 710 people ‘ the aristocracy ‘ owned more than one quarter of the whole country, and for this reason it was criticised for its inevitable inaccuracies and then buried by the government of the day, which was comprised in large part of those same seven hundred. The Return could have become the basis for a transparent land registry system in England. Instead to acquire the information today that in 1872 was on sale for the equivalent of £70 would cost ‘about £150 million if it were available, which it is not’.
Nonetheless the Return did provide ammunition for the liberal land reform governments of Asquith and Lloyd George, and in between 1918 and 1922 about a quarter of the country changed hands – a process which is unsatisfactorily glossed over in Cahill ‘s book.</p>
The result, today is that land ownership in the UK is still highly concentrated by comparison to almost any country, but not in quite the same way as it was in 1872. Cahill ‘s tables for all the counties of the UK show that the massive aristocratic estates have typically halved in size since 1872 (except for those associated with the crown); but the numbers of smallholders with areas of 5 acres or so has declined even more catastrophically. In 1872, out of a population of less than 20 million, there we some 250,000 private owners of agricultural land, (and another 703,000 cottagers. Today there are only 189,000 families on a rather bigger acreage. The winners have been the large farms. There are now about 15 per cent more landowners with holdings over 500 acres in England than there were in 1872 ‘ although there is less rural land and three times as many people.
What makes Cahill ‘s research really interesting is that he also covers his home country, the Republic of Ireland, and here the pattern of landownership over the last 120 years has been in sharp contrast to that in England: ‘Of the 17.3 million acres which comprise the land area of the republic, of which 14 million acres was farmland, 97 per cent was owned by landlords in 1881. In the space of about 60 ears, from 1870 to 1930, 13 million acres of that farmland had been taken over and sold to owner occupiers . . . The entire price of buying a nation for its people was between £5 billion and £7 billion , around two years of EU subsidy’.
Because of this land reform., while the number of landowners with more than 500 acres has gone up by 15 per cent in England, it has declined by 75 per cent in Ireland. There are 111,000 agricultural holdings owned in England, while in Ireland, with about half the amount of land, there are 153,000. Their average size of a farm in England is 204 acres; in the Republic of Ireland it is about 70 acres.
This is a staggering difference for two countries which have only been separated for 80 years, and according to Cahill the effects are now beginning to show. While England is undergoing an agricultural crisis, the rural economy in Ireland is booming. Both countries are eligible to receive massive subsidies from the EU; but while the £3.5 billion that the UK receives goes largely towards its 40,000 land millionaires, in Ireland ‘the number of small farms means that this income is widely distributed among the work ing population.’ As Cahill also notes, the Irish policy of allowing ‘one-off’ houses in the countryside has also helped to distribute wealth (even if the architecture is contentious).
Cahill also notes that the Irish pay no council tax, yet still benefit from local services (unfortunately he doesn ‘t explain what taxes do pay for these services). In the UK, on the other hand ‘hidden behind the current pattern of ownership . . . is the fact that the 59 million people who live on just 4.4 million residential acres in this country are subject to a land tax called the Council Tax, averaging £550 per household, which totals 10.4 billion a year. The 189,000 families who live on 40 million acres, pa £103 million in Council Tax on their actual home, but not their acres, and receive a direct subsidy from the Ministry of Agriculture of £2.3 billion, plus other subsidies which probably brings the total closer to £4 billion or more. Each residential home coughs up an average of £550 in tax a year. Each landowning family gets an average handout of £12,169 per year.
Cahill finishes his book with an attack on the environmental lobby, particularly FoE and the National Trust who he says: ‘can be taken seriously w hen they . . . insist on a democratic Land Registry in which the rich landowner as well as the urban house dweller is identified. It seems strange that they campaign so hard for the countryside , but are unwilling that anyone should know who owns it. It also seems strange that the environmentalists do not always make clear who benefits from their fight. For if the environmental cause is effective, an extraordinary benefit will be conferred on a very small group of people, the landowners of the UK. They will have a new shield against the public use of the huge acreages, and they will have a new disguise for the continued public subsidy of the very rich.’
As C 7 News has pointed out in earlier issues (7 and 9), this disguise takes the form of environmental subsidies, countryside stewardship schemes and so forth meted out to landowners not according to what they provide but according to how many acres they own. Up until now Chapter 7 has been almost alone in highlighting the regressive, inegalitarian nature of area-based environmental subsidies. It is nice to find someone who agrees with us!
Cahill ‘s book, which is an unusual blend of statistical analysis and radical rhetoric, is far from perfect. Some of his arguments require further elucidation, and some numerical discrepancies need to be cleared up. The book could do with stronger editing and numerical proof-reading (though it does have a first-class index). I suspect that these deficiencies may be largely due to a lack of adequate funding; this is a work of monumental research, taking some 13 years to compile, it is unlikely to make the bestseller lists and one wonders how all this work was paid for.
Many of these deficiencies can be addressed through the website for amendments that Cahill has set up at who-owns-britain.com To harp on them would be worse than churlish; it would be to follow in the footsteps of those who rubbished the 1872 Return for its inevitable and anticipated inaccuracies.
By bringing the issue of land-ownership out into the open, and laying the foundations for a proper statistical analysis of the UK ‘s landowners, Cahill has performed an immense service to the ordinary people of this country. It is up to the rest of us to build on these foundations: and the best way we can do that is by buying Cahill ‘s book, showing it to our friends, brandishing it at our enemies, and taking it along to our MPs surgeries to urge them to make complete and accessible land registration for the UK one of their priorities.
Report From The Margins of History
Cotters and Squatters: Housing ‘s Hidden History, by Colin Ward, Five Leaves, PO Box 81, Nottingham NG5 4ER, 2002. Available from Chapter 7
Every so often at Chapter 7 we are asked whether there is any substance in the claim that you cannot be evicted from a house constructed between sunset and sunrise. Our response until recently was that we didn ‘t know, but that we had heard Colin Ward was writing a book on the subject ‘ and if anybody knew about this particular issue, it would be he.
Now his book has come out, and the answer is that although there appears to be no reference to the one-night house in either case-law or legislation, examples of the belief can be found all over Europe: Ward cites cases from the UK, France, Italy, Turkey, Colombia and Peru. He also quotes a professor of law: ‘The universality of this supposed custom must mean that it der ives either from Roman Law (Ottoman Law is Roman Law as applied to the eastern empire) and Germanic custom’.
Cotters and Squatters uses the theme of the one-night house as a framework for what, in effect, is a short history of squatting in the UK ‘ short, mainly because Ward was unable to get a grant for research on the scale which went into Arcadia for All , the study of the the plotlands he carried out with Dennis Hardy (see C7 News No 7).
Nonetheless the book is packed with fascinating accounts of squatter houses and communities throughout Britain, many of which have long since disappeared. The squatter village of Rhosllanerchrugog in Flintshire (population 3,467), for example, was unflatteringly regarded by observers as consisting of ‘grimy looking huts’, and ‘wigwams’ ‘ and a representative of the Welsh Education Commission commented: ‘nothing could more forcibly illustrate the imperfect nature of indigenous civilization if isolated and unaided.’ But another visitor, J H Jones, who adjudicated at an eistedfodd (or manifestation of the indigenous civilization) there in 1919, was fascinated by the place: ‘The shapes of the houses and the streets of Rhos are strange, very strange. The village would surely look very peculiar if seen from an aeroplane! Most of the people have succeeded in building their houses where they please and having the shape they please . . . I am sure there is not one figure in the whole of Geometry that could completely define Rhos. Rhos is the most visual living proof that man has a free will, because no laws and bye-laws imposed from outside authorities would ever have succeeded in building houses in this manner.’
Prize for the cheekiest squatter has to go to Ann Hicks whose apple stall at the eastern end of London ‘s Hyde Park, in the early 19th century, gradually expanded to a lock up shop. ‘Then a small back enclosure appeared including four walls with windows and a door. The height of the building was next increased and under the excuse of repairing the roof a chimney was provided. The next step was to get a hurdle erected to prevent the curious from peering in at the window. The fence by degrees was moved outwards until a fair amount of space was enclosed. At this stage the authorities interfered and secured possession of the domain of Ann Hicks, who was granted a small allowance.’
Wards ‘ account of UK squatting rather cleverly advances both geographically around Britain (mainly its Western half) and historically ‘ from cave dwellers, via the Diggers of 1649 and 18th century battles over enclosures, to the mass squats of army camps after World War II, and the ‘Pure Genius’ occupation of Guinness’s Gargoyle Wharf in 1997.
He ends his book with a quote from Chapter 7 News, no less, referring to those ‘who sort out their own housing , in self-built houses, mobile homes, trucks, benders or sheds at no cost to the taxpayer more or less in defiance of the planning system.’ Recognition of the right of such people to establish their own homes, says Ward ‘when it comes, will be an ultimate gesture towards the centuries of cotters and squatters who housed themselves in the margins of history’.
Tall Buildings and Sustainability, Will Pank, Herbert Girardet and Greg Cox, Faber Maunsell 2002
‘Eco-towers are coming to take root in London.’ claim the authors of this report. It comes as no surprise that this latest attempt to rebrand hi-rise buildings as sustainable was commissioned by the Corporation of London. More surprisingly, one of its authors is Herbert Girardet, seasoned environmental campaigner and the editor of the 1976 book Land for the People . It ‘s somewhat odd to see Herbie arguing in favour of the plate-glass monstrosities which are sprouting up over London as a testament to Blairism ‘ but then there ‘s no accounting for taste; and he ‘s not the only green to go high-rise.
The aim of the report is not to assess whether skyscrapers are sustainable; instead it starts with the unsupported premise that ‘tall buildings are an inevitable building form’ and then sets out to see how these unavoidably tall buildings can be made to ‘fit within the context’ of sustainability.
This is a squeeze, but it can be done with the help of secondhand arguments about the advantages of compact cities, and by citing the benefits derived from economies of scale. It also helps that high-rise office blocks have been so extravagant in their energy use up until now that features taken for granted in normal buildings (like windows that actually open in hot weather) can be characterized as breakthroughs in sustainable skyscraper design .
A more devious advantage of high-rise buildings seems to be that because they put smaller buildings in the shade, they can hog solar energy ‘ like trees in a forest competing for light. However, by the end of the report, we are given a picture of a non-Darwinian future where the tall buildings are so eco-friendly and so PC that they not only grow like trees, and talk to each other like humans, they also respect each other ‘s space:
‘A zone in the north-east quarter of the City around Tower 42 has been identified as a possible site for tall buildings . . . In this setting the Swiss Reinsurance building will begin a dialogue with the City ‘s tallest tower in 2003. The Heron building may join the debate a few years later. Later a handful of other taller structures may spring up to form a unified group. All additions to this cluster of tall buildings will have to be respectful of the needs of the others and responsive to the environment in which they grow.’
New age anthropomorphism like this may make the reader wonder whether the authors haven ‘t gone a little soft in the head. These new structures, however well-spoken they may be, will be about as respectful of other buildings as Paternoster Square was of t he Mappin and Webb building, or if this means nothing to you, as a clump of Japanese knotweed is of a cornflower.
Bizarre as it might seem to country folk, there are a lot of urban people who like extremely tall buildings ‘ in the same way that urban people like extraordinarily loud music ‘ and one of them is the Mayor of London. These people have to be catered for, I suppose, and there is something to be said for cramming all these buildings into a square mile where they can all chat with each other. It ‘s just a pity that square mile happens to be in the very centre of our still quite tolerable capital city. Couldn ‘t they stick them all somewhere like Bracknell?
Boat Dwellers respond to the Parliamentary Subcommittee on Affordable Housing
This paper will introduce you to a form of affordable housing you may not have thought of. The potential is limited in absolute numbers, but removing some of the barriers to this form of housing could ease housing problems in some areas or at some stages in people ‘s lives. Living afloat is not necessarily a cheap option, but it is an attainable aspiration for many people who cannot afford to occupy houses generally available on the open market. A boat often occupies less space than a house, and residential mooring can be provided at a fraction of the cost of building a a house or flat.
We are not suggesting that waterway authorities become housing providers, but we see no reason why a system of grants and/or loans should not be available, perhaps through the Housing Corporation, to lease areas of land or waterscape and to construct residential moorings. Developers of adjoining land cold also be required by planning agreements or conditions to provide residential moorings available at controlled levels.
Residential boats and moorings are uniquely suited to become ‘pioneer’ communities in regeneration schemes. Low mooring fees are a major incentive. Why not offer free mooring for a limited period and kick start a new project?
What is a Residential Boat?
A survey carried out a few years ago suggested their could be around 15,000 people living on boats in Britain. Any covered vessel can be a home. A boat is legally a chattel. You can elect for a boat to be your main residence for income tax, you could claim tax relief on the interest for a loan to buy a boat if it was your home. However you can be made homelesss if you have legal costs awarded against you because it is houses that are protected, not homes that happen to be chattels.
Boat dwellers are diverse not only in location but in occupation and behaviour. A sociologist ‘s study adjudicated us ‘not a sub-culture’. We are however happy to be considered a ‘linear village’ extending along the waterways and around the coasts of Britain. We don ‘t need much in the way of facilities. Most boats have all the necessary services and can be moved as necessar to take on water or dispose of rubbish and sewage. On canals and rivers we need a reasonable depth of water so we can tie to the bank. On tidal waters, rise and fall pontoons are marvellous, but rings fixed to runner posts in proximity to the shore are adequate.
Attempt to Insert Imagination into PPG3
We responded to the proposed revisions to Planning Policy Guidance Note 3 on Housing. We begged for the eight words ‘Boats can be a form of affordable housing’ to be inserted in the paper. We made several representations and eventally we were granted an audience with a civil servant. We spent a frustrating time having every point we made noted but blocked without reason. The expense of taking time off work and travelling to London to see someone who had clearly been instructed to reject any of our ideas was not the best use of our resources. All we wanted was for local authorities, via the Guidance, to be given permission to consider us. Without a mention in the Guidance local authorities can just reject us out of hand as they have no policy framework to link us to.
Radio 4 listeners who tune into Today in Parliament and In Committee will be aware that the MPs who act like spoilt children during Prime Minister ‘s question time are capable of behaving in a surprisingly mature and intelligent way when they find themselves in the investigative atmosphere of the committtee.
Chapter 7 recently submitted evidence to the sub-committee on Affordable Housing, which is part of the Transport, Local Government and Regions Comm ittee (the one from which Blair tried unsuccessfully to sack Gwynneth Dunwoody after they were so rude about John Birt). The timing of the process was impressive. There was a call for written evidence on 16 April, with a deadline of 18 May. By the end of June a 230 page volume containing all of the evidence had been sent out to all 75 organizations who submitted evidence.
Chapter 7 ‘s submission reminded MP ‘s that many people were living in marginal circumstances in caravans, sheds, benders etc; and that many would be keen and able to provide their own housing if they had acesss to land with planning permission. Our submission had something in common with that of the Residential Boat Owner ‘s Association summarised above.
Financial Aid for Appeals
Angus Murdoch of the Traveller ‘s Advice Team reports that he has had success securing free legal support for low income people fighting appeals relating to their residence. Up to £5,000 worth of advice can be secured, but this sum can only be spent on witnesses or on solicitors or other consultants preparing the case: it cannot be spent on the barrister or other a dvocate actually presenting the appeal.
In order to apply for this you need to go to a solicitor and apply for two hours free legal advice under the ‘green form’ scheme. When you do this you must be demonstrably of low income ‘ eg in receipt of income support, or with tax returns showing that you earn less than £80 per week. Your eligibility for help towards the appeal is dependent upon your financial position on the day you apply for the green form.
For more information, phone The Traveller ‘s Advice Team, 0845 120 2980.
Alpacas Need TLC
An alpaca farmer in Gloucestershire has been given permission for a temporary mobile home on his farm. The inspector at the public inquiry accepted a vet ‘s evidence that alpacas needed intensive on-site care when breeding. In case you may be wondering whether alpacas are the answer to your functional need problems, bear in mind that these animals are worth several thousand pounds each.
Roy ‘s Alpacas, Cotswold DC, appeal date 23 April 2002.
Yurt Yes, Caravan No!
An appeal inspector has refused a certificate of lawful use (CLU) for leisure use of caravan, but allowed use of a yurt, together with a compost toilet. The CLU was refused because over the previous 10 years there had been a period of 5 months when the caravan was not on site.
The yurt was allowed because the appellant agreed to a personal permission and because of the ease with which it could be dismantled. However the Inspector viewed that yurt was a ‘permanent building’, because it took several people 6 hours to erect and because it had a wooden floor and an installed sink.
Ref APP/V2255/A/01/1073640, available from C7.
Human Rights Must Be Assessed Individually
More developments at Warren Fruit Farm , which has been divided into 14 smallholdings, each equipped with a wooden chalet for agricultural use. Last issue we reported that an appeal inspector found that the chalets were not caravans, nor permitted agricultural buildings.
Now Tew kesbury DC is trying to press ahead with enforcement proceedings against residents of the smallholdings, on the basis of a 1988 Enforcement Notice against residential use of caravans. Four of the families have responded by applying for temporary residence for a year. According to our source:
‘the main ground for this is that although it may not be necessary in the long run for all of these people to be on the land all year, people ‘s farm businesses have suffered bemuse of the insecurity here, made worse by local politics and the refusal of planners to answer questions and communicate with people here; and that a year ‘s residence without any insecurity would allow everyone to assess when and how long the needed to be on the land.’
At the committee meeting concerning the enforcement notice, the smallholders submitted that their Human Rights, specifically Article 8 (the right to respect for one ‘s home) had not been duly considered by the authority. One of them, Jim Aplin, claimed that enforcement against him could hardly have been determined by the local authority to be ‘proportional’ and ‘in the public interest’ when the same authority had still not come to a decision on an application he had made for temporary residence, nine months previously.
In the face of the manifest logic of this objection, the committee accepted legal advice that they should only prosecute in individual cases after the borough solicitor was satisfied that the Human Rights issues had been taken into account in each individual case.
Permaculturist Loses Gypsy Wins
Chapter 7 was planning witness in two recent appeals in South Somerset.
Ann Morgan, of Turner ‘s Field has lost her appeal to stay on the permaculture plot where she has lived for 15 years. The Inspector accepted that Annes ‘ ‘pursuit of a lifestyle based on permaculture derives from a genuinely held belief and that this was capable of falling within the rights conferred by Article 9’ of the European Convention on Human Rights. Evicting her would be an interference with this belief, but justifiable on the grounds that not enough food production was being carried out on the site for her to claim that she was carrying out Permaculture(even though she had always claimed education was the source of her income). She has been given leave to take the matter to the High Court. (APP/R3325/C/00/1051594)
Lee Hughes, a gypsy, won his appeal to live on a 5 acre field close to Yeovilton airport, partly on the grounds that his horse-breaking business required a presence on the land. The Inspector did not consider the noise levels coming from the airport to be a significant objection. (APP/R3325/A/01/1075321)
Time is running out for two of the UK ‘s best known eco-houses ‘ Tony Wrench ‘s roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr and Jack Everett ‘s house at Shutway Quarry in Glos, pictured here. Both are scheduled to be demolished after losing planning applications, appeals and in Jack ‘s case a court case. At the time of writing, both are still standing.
Jack works as a sculptor and architect and was generally agreed to have won the Palme d ‘Or at this year ‘s Ecovillage Gathering with his slide show of low impact structures.
Petter and Harris Man Strikes Again!
The planning profession is not noted for producing champions of the people, but planning lawyer Jonathon Clay seems to be stepping into this role. Clay, (number 33 in Planning magazine ‘s top 50 barristers), was the advocate who won ‘Petter and Harris’, the court of appeal case which has been so helpful for smallholders (see C7 News No 2). Now he has won another very useful victory in the High Court case ‘ Roger Raymond Jarmain v. Secretary of State and Welwyn Hatfield District Council.
The main importance of this case is that it effectively prevents local authorities and their land agents from distorting applicants accounts by incorporating fictitious expenses such as ‘notional rent’ (the rent you would be paying for land you own, if you didn ‘t own it.)
Jarmain was fighting an enforcement notice on the erection of a permanent single storey dwelling on the organic farm which he had managed for 17 years. It was accepted that he met the functional test (ie that he needed to live on the land for agricultural reasons).
But the Inspector in the Appeal concluded that the farm did not meet the viability test even though, for all practical purposes, Jarmain was making a decent living from the land. She assessed his holding in the light of an obscure 1992 MAFF document called LU1893*, which lays down a theoretical basis for assessing viability involving expenses such as ‘notional rent’ and ‘notional return to labour’. When these were incorporated into Jarmain ‘s accounts ‘ even though they were expenses which he never in fact incurred ‘ then his healthy profit was reduced by over £4,000 to a very meagre one.
The judge, Lord Justice Gibbs, ruled that the Inspector had attached too much weight to this theoretical assessment:
‘Whilst she was entitled to take the theoretical gross margin as a guideline, it was wrong to accept as part of the actual expense figures those costs which were purely notional, such as rent which was never in fact incurred . . . The Injustice of this approach becomes yet more apparent when one considers the Inspector ‘s approach to the actual as opposed to the theoretical margins obtainable from the holding. If one eliminates the notional figures mentioned, the actual margins obtained demonstrated a healthy surplus (albeit in the modest context of this particular holding).’
Gibbs LJ also indicated that the appropriateness or otherwise of planning policy guidance (in Annex I of PPG7) for small farms should be taken into account:
‘It may be said that the reasoning gives no or no proper weight to the particular nature of the business in certain respects. For example, it does not specifically weigh the argument that the applicant ‘s holding is one which does not require in conventional terms a high gross margin for survival . . . In other words it may not give proper weight to the underlying purpose of the policy, or the ‘policy behind the policy’ as their Lordships called it in the Petter case. The genuineness of the intention to farm the land was not in issue. Profits had been obtained in two of the three previous years and the other criteria were met. The fact that the holding had been sustained for almost two decades was not in issue. Under these circumstances the financial test could properly be said to carry significantly less weight than the Inspector in fact accorded to it.’
Roger Raymond Jarmain v. Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions and Welwyn Hatfield District Council, Dec 2001.
*C7 phoned up DEFRA and they told us that as far as they were concerned LU 1893 was out of date. are at risk Tony Wrench and his partner jane lost a planning application to retain their faous turf-roofed roundhouse, which is de to be demolished before the Autumn. Mor info? Jarmain, one or two readers may recall from C7 News 4, is a smallholder who lost an earlier court case concerning a certificate of lawful use for a converted caravan. This time, however, Lord Justice Gibbs came down in his favour, ruling that the Inspector at an appeal had wrongly concluded that Jarmain ‘s farm was not viable.
Scottish Housing Policy Goes Low Impact
The draft version of Scottish NPPG 3 on Housing has been issued. As well as being quite significantly different from its English counterpart PPG3, it also contains some sensible guidance on low impact development in rural areas.
The Scottish document differs from the English in particular because it places more emphasis on the quality of housing development and less on the location. There are two paragraphs on ‘energy efficient housing’ compared to a 13 word sentence in the English document. This is a vast improvement, though there is room for more guidance on what makes a house sustainable.
The rigid English ‘search sequence’, whereby local authorities are required to identify sites in urban areas, before turning to urban extensions and then to out of town sites, happily does not appear in the Scottish draft.
Instead planning authorities are advised to give preference to locations that are linked to public transport, jobs and services; and to give priority to brownfield sites, except where a greenfield site ‘would result in a more sustainable pattern of development than the redevelopment of available brownfield sites’.
Paragraph 59 on low impact development states: ‘NPPG 15 indicates that low-impact development, such as houses incorporating workspace, can provide both economic and environmental benefits. Developments using innovative, energy-efficient technologies with particularly low impacts on the environment may be acceptable at locations where more conventional buildings would not. The control of innovative low impact uses through the planning system is best achieved by a plan led approach. Proposals should be carefully assessed against specified sustainable d evelopment criteria and the wider policy objectives of the plan.’
We reckon that this is pretty good for a broad guidance and are only recommending that sentence 2 be altered to begin: ‘Developments with particularly low impacts on the environment, for example through the use of innovative, energy-efficient technologies, . . .’
Welsh LID Report Due in September
The report on Low Impact Development in Wales, commissioned by the Welsh Assembly from the University of the West of England is now scheduled to be published in September.
Disappointing Royal Commission
The Royal Commission on Environmental Pollution report on Environmental Planning has appeared. It is a disappointing document ‘ in particular if you compare it to the Commission ‘s 1994 report on transport which successfully tore apart the Tory government ‘s road policy ‘ and unsurprisingly has attracted little publicity.
As a strategic analysis of the planning system it is valueless because it does not even mention, let alone discuss the effect that different planning policies have upon land values, and hence upon access to land. Its recommendations on sustainability and environmental protection are waffley and mealy-mouthed.
The only area where the report distinguishes itself is in its opposition to the ‘major projects’ elements of the Green paper. It supports a limited Third Party Right of Appeal and calls for limitations on Parliaments power to make instant decisions on major infrastructure projects.
Worst Low Impact Policy Yet
The Joint UDP for Pembrokeshire is the latest development plan to introduce a policy on low impact development. While Pembs are to be commended for actually having a policy on LID, it has to be said that it is the worst drafted policy on LID we have seen. This is perhaps because it has been cobbled together in a hurry to cope with the fact that Tony Wrench ‘s notorious turf-roofed roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr just happens to be in Pembs.
The policy is reproduced below; here are some of our comments on it:</p>
(i) Low Impact Development will only be permitted where the development lies outside the National Park. Tony Wrench ‘s roundhouse, surprise surprise, is in the National Park. There is (we imagine) no equivalent policy in the plan saying that high impact development is only permissible outside the park. In other words high impact development might be allowed in the park, but low impact development won ‘t be!
(ii) The development is satisfactory in terms of ecological management, biodiversity, waste, energy, resource management, private vehicle use, etc. Satisfactory? What does that mean? Who is satisfied? ‘Satisfactory’ is what teachers write on school reports when they can ‘t think of anything else to say. A properly worded policy would, at the very least, stipulate conservation of energy, minimization of traffic or waste , protection or increase of biodiversity, etc.
(vi), (vii) and (ix) environmental education is an integral part of the venture; tourist activity will be restricted; and occupancy is limited to people engaged in sustainable land use.
The above three criteria together make a very thin tightrope; to com ply with them, you have to be providing environmental education, but without excess reliance on tourism, and whilst also finding time for ‘sustainable land-based’ use.
The policy effectively rules out all full-time low impact tourist developments, all low impact educational projects which are not land based, and all low impact agricultural/forestry projects which are not educational. We don ‘t imagine that the development plan categorically rules out high impact tourist developments, high impact educational projects which aren ‘t land based, or high impact agricultural developments which aren ‘t educational.
The effect will be that, if you want to get a development accepted in Pembs, and particularly in the National Park, for goodness sake don ‘t make it too low impact, otherwise the planners may argue that you are in conflict with Policy 45.
The perversity comes from trying to apply a negatively phrased criteria-based policy ‘ ie one beginning ‘will only be permitted if’ ‘ solely to low impact developments; this automatically lets any development which does not aspire to be low impact off the hook. Negatively phrased policies only work if they apply to all developments in a given situation or of an identifiable use class: eg ‘residential developments in the open countryside will only be permitted if . . . ‘.
Policies specific to low impact development need to be phrased positively as for example in Policy H11 of the Milton Keynes local plan:
‘As an exception to Policy S10, planning permission may be granted for low impact dwellings in the open countryside, where the proposal meets all of the following criteria . . .’ (See C7 News 5 for full text of this policy)
Low Impact Development will only be permitted where:
(i) the development lies outside the N ational Park; and
(ii) the development is well integrated into the landscape and does not have adverse visual effects; and
(iii) opportunities to reuse buildings which are available locally have been investigated and shown to be impracticable; and
(iv) the de velopment is satisfactory in terms of its ecological management; its implications for biodiversity, waste, energy and resource management; private vehicle use; impact on the surrounding community, and economic activity; and
(v) all buildings on site are of a temporary nature, sing local materials where possible; buildings must be removed and the land restored to its original state within 6 months of occupation ceasing; and
(vi) public access to the countryside and environment education are integral parts of the venture; and
(vii) any tourist activity associated with the venture will be restricted in terms of scale and time period; and
(viii) detailed documentary evidence is provided which demonstrates that the venture has been planned on a sound financial basis which will meet its needs for the duration of the permission; and
(ix) occupancy is restricted by legal agreement to those persons who are engaged in sustainable land use activity on the site.
Books and Reports
Low Impact Development,
Defining Rural Sustainability: 15 Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside
together with 3 Model Policies for Local Plans
( 3 conc)
Planning for Sustainable Woodlands,
Permaculture — A New Approach for Rural Planning
The Sustainable Community: A Practical Guide,
Cotters and Squatters
Who Owns Britain
Planning DIY Briefings
There are now 10 do-it-yourself planning briefing sheets available. They have been reformatted so that there are now more words on a page, and are priced on a basis of 20 pence per page. Minimum order 2.
No 1 Introduction to the Mysteries of the Planning System 6 pp. 1.20
No 2 Should I Move on First or Apply First? 3 pp. 0.60
No 3 Putting in a Planning Application 8 pp. 1.60
No 4 Caravans: Permitted Development and Seasonal Use 3 pp. 0.60
No 5 List of Low-Impact Friendly Consultants 3 pp. 0.60
No 6 Appeals 11 pp. 2.20
No 7 Certificates of Lawful Use: The Four and Ten Year Rules 3 pp 0.60
No 8 Agricultural Workers Dwellings: Annex I of PPG 7 8pp 1.60
No 9 Human Rights 5pp 1.00 No 10 Permitted Development Rights 3pp 0.60
or 9.00 for a modestly bound looseleaf edition of all 10
Planning Library .
Chapter 7 has a growing library of planning documents and reports relating to a number of low impact and sustainable applications. If you telephone us at the office we can research what you need and supply photocopied excerpts. Prices 12 to 15 pence per page, depending on size and research, inc p&p.
Section 106 Agreements
Chapter 7 News Back Issues
2 each, 9 for 14, or complete set of 10 for 15. In the next issue we will provide an index.