Sustainable Homes and Livelihoods in the Countryside
Suggestions for the Forthcoming Revision or Replacement of Planning Policy Guidance 7
Chapter 7 and the PPG7 Reform Group
The PPG7 Reform Group is an informal group of people concerned about the effect upon the rural economy of certain aspects of the existing PPG7. The group was formed in September 2001. Chapter 7 is a voluntary organisation which campaigns for ñaccess to land for all households, through environmentally sound planningî. It publishes a magazine, Chapter 7 News, and operates a free planning advisory service.
This report has been drafted by the staff of Chapter 7, with a focus on the issues covered at meetings of the PPG7 Reform Group; and it has been subject to a consultation process with the members of that group.
Contributors Roger Crawford Smallholder. Simon Fairlie Author of Low Impact Development; Chapter 7, Tinkers Bubble. Jyoti Fernandes BA. (Human and Natural Ecology); Chapter 7; Tinkers Bubble. Mark Fisher BSc. DPhil. Business Adviser, Business Link for W.Yorks. Mike Hannis MA. Kings Hill. Andy Goldring Development Coordinator, Permaculture Association. Rebecca Laughton MSc. (Sustainable Agriculture); Local Foods Consultant; Tinkers Bubble. Lynn Marson Seasonal Agricultural Worker. Eiluned Morgan MRTPI. Independent Planning Consultant. Lucy Nichol MSc. MRTPI. Lecturer in Rural Planning, Oxford Brookes University. Gavin Parker PhD. MRTPI. University of Reading, Dept of Real Estate and Planning. Mike Robinson Editor, Low Impact News. Mark Simon Horticultural worker. Chris Tivey BSc (Hons). BPL. MRTPI. Local authority development control officer. Rod Waterfield Charcoal Producer, Small Woods Association. Tony Wrench LLB. DMS. Author of Building a Low Impact Roundhouse. Brithdir Mawr.
Thanks to: Roger Levett and Jonathon Brown; to Tamsin Abbott for the cover illustration; to Selena Merrett, Tim Harland, Ben Law and others for photos; and to all who feature in the appendix.
The following organizations support the conclusions and recommendations of this report:
The following organizations consider that the views expressed in this report are an important contribution to the rural debate and should be given due consideration by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister:
Published by Chapter 7 The Potato Store, Flaxdrayton Farm, S. Petherton, Somerset, TA13. tel/fax 01460 249204; e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org Copyright © Chapter 7. Not for profit reproduction of the text is permitted. Printed by Sprint Print, Yeovil, on recycled paper.
This publication is dedicated to the memory of Alan Mills
1. Summary of the Full Report.
2. List of Recommendations
Ten recommendations for a future version of PPG7, or whatever guidance replaces it.
3. Small-Scale Agriculture and Forestry
The Changing Face of Agriculture
Fragmentation of Farmland
Different Kinds of Smallholders
Making a Living from Smallholdings
The Smallholding Policy in PPG7 Box
Advice on Fragmentation in Torridge DC Local Plan
Subsistence Farming Mixed Farming and Permaculture
Part Time Farms and Diversification
What Farmers Think of Planners
4. Agricultural and Forestry Dwellings
PPG7 Annex I: A Problem for Smallholders
The Costs of Commuting
The Financial Test
The Underlying Purpose of Annex I
Petter and Harris: Seminal Case Law
Annex I: Recommendations
How Effective is Annex I at Stopping Speculation?
Agricultural Occupancy Conditions
Low Impact Smallholding Use Class
Seasonal Agricultural Workers
5. Sustainable and Low Impact Developments
Conflict Over the Meaning of Sustainability
How PPG7 Defines Sustainability
Box 15 Criteria for Sustainable Land-Based Activities
Evolution of Policy on Sustainable and Low Impact Development
Box Milton Keynes Low Impact Policy Criteria Based Policies
The Country House Policy
Highly Sustainable Development
Box Protecting the Countryside: Strict Limits or Strict Control?
6. Social Exclusion in the Countryside
Lack of Affordable Housing
Rural Exceptions Sites Policy
The Informal Housing Sector
Low Impact Housing Policy
Appendix: The People We Are Talking About p.43 89 examples of smallholdings, low impact developments and informal housing provision in England and Wales.
1.1 This report focuses on the problems experienced by a minority of people in the English countryside „ but it also raises wider issues concerning the future management of the rural economy.
1.2 On one level, we deal with difficulties with planning policies experienced by a number of people living on land in the countryside „ principally in caravans, low impact houses, cabins, and tents. We are perhaps talking about between 10,000 and 15,000 people at present. The government, in the Green Paper on Planning, invited minority groups who feel impinged upon by a particular aspect of the planning system to respond, and we are grateful for this invitation. Planning Policy Guidance 7, on the Countryside, is the main source of the problems.
1.3 But on another level, our proposals have the potential to provide models for more widespread sustainable rural development, and for new approaches to farm and woodland management. Big changes often start from small beginnings. If we want a living and working countryside then we will have to find ways of providing more opportunities for low income people to live and work in the countryside „ particularly in the land-based occupations, which are what make the rural ec onomy distinct from the urban one.
Addressing the Needs of People
1.4 In this report, we examine the needs of three different kinds of people: (1) smallholders and independent forestry workers; (2) people who aspire to live a highly sustainable rural lifestyle; (3) people who live in marginal accommodation in the countryside.
1.5 These groups are not distinct and many people come under two or even three headings. The majority of these people, including many in group three, have some involvement with farming, forestry or other land management activity, either full-time or part-time. That is usually the reason why they want to live in the countryside.
1.6 It is also the main reason why they have a problem. The area of land they need to live on and manage is too large to be located within the area allocated for development, and would be manifestly unaffordable if it were. Many of these people could not afford a house in a village at todayÍs prices, anyway.
1.7 These people represent the visible portion of wider demand for new (though, in some ways, traditional) forms of countryside management and rural housing. Their planning applications and appeals are usually retrospective; that is to say they are people wh o (often with passion and commitment) have taken the risk of proceeding with their project in the face of unhelpful planning policy. As such they are undoubtedly indicative of a further section of the population who would like to do something similar, but are unwilling to take the risk.
1.8 We believe that the livelihoods and lifestyles which these people are seeking „ predominately outdoors, in contact with plants and animals, and involving manual activity „ are fundamentally good ones, and cannot easily be found anywhere apart from the countryside. There have always been, and there always will be, people who want to live this way, and their energy and aspirations should be welcomed as an important contribution to a thriving rural economy and a diverse rural society.
1.9 The sense we get from the existing PPG7 „ not explicitly, but between the lines „ is that such people are not very welcome in the countryside; and more explicitly, that there should be no place for them to live in the countryside unless either they conform to tests relating to a farming system which is alien to their aspirations; or else they can afford £300,000 or more for a house with a few acres.
1.10 That, also, is the e xperience of the majority of the people we are concerned with, and this is frequently expressed to us. Many of these people have great difficulty understanding why the planning system, and the majority of planning authorities, are so implacably opposed to them establishing a simple and sustainable rural living on their own land. Some of them find the stress of their situation difficult or unbearable, occasionally with tragic consequences.
1.11 We would like to see PPG7 (or whatever replaces it) moving away from this paradigm, not suddenly, but by allowing room for the kind of projects we describe to proceed without such excessive obstacles. Over the next five or seven years this would give us a better picture of the pattern of demand for this kind of rural activity, the benefits it could bring to the rural economy and society, and the ways in which it can be regulated so as to enhance rather than undermine the rural landscape and environment.
1.12 The number of smallholders (including small-scale woodland managers) in the UK appears to be growing, partly because many farms are being fragmented, and partly because there is a demand for this lifestyle. Small-scale farming activities are well-suited to some forms of organic production, and to providing produce for local and niche markets. The skills required to make a living off small acreages of farmland and woodland are being relearnt, while the markets for local, traditional and niche products are expanding rapidly.
1.13 Many smallholders see living on their land to be essential to the livelihood that they wish to build up, partly because of the demands of the holding and partly because the returns from the enterprise, although they may provide a livelihood, are not sufficient to meet the inflated cost of housing in a nearby village. Some fight a battle with planning authorities lasting five, ten or even fifteen years to establish this right, even for a mobile home. The guidance which most frequently causes them this problem is Annex I of PPG7, which lays down certain tests for agricultural and forestry dwellings.
1.14 There are very good reasons for these tests, the main one being that it is important to ensure that speculators cannot take advantage of this exception to normal policy to construct a fancy house in the countryside, which they can then separate from the land and sell on at a large profit. Unfortunately, in its well-intentioned zeal to weed out specula tors, Annex I also excludes a considerable number of people who have no speculative intent whatsoever, but are only intent on establishing a simple rural land-based livelihood.
1.15 One main reason why this happens is because Annex I is designed for the large-scale commercial farming industry, and not for smallholders. It refers to ñfarm or forestry workersî, as if large farmers and estate-owners were putting in planning applications for tied cottages to house their workforce. In fact, tied labour on large farms is being replaced by contract labour, and a reading of the appeals listed in Planning magazine suggests that the majority of refused agricultural dwelling applications come from independent, often small-scale, landowners who have different needs from those anticipated in Annex I. These needs come under two headings, functional and financial.
1.16 Annex I demands a proven need to live on the land and specifies the requirement to be ready to attend to an occasional emergency. While some smallholders have this need, they more commonly express other needs: in particular, to be constantly on hand to deal with a multitude of tasks that occur sporadically throughout the day, which need to be integrated w ith domestic activities (including childcare); and to maintain an integrated working relationship with their land, plants and animals, rather than ñnine-to-fiveî attendance, which has never been a feature of the traditional farming way of life. Farming, for them, is a lifestyle, as well as a livelihood.
The Financial Test
1.17 Annex I requires, reasonably enough, that the agricultural enterprise should be financially sound. However the level of net profit by which any agricultural activity or enterprise is judged to be financially sound has somehow come to be imprinted upon plannersÍ minds as being in the region of £10,000- £15,000; the assumption seems to be that the activity will have to provide a minimum wage to pay the ñfarm workerî, plus make sufficient profit to account for other factors such as ñnotional rentî of the land. 1.18 Many smallholders do not need anywhere near this sum to be financially sound. Income support is currently at a level of less than £3,000 per year, and it stands to reason that many smallholders obtaining subsistence benefits from their land (food, firewood, water, energy, building materials etc) can provide for themselves on this level of income, or even less. On top of this, most smallholdings (unlike a number of commercial farms), are not heavily in debt and thus are unlikely to go bankrupt.
Recommendations for Smallholdings
1.19 In this report we make several recommendations for adjusting Annex I to allow for the needs of independent smallholders, without opening the door to speculative development. We advocate that local authorities should take a more strategic view of farm fragmentation and smallholdings. And we consider there may be a case for creating a new smallholdings ñUse Classî; research should be carried out into this possibility. Small-scale land management can make a valuable contribution to the farming economy and deserves encouragement, rather than neglect and hindrance.
Agricultural Occupancy Conditions
1.20 The other reason for the problem is that Annex I remains ineffective at preventing speculative development of permanent houses by those who do meet the tests. This is mainly because the standard agricultural occupancy condition is too weak, and allows the house to be separated from the land which provided its justification. We consider that agricultural occupancy conditions need to be strengthened, and make a number of recommendations.
1.21 We also suggest that an agency could be created to keep a register of agricultural houses on the market, and to acquire holdings or houses for leasing as affordable tenancies. This would help to deter potential speculators.
Highly Sustainable Developments
1.22 There are also a number of people who aspire to stake out a highly sustainable lifestyle in the countryside. Their aim is to put into practice in their personal lives many of the sustainability objectives promoted by the Government.
1.23 Very often these people envisage establishing, or joining, some kind of sustainable community, or ñeco-hamletî, since there are many sustainable advantages in grouping together. Nearly all of these projects involve some land-based activity, such as food growing or forestry „ that is why they need to be in the countryside; but they often undertake other activities, such as rural crafts, tourism, computer work, running training courses etc. They also tend to require land for purposes such as renewable energy generation, water and sanitation management (eg reed beds) and waste recycling.
1.24 Considerable numbers of such projects are aired or proposed, but only a small fraction ever materialize. One of the main reasons is that sufficiently large areas of land for such projects rarely, if ever, come within the development boundary „ and even if they did they would be too expensive. Only three new-build land-based communities have been given planning permission in the last 12 years, and two of these retrospectively after five and seven year battles through the law courts. National planning guidance, as it is constructed at the moment, does not provide any exceptions for exemplary, highly sustainable, rural developments.
1.25 We consider that the rural economy and society has much to gain from experiments which might serve as possible models for sustainable development „ rural ñmillennium villagesî (or ñmillennium hamletsî if you prefer) „ and there is very little risk. There is a precedent for this sort of exception policy. At present, PPG7 includes a policy permitting large isolated Country Houses to be built when the quality of the architecture is outstanding. There has been much criticism of this policy, with good reason, and the Government has indicated that it will change it. But it is interesting to note that in the first five years of the Country House policy, only seven applications were allowed.
1.26 This suggests that exception policies for unusual developments in the countryside can be introduce d without ñopening the floodgatesî to undesirable developments and abuse. We consider that a policy allowing for highly sustainable residential developments in the countryside, provided they conform to very stringent criteria, would produce a small number of extremely interesting experiments that could serve as models for future sustainable development in the countryside.
1.27 Finally, there are a number of people who live in marginal accommodation in the open countryside, because they cannot afford accommodation in villages, or because they donÍt feel at home in conventional housing, or for both reasons.
1.28 They tend to live most frequently in caravans, but they may be in low impact houses, chalets, shacks, sheds, tents (such as benders or yurts), trucks or buses. Some of them also carry out a degree of agricultural or forestry activity, though not necessarily at a level that would warrant them applying for an agricultural dwelling. Others work in low paid rural employment, such as seasonal agricultural work, handiwork, gardening, rural crafts, etc.
1.29 Many of these people are so discreet that they do not attract the attention of the authorities, though they may suffer from the strain of having to remain hidden. Others live for long periods staving off enforcement action through a series of applications and appeals. Evictions are comparatively rare, because local authorities are understandably reluctant to make people homeless. Nevertheless, the stress of living for years under the shadow of enforcement is considerable.
1.30 We suspect that this ñinformal housing sectorî may be growing, and expect it to rise if rural house prices continue to rise. There may be a risk that this could get out of hand, and that the credibility of the planning system could be impaired if the need for this sort of development continues to be ignored.
1.31 Arguably this is a problem that should be addressed by PPG3 on Housing. Nonetheless PPG7 contains exception policies for other forms of housing in the open countryside, and we consider that a new version should address the problem. The present version does not once mention the lack of affordable housing in the countryside.
Low Impact Housing
1.32 In some districts there may be a case for allowing certain forms of ñlow impact housingî „ ie housing that by virtue of its low environmental impact would be acceptable in areas where more conventional residential development would n ot be. To be acceptable in the countryside, such housing would have to conform to stringent criteria for sustainability and landscape impact.
1.33 Such policies already exist in the Scottish equivalent of PPG7, and in their draft guidance on Housing; and the Welsh Assembly has sponsored a research report on Low Impact Development. It is time that the English Government commissioned some research into the possible benefits of low impact development. We also consider that local authorities should be allowed to develop low impact housing policies appropriate to their circumstances „ as indeed a few have already done, in the face of objections from Regional Government Offices. Protecting the Countryside
1.34 PPG 7 (paragraph 2.14) states that ñthe countryside should be safeguarded for its owns sakeî. Paragraph 2.3 states that: ñBuilding in the open countryside, away from existing settlements or from areas allocated for development in development plans should be strictly controlled.î
1.35 The objectives here are laudable. However the phrase ñstrictly controlledî (which is repeated more than once in PPG7) is ambiguous. In relation to agricultural buildings, it means ñconstructed and sited in a manner that involves minimal harm to the landscape and the environment.î In relation to residences in the open countryside, however, it is habitually interpreted as meaning ñonly allowable under very exceptional circumstancesî.
1.36 This dual use of the phrase ñstrictly controlledî needs to be cleared up. It doesnÍt make sense to wage a campaign against low-impact agricultural dwellings in the countryside, when high-impact agricultural buildings can be erected through permitted development rights, and at the same time huge numbers of existing agricultural buildings are being diversified into non-agricultural uses.
1.37 Some people need to dwell in the countryside. This is perfectly normal and has been going on since time immemorial. When a need for a new home has been established, there should be strict control of how it is constructed, serviced and managed, in order to preserve the countryside. Guidelines for such control are offered in the 15 Criteria listed on page 32 of this report. Matters of particular relevance to the safeguarding of the countryside include: use of local building or natural materials, autonomous service provision, waste management, tree planting, landscape protection, wildlife protection, soil and water management and traffic minimization.
1.38 Broadly speaking, the greater the control exerted over the environmental impact of new dwellings in the countryside, the less need there will be to control the numbers of such dwellings. Local authorities may come to different conclusions as to how best to balance these two forms of ñcontrolî.
A Living Working Countryside
1.39 The 1999 Cabinet Office report Rural Economies stated, in the context of the need for affordable housing, that ñlarge parts of rural England risk becoming the exclusive preserve of the more affluent sections of the population.î This is true, not only in terms of housing, but also of land management. What we are proposing in this report are a number of ways of making ñthe living working countryside that we all wish to seeî available to a wider constituency of people.
1.40 The rural way of life that the people covered in this report seek is inaccessible, through normal channels, to anybody without the means to buy a very expensive home. This is largely due to the constraints imposed by the planning system. There are very good reasons for these constraints, and we are by no means advocating a free-for-all. But it is the responsibility of the department, when it reviews PPG7, to assess whether these constraints are pitched as well as they could be; or whether the rural econo my might not benefit from increased opportunities for affordable housing and land-based livelihoods in the countryside, when these can be achieved without any harm to the environment.
2. Summary of Recommendations
These recommendations are made mindful of the fact that PPG7 may be replaced by a Planning Policy Statement, and/or other guidance.
1 Smallholding Policies
Paragraph E8 of the existing PPG7 should be adjusted and amplified in order to encourage local authorities to adopt a strategic approach towards farm fragmentation, and to formulate policies which support and regulate smallholdings in a way that benefits the environment and the rural economy.
2 Agricultural Diversification
PPG7 should make a distinction between: a) ñagricultural diversificationî involving activities which are linked to land management and may be considered appropriate and acceptable in the open countryside; and (b) ñfarm diversificationî involving activities which may not normally be considered appropriate for the countryside, but which are allowable, under certain circumstances, to support existing farms and take advantage of redundant farm buildings.
3. Agricultural and Forestry Dwellings
We recommend that the following be incorporated into whatever guidance replaces Annex I:
´ It should be spelled out more clearly that the underlying purpose of guidance and policy on agricultural dwellings should be to ensure that the dwelling remains in the agricultural or forestry use for which it was intended, and that subsidiary advice should only be followed insofar as it may further this end.
´ The guidance should recognize that a multiplicity of small needs occurring throughout the day, and over the year, may amount to a need to live on the land. The special needs of permaculture-based operations should also be recognized.
´ The statement in paragraph I1 that ñnormally it will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby towns or villagesî should be deleted.
´ Processing activities ancillary to the agricultural activities pursued on the land (for example farm-based cheese-making, fruit juice bottling, charcoal burning, hurdle-making) should be viewed as contributing to functional need.
´ Guidance should be phrased so that ecological communities and similar groups may be recognized as having a need to live on the land they manage, as well as individuals and families.
´ Mention should be made in the financial test of the requirements of subsistence and semi-subsistence smallholders, and it should be recognized that where people are living modest existences on their holdings they may require only low returns to be financially sound.
´ In line with current economic realities, guidance should allow for a measure of part-time activity in other forms of employment
´ Absence of high levels of debt should be recognized as an indicator of financial soundness.
´ There should be a recognition in the guidance that in many cases an agricultural or similar land-based enterprise may provide sufficient income for a family to live on site, but not sufficient to rent or buy a house in a nearby village
4. Register for Agricultural Dwellings on the Market.
We recommend that all farmers wishing to remove agricultural occupancy conditions, should be obliged to place the property in question on a central register for a certain length of time, in order to enable potential buyers to locate suitable prope rty. Research should be conducted into what benefit there might be from a system whereby houses with agricultural occupancy conditions could be acquired by a Housing Association or other dedicated body to provide affordable tenancies.
5. Conditions and Legal Agreements
We recommend that the following two model conditions/legal agreements be inserted into Annex I, or its equivalent, as alternatives to the current agricultural condition:
The dwelling and associated holdings (as shown on plan x) shall be jointly and non-severably maintained as a single hereditament and shall not be sold or leased separately. The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to the person, or persons who farm or manage the land, and to any widow or widower or other surviving partner of such person(s), and to any dependents.
The temporary dwelling will only be occupied by xxxx and xxxx and their dependents while they continue to farm the land marked on plan xx. When the farming activity ceases, or the said persons cease to live on the land, the dwelling will be removed.
6. Low Impact Smallholdings Use Class
We recommend that research be initiated into low impact development in England, and into low impact smallholdings, with one option being a possible new Use Class for low impact smallholdings.
7. Seasonal Workers
PPG7 should acknowledge the accommodation needs of migratory seasonal workers, and their contribution to the agricultural economy.
8. Sustainable Criteria
Criteria for highly sustainable development that might be acceptable as an exception in rural areas not allocated for conventional development should be formulated by the Government and presented in a good practice guide.
9. Highly Sustainable Developments
A policy along the following lines should be incorporated into the new PPG7:
ñAn isolated new residential development in the countryside may be exceptionally justified if it provides live-work opportunities that will be integrated with and a benefit to the surrounding community; if it can meet outstandingly high standards of sustainability; and if it can demonstrate a quality of design that will enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings.ñ When assessing sustainabi lity, local authorities should refer to appropriate criteria as outlined in the Best Practice Guide (see Recommendation 8).î
10. Low Impact Housing
We recommend: (a) that research should be carried out to determine what benefits may be obtained from low impact housing in the countryside;
(b) that the new PPG7 contains a statement along these lines: ñLow impact housing is housing whose environmental impact is so low that it may be allowed on land not otherwise allocated for residential use; as such it can contribute to the provision of affordable housing.
Research has been initiated by the Government to establish what benefits low impact development may offer as a possible exception to housing policy, including in the countryside.
ñLocal plan / development framework policies for low impact housing, where appropriate, should be tailored to the needs of the locality, and should be carefully worded to preclude any developments that might be harmful to the countryside, the landscape and the environment. Permitted development rights should be withdrawn so as to ensure that the low impact nature of such projects is not compromised.î .
3 Small-Scale Agriculture and Fo restry
The Changing Face of Agriculture
3.1 The current crisis in British farming is resulting in changing priorities for agriculture which have been outlined in the recent Rural White Paper, and the Curry Report.1 There is less emphasis on industrial scale production and greater emphasis on environmental stewardship. Increased support is to be given to the production of local and organic foods.2 The Organic Targets Bill presently going through parliament wants to see UK farmers producing 70 per cent of the organic produce consumed in the UK.
3.2 There is, in PPG7 at present, very little reference to sustainable farming methods or even to the environmental effects of farming systems, and the section in Chapter 3 on Agriculture barely mentions such concerns.3 In view of the recognized need to integrate planning with the land use consequences of other policies „ ñspatial planningî „ we anticipate that the revised version of PPG7 will need to take greater account of these objectives. Environmental management, organic food production, rising standards of animal welfare and the emphasis on local food production are likely to have land use implications which require a change in the approach taken by the planning sys tem.
3.3 These are broader concerns than we can fully cover in this report. What concerns us here is that there is a range of new entrants to farming, many of them committed to sustainable farming techniques, to local food production and to environmental land management, who are finding that the planning system offers very little support, and in many cases actively works against them. In the Appendix we list and briefly describe a number of the cases that Chapter 7 has encountered, including all those cited in the course of this report.
Fragmentation of Farmland
3.4 While much of the analysis and policy recommendations in the White Paper and in the Curry Report is of great value, one particular area has been inadequately covered by them, namely the matter of smallholdings. Indeed the word smallholder does not occur once in either document. There is a half page in the Curry report on smaller and part-time farms, which concludes: ñIt is important for many of these farmers that the focus of government policy in rural areas is switched away from just agriculture and towards a wider range of rural businesses.î4 While we would not necessarily dispute this conclusion, we would suggest that in this section the Curry report has f ailed to take a sufficiently strategic approach to changing land ownership patterns, and the implications this may have for small farmers and smallholders.
3.5 In two research reports, published in 1991 and 1995, Land Use Consultants called attention to a tendency towards fragmentation of farmland in some areas of the UK. While much commercial farmland is being amalgamated, some farms are being fragmented because the land price is potentially higher. In their earlier report, Land Use Consultants concluded, ñfarm sizes are being pushed to the two ends of the spectrumî.5 Advertisements of farms for sale in the farming press suggests that this process is still taking place today.
3.6 This polarization can only result in a proliferation of smaller holdings. Even if the bulk of farmland is concentrated into larger units, it only takes the fragmentation of one farm to make half a dozen smallholdings. Many of these holdings are acquired for amenity purposes, or other forms of land management, notably horseyculture. But a significant number are acquired by new entrants into farming, interested in making a full or part time living from a small area of land.
Different Kinds of Smallholder
3.7 Nobody appears to know how ma ny smallholdings6 there are in the country, but there can be no doubt that the number is substantial, and may be as great as the number of farms.
3.8 NFU Countryside which is a branch of the National FarmersÍ Union providing services to owners of smallholdings, has a membership of 80,000 which has grown substantially over the last few years. A press officer for NFU Countryside informed us that they fully expect membership to rise over the next few years as farms are fragmented or ñdownsizedî. Other organizations representing smallholders include Smallholder magazine, which has a print run of 13,000, and the Devon Association of Smallholders, with a membership of nearly 2,000.
3.9 In respect of woodlands, figures are difficult to ascertain because so many small woodlands are part of larger farms. Russell Rowley of the National Small Woods Association is adamant that there is a revival of interest in woodland crafts and small independent greenwood forestry enterprises and states that the number of enquiries to that organization has increased from 200 per year five years ago to 2,000 per year. In the last 10 years about a dozen regional coppice groups have formed. The Dorset Coppice Association, for example, has over 45 members, of whom 38 make a full-time living from mana ging woods.
3.10 Why do the Curry report and the Rural White Paper almost wholly ignore this trend, which, although it may involve comparatively small amounts of land, involves a considerable number of people? It may be because none of the smallholders organizations listed above takes a policy stance7 and so none of them submitted evidence either to the White Paper, or to the Curry Report.
3.11 One of the probable reasons why these organizations do not take any political stance is that they represent a wide range of stakeholders. In particular one can distinguish two very different kinds of smallholdings: those without a house attached (bareland holdings) and those with a house. 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 £300,000-£500,000.
3.12 These different kinds of holdings tend to attract different kinds of buyers. The majority of people with capital or income sufficient to acquire a £300,000 property are unlikely to be interested in making a modest and hard-earned living from growing cabbages or keeping poultry. Somebody who does want to make a living from growing cabbages or keeping poultry will be unlikely to make enough from the business to pay off the mortgage on a £300,000 property.
3.13 Clearly this is a generalization: there are commercial smallholders who can afford a house, because they have benefited from an inheritance, or have savings. And possibly most small bareland plots are acquired for amenity use. Nonetheless, the economic reality for many people who aim to make a living from small-scale farming or forestry is that a holding with a house is beyond their budget, and all they can afford is a bareland holding.
Making a Living from Smallholdings
3.14 Making a living from a smallholding of less than 20 acres is not as quixotic as some people think. While many middle-sized farms of 100 to 300 acres are under pressure to expand or amalgamate to remain profitable and pay off loans, other people are finding ways of making adequate, if modest, livelihoods from holdings of from 4 to 50 acres.
3.15 The main reasons they can do this are as follows:
•Lower overheads and debt burden.
•Smaller quantities of produce can be more easily given added value through on-farm processing, or similar.
•Smaller quantities can more easily be sold at a premium, on the local market, or through specialist outlets.
3.16 Small-scale production, on-s ite processing and the provision of local foods are often linked with each other. The connection is neatly, but unintentionally, illustrated in Food Standards Agency guidance for local authorities permitting on-farm butchering of meat for sale only within a radius of 30 miles:
ñOver the past three years there has been a growth in direct sales of meat by farmers, particularly at farmersÍ markets . . . Limiting a farmerÍs sales to the local market means that these are visible sales consistent with the informed consent principle whereby the consumer is in a position to make direct enquiries about the conditions under which the meat has been produced. In addition this will be inherently self-limiting as to quantity.î8
This advice reflects a growing demand from consumers for traceable produce sold directly from small, local, family farms.
3.17 The Appendix on p.43 lists a number of smallholdings which provide full-time livelihoods off a small acreage, for example, vegetable box schemes, poultry enterprises and coppicing enterprises. Ragmans Lane Farm, an experimental 80 acre mixed organic farm in Gloucestershire reports that the most profitable sectors of the farm are those that take the least amount of land „ vegetables, herbs, apple juice, willow and mushrooms „ while the management of the outlying land is much less profitable, if at all. The bulk of the farmÍs profit (£6000 net of wages in 2001) comes from just 7 acres.9
3.18 Recent research conducted by Lucy Nichol has found that 18 per cent of local food producers farm under 10 acres and 61 under 100 acres; even more local wood producers work from micro-holdings: 32 per cent have under 10 acres and 75 per cent under 100.10
3.19 From our experience, it appears that small, independent farms and smallholdings operate at a scale that is well suited to certain forms of organic production and to the provision of local food and niche products. It likely that efficiently run smallholdings could make a useful contribution towards resolving the UKÍs farming crisis and towards reviving local rural economies. It is regrettable that the Curry report did not investigate this potential in greater depth. Smallholding Policies in PPG7
3.20 There is one oblique reference to smallholdings in the existing PPG7 in paragraph E8, where it is stated:
ñLocal planning authorities should consider including in their local plans policies for development on agricultural units of less than 5 hectares (in addition to the policies for agricultural development advised in para 3.3.)î
The threshold of 5 hectares is derived from the area of land under which a holding is not eligible for full agricultural permitted development rights, and the reference to para 3.3 relates to this matter.
3.21 However, the approach taken by many local authorities towards fragmentation of farmland and the creation of smallholdings needs to go well beyond the question of permitted development rights. A more strategic approach is required, which assesses how such developments can be a benefit to sustainable development, to the local environment and economy, and how they need to be regulated to prevent harm to the countryside.
3.22 One local authority which has attempted to tackle this matter is Torridge, Devon, whose draft development plan contains the advice reprinted in the section below.
Advice on Fragmentation and Smallholdings in the Torridge DC Revised Deposit Version Local Plan, 2001
4.52 The subdivision of farmland is becoming more common in Torridge. It is recognized that the size and composition of agricultural holdings is changing in response to commercial and other pressures .
4.53 Holdings of five hectares and under are not necessarily below the threshold for viability. It is recognized that legitim ate agricultural development may be proposed in connection with:
(a) horticulture which may involve polytunnels and/or other managed growing environments normally close to markets/edge of town;
(b) other intensive farming;
(c) smallholdings, where there may be a requirement to grow new crops or rear, raise or keep livestock for consumption by the operator; and
(d) small-scale permaculture, where mixed agricultural practices often including organic farming, may be combined with a low cost alternative lifestyle.
Where the need for, or viability of a proposal is not transparent it will need to be demonstrated by additional information. Applicants may wish to submit an economic impact statement, a business plan containing and economic forecast, or an economic feasibility study, for example.
The plan recently went to public inquiry. There were no objections to the above text, which remains substantially the same as in the first Deposit Draft, other than an observation from the CLA that the need for additional information was overstated.
3.23 The strategic view of fragmentation taken by Torridge could be emulated with great benefit by other authorities facing similar patterns of land use. This could be achieved by expanding the adv ice given in para E8 of the existing PPG7 to recognize that such holdings: (a) occur, because of demand and through fragmentation; (b) can offer good opportunities for sustainable rural regeneration; (c) may, in some circumstances, only be viable operations for people who live on their land; and (d) require strict control, in the form of criteria, planning conditions and legal agreements, to ensure that related development does not cause harm to the countryside.
Paragraph E8 of the existing PPG7 should be adjusted and amplified in order to encourage local authorities to adopt a strategic approach towards farm fragmentation, and to formulate policies which support and regulate smallholdings in a way that benefits the environment and the rural economy.
3.24 The Torridge policy paints a picture of smallholdings run on a somewhat different basis from normal commercial farms. It notes a measure of subsistence consumption, mixed agricultural practices, permaculture and a ñlow-cost agricultural lifestyle.î It might also have mentioned part-time agriculture and diversification, though these are equally prevalent on larger farms. The last three s ections of this chapter look at these characteristics in greater detail in order to give a better idea of the aspirations and needs of smallholders.
3.25 While totally subsistence farming is almost unknown in England, some smallholdings rely to an extent on subsistence production. This is particularly true of communities and other projects where there is more than one family, because the larger number of people involved provides a significant ñhome marketî for produce.
3.26 Subsistence production provides a largely risk-free form of ñresearch and developmentî for produce that might be marketed commercially at a later date. People starting up on smallholdings frequently invest initially in a number of small-scale operations such as chickens, a couple of dairy animals, or a polytunnel, and, whilst deriving the benefits themselves, will use the experience to assess what will work best for them at a commercial scale. This is particularly helpful for people starting ventures in activities with which they have no great experience.
3.27 Subsistence production does not simply include food. People with land at their disposal often can and do provide themselves with water, renewably powered electricity, wood for heating, and timber, earth and other materials for building. The total value of all these products can be considerable, and diminish the monetary cost of living for the individuals involved by as much as 75 per cent. This approach to building up a viable agricultural or forestry operation is not adequately recognized in the existing guidance.
Mixed Farming and Permaculture
3.28 A further characteristic of many smallholdings and small forestry operations „ and one often linked to a subsistence approach „ is a tendency to undertake a number of land-based activities, rather than to concentrate on one monocultural activity. Often these activities are mutually supporting: for example, animals provide manure for crops, surplus and substandard crops are fed to animals, straw is used as animal bedding, stock graze orchards and clear land for cultivation, bees pollinate orchards while crops provide food for bees, poultry can help eliminate pests and so on.
3.29 At its most simple this is a return to a form of mixed farming which is more appropriate for organic systems and which is coming to be viewed as more sustainable, not least because it eliminates waste and the risk of pollution. 11
3.30 An important modern variant of this approach is that put forward by the rapidly growing permaculture movement. Its founder, Australian Bill Mollison, has defined permaculture as
ñthe conscious design and maintenance of agriculturally productive ecosystems which have the diversity, stability and resilience of natural ecosystems.î12
In natural ecosystems, monoculture does not exist, nor does waste, for whatever is waste to one species is food or habitat to another. Permaculture casts human beings as part of such a system, rather than as external managers; the object is not to produce a maximum yield of one or two varieties useful to humans, but to increase the richness, the diversity and the interconnectedness of the entire system, with human activity, nourishment and waste production as a contributory part. If the system thrives so will the humans that live in it. In MollisonÍs words, permaculture is
ñ the harmonious integration of landscape and people providing their food, energy, shelter and other material and non-material needs in a sustainable way.î
3.31 There are permaculture projects in almost every country in the world, and over 200 in the UK. Some well-established permaculture projects have produced highly biodiverse new landscapes: for example Plants for a Future at Penpol in Cornwall (67), or Tir Penrhos Isaf, in Snowdonia National Park (11).
3.32 Since a central concern of permaculture is the integration of human activity into the natural cycle, it is clear that full-scale permaculture projects are likely to involve residence on the site in question.
3.33 As yet there is no recognition in planning guidance of the existence of permaculture, let alone of any associated need to live on the land13 , so it is not surprising that permaculture projects come into conflict with local authorities. Permaculture projects which have had long-running difficulties with their local planning authorities include Tir Penrhos Isaf (11), Turners Field (26), Prickly Nut Wood (46), Tinkers Bubble (49), Brickhurst Farm (50), Plants for a Future (two sites, 67 and 68), Steward Wood (69), Brithdir Mawr (70), and Holywell Fields (73).
3.34 Permaculture involves a radical reappraisal of human beingsÍ relationship with nature, and some commentators consider that in the long run it may provide a new and challenging approach to land use planning. Dr. John Zarb of Newcastle University writes:
ñMany researchers, including myself, believe that permaculture should form the basis of agricultural and social development. The establishment of a large number of small, permaculture type farms serving local communities and adapted to local conditions, would create tremendous cultural as well as biological diversity . . . Permaculture based mini-farms could be the key to agricultural and community regenerationî14
This is looking well ahead, and may not be everybodyÍs vision of what the future will look like. At the moment permaculture is experimental; we consider there should be space in the planning system to allow these experiments to proceed.
Part-time Holdings and Diversification
3.35 While many newly established holdings derive all, or the greater part of their income from agriculture, or aspire to do so, there are probably an equally large number which, while focussing their activity around the management of the land, do not aspire to make all of their income from agriculture or forestry.
3.36 These other activities include, in particular: courses in rural and land-based skills; providing rural amenities for tourists and local visitors; wildlife habitat conservation or similar; and land-based activities which do not class as agriculture (eg horseyculture, animal sanctuaries etc.)
3.37 All of these activities are forms of ñagricultural diversificationî; however, when they occur on new holdings it is difficult to slot them under the heading ñfarm diversificationî, because there is no farm to diversify in the first place.
3.38 This causes a problem for new entrants, because the sections in PPG7 referring to diversification (paragraphs 3.1 to 3.7 and C13 to C25) refer only to ñfarm diversificationî. This wording suggests that ñdiversificationî is available to existing farmers, but raises an element of doubt as to whether it is acceptable for people taking up new agricultural holdings. In our view, this draws an artificial distinction between existing farms and new ones, and confers an unwarranted advantage on the former.
3.39 The problem derives from the fact that there are in effect two kinds of diversification: that which is ancillary to the agricultural or forestry use of the land, and that which isnÍt. The forms of diversification listed in paragraphs C13 to C25 of PPG7, and in the original paragraph 3.4 (deleted in March 2001) are all forms of diversification linked, or at least potentially linked, to agriculture or land management: eg ñwoodland management, farm shops, equestrian businesses, sporting facilities, nature trails, craft workshops and holiday accommodationî (para 3.4) and food processing and packaging, fa rm sports, energy crops, and farm services (Annex C).
3.40 The replacement version of para 3.4, allows for any ñbusiness purposes that are consistent in their scale with their rural locationî. This new guidance is clearly designed to help ailing farms support their businesses by using buildings and facilities for activities that may have nothing whatsoever to do with farming or land management.
3.41 The problem here is that this revised definition of diversification is manifestly unsuitable for newly established holdings. While activities like woodland management, nature trails, equestrian use, and farm-scale food processing might well be appropriate ways of boosting income for a new holding, activities such as industrial storage, retail outlets for consumer goods, and commercial offices are not, at least if carried out on any scale. To allow them on new or bareland holdings would be an invitation for all kinds of highly inappropriate activities to occur in the countryside.
3.42 We therefore consider that PPG7 needs to make a distinction between these two kinds of diversification, so as to allow newly established holdings to undertake diversified activities which are appropriate for the countryside.
PPG7 should make a distinction between:
(a) ñagricultural diversificationî involving activities which are linked to land management and may be considered appropriate and acceptable for open land or newly established holdings in the open countryside; and
(b) ñfarm diversificationî involving activities which may not normally be considered appropriate for the open countryside, but which are allowable, under certain circumstances, to support existing farms and take advantage of redundant farm buildings.
4 Agricultural and Forestry Dwellings
4.1 In paragraph 3.11, we observed that there were two categories of smallholdings „ those with a house attached, and those without. And we pointed out that for many people wishing to make a living from small-scale farming, holdings with houses were unaffordable.
4.2 The occupiers of these two different kinds of property also meet with very different treatment from the planning system in respect of residence upon their land. Somebody who takes on twenty acres of bare land, with a view to living on it and producing vegetables or free range eggs or coppice products, is subjected to very intensive scrutiny, under the guidance laid down in PPG7, as to the viability of the enterprise they are proposing and their ñfunctionalî need to live on the land. In many cases, if they are already living on their land, they may remain under shadow of enforcement for years or even decades.
4.3 On the other hand, somebody with sufficient capital derived from a lucrative urban occupation can buy twenty acres with a house and move onto 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 live there.15
4.4 The situation is manifestly unjust and engenders a great deal of resentment against the planning system from new entrants into agriculture who cannot afford the inflated cost of houses originally built for agricultural workers to live in.16 It is an important factor in the trend identified in a Cabinet Office publication (and that we shall return to in Chapter 6 of this report) whereby large parts of rural Britain ñrisk becoming the near-exclusive preserve of the more affluent sections of the population.î17 It is also perverse since small-scale agricultural businesses are more likely to be viable on bareland holdings than on those that come with a house. As we have already noted, it takes a lot of cabbages or free-range eggs to pay off the mortgage on a £300,000 property.
4.5 The injustice is most keenly felt by those smallholders, small farmers and independent forestry workers whose enterprise makes enough profit to provide them with a livelihood, but not enough to afford the costs of a house in a nearby village and of commuting from there. Many of these experience great difficulty in securing planning permission for the accommodation which is essential for the survival of their holding and livelihood.
What Farmers Think of Planners
Attitudes to the planning system uncovered by Lucy NicholÍs survey of farmers and woodland workers.
As part of PhD research at Oxford Brookes University, Lucy Nichol conducted a survey into farmersÍ, smallholdersÍ and independent forestry workersÍ experience of the planning system. The analysis of the survey is not published yet, but it is clear that there are quite high levels of dissatisfaction.
To the open-ended question How do you feel about the planning system? about half indicated that they were either satisfied with or indifferent to its performance. But about half expressed dissatisfaction with the planning system, sometimes vehemently. Here are some of the negative responses, each one from a different respondent.
Lacks flexibility . . . Negative process that seems unable to encourage improvement in the countryside. Generally incredibly bureaucratic. Often appears to have no real connection with modern living and farming. . . . Live in fear that they might find one out and close down business. . . . Lip service is paid to sustainability/rural regeneration, whilst in reality all initiatives are refused . . . One is treated like a criminal, the planners act like self important pompous police. A load of bureaucratic rubbish. If youÍre a large company you can get your way. If youÍre small you struggle to be heard and they make it as hard as possible to get anywhere. Does not accept the need to live on the spot . . . . . . Most planning officers do not understand the concept of sustainability; the system does not assist people like us; the system refuses to acknowledge there s a problem. Totally unjust and bent . . . . . . Can be restrictive to the point of causing so me people to give up. Needs to be more flexible to take account of living working on site „ but must be in a low impact way. Clumsy, Slow, Bureaucratic, Unhelpful, Illogical, Lacking in Continuity and Objectivity, Costly. Totally arbitrary. I should be allowed to live on the land where I work . . . I think planning is important but our case was ridiculous, lasting about 4 years. Stinks. Dictatorial . . . Inconsistent (it is who you know !!!). . . Dominated by the ñgreenî argument . . . Favours the ñBig Boysî. ItÍs very narrow in its outlook, and does not look favourably on anything seen as alternative, sustainable or low impact . . . Very expensive to apply, especially if you use the services of a consultant. Not happy! (understatement). . . . Planners are town based and do not understand rural problems. Costly and bureaucratic. It stinks . . . I feel totally demoralized by it. Aggressive and demanding money. Too urban based, too urban values. Officers have complete lack of real rural knowledge. Slow. No negotiation. Ignorant. Capricious. Arrogant. Rude. Never answer a question without qualification after qualification. Its who you know! In general it sucks. . . . Blinkered, petty minded, inflexible. Complete a nd utter crap! Unresponsive, not aware, jobsworth. They appear to seek an excuse to refuse applications of a sustainable nature rather than working within Agenda 21 objectives. Try to beat you down with their superior knowledge until you employ a consultant. I find it particularly restrictive . . . Whilst supporting the need to protect rural areas, I feel that consideration of sustainable building materials and techniques, energy efficiency and local appropriateness should enhance the chances of permission being granted . . . Personally no problems, but I know of others who have had major problems for their agricultural forestry business. It favours the large scale industrialist/capitalist . . . It is creating a countryside without local small scale industries „ just a dormitory for commuters . . . Oppressive! intrusive! fascist! Tedious. Planning system is stupid and wrong. It is anti business and anti sensitive development . . . Very negative. Unresponsive to government guidelines . . . The planning system tells you what you canÍt do and never attempts to help. ñIn one word, ñsick.î
PPG 7 Annex I: A Problem for Smallholders
4.6 The section of PPG7 which causes most difficulty for sm allholders is Annex I on agricultural and forestry dwellings.
4.7 It is important to clarify this difficulty from the outset. Many smallholders do get residential planning permission in the end; the number who are actually enforced off their land is fairly small. What is of concern is the length of time involved „ periods of five to seven years being common „ and the resulting expense and stress. This is an unacceptably long time for people to live with the shadow of eviction hanging over their head. If, as seems to be the case, nearly all of these projects are eventually deemed to be acceptable, why does it take so long for the planning system to come to a decision?
4.8 A further concern is the inconsistency of local authority responses and inspectorÍs decisions.18 Many new entrants into farming are making a major life-changing step, involving the investment of savings or the sale of a home in order buy land „ they need to have a measure of certainty as to where they will be allowed to live. The acquisition of an available holding often has to be a quick decision: smallholders cannot acquire options on land in the way that housing developers do. There is rarely sufficient time beforehand to lodge an application for residential planning permission, complete with agricultural appraisal and business plan, let alone wait what could be a matter of years for a final decision. The tests in Annex I are open to a great deal of interpretation, and any prospective smallholders proceeding on the assumption that they conform to these tests (and they often consider that they do) are making a gamble.
4.9 A few smallholdings do manage to acquire temporary residential planning permission fairly quickly. This often relates to the ability of the applicant to formulate a highly detailed application, or to employ expensive consultants who can do this for them. The problem with consultants is that, while there are some are very good ones, there are also cowboys, and it is difficult for applicants (and planning officers) to distinguish between the good and the bad.19
4.10 The guidance in Annex I is focussed around tests which aim to assess the viability of the project (ñfinancial testî) and the need to live on the land (ñfunctional testî). We agree that both viability and need should be demonstrated before permission is given for a dwelling. It is the criteria by which these are assessed that give rise for concern, and the fact that excessive adherence to these tests often obscures the underlying purpose of the policy.
4.11 The Functional Test, as outlined in paragraph I6, specifies as examples of reasons to live on the land, the need to attend to the care of animals at short notice; and the need to attend to emergencies relating to the climate control of crops. Both these examples relate to unpredictable ñemergenciesî and no other possible reasons for living on the land are specified.
4.12 Many smallholders do sometimes have to deal with emergencies such as these. But they also, and more commonly, cite a number of other reasons for living on their land, connected with the day-to-day running of the site:
(1) That the holding requires frequent attention, throughout the day, at highly dispersed times of morning, evening and even night, often for small tasks (such as putting away animals, dealing with pests, or attending to the climate control of greenhouses). This is particularly the case when a number of different activities are undertaken. In effect managing the holding is a lifestyle, rather than a ñnine-to-fiveî job. This makes commuting from another house highly impractical, particularly when child-care responsibilities have to be carried out at home.20
(2) That many of the subsistence benefits of living on the land, particularly water, electricity, building materials and firewood, cannot be obtained when residence is elsewhere.
(3) In the case of permaculture projects and similar, that human domestic activity (including production, consumption and waste generation) is viewed as an integral part of the ecosystem on the holding, and hence integral to its functioning.
(4) In short, managing the holding is a way of life, rather than a nine-to-five” job.
4.13 None of these reasons is given any consideration in Annex I and consequently it is difficult to get planning officers to take them seriously.
4.14 There are three other ways in which the guidance in Annex I interferes with a proper assessment of need:
•It is almost impossible for more than one or two people at the most to meet the functional test; this effectively rules out all agricultural communities and other projects larger than a family;21
•There is no recognition that activities ancillary to the agricultural or forestry activity pursued on the land22 „ such as processing (farm-based cheesemaking, charcoal burning, woodland crafts) or land-based diversification (horse management, training courses etc) „ may contribute to a genuine need to reside on site. Indeed, as regards food processing, paragraph I8 states exactly the opposite.
•The statement in PPG7 that ñnormally it will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby towns or villagesî is simply not accurate. In some instances this may be the case, but very often it is highly inconvenient for smallholders and small farmers to live away from their holdings. It also often causes unnecessary commuting, which is precisely the kind of unsustainable activity that PPG7, and the planning system as a whole, is trying to address (see section, below).
The Costs of Commuting
Recently Chapter 7 provided an agricultural appraisal for a family of four applying for residence on their smallholding in Wales, where they manage and process a timber crop, grow herbs, and keep chickens. Their net income at present is low, considerably less than the minimum agricultural wage, and would normally be viewed as inadequate to justify a dwelling; but their needs are low as well „ as long as they can continue to live on site.
In support of their application Chapter 7 asked the family to draw up a rough estimate of the costs that the family would entail if they had to move to a house elsewhere, whilst continuing to farm their holding. We thought the figures they provided were somewhat exaggerated and suggested that they could be lowered, for example by securing social housing. But the family were adamant that affordable housing was impossible to find and that the figures given below are accurate.
Three scenarios are imagined: a house at the nearest town 12 miles away; a house in a village 6 miles away; and a house in the up-market local village, one mile away. At present, living on site, the family runs one vehicle, a land-rover. As can be seen, the total costs of living away from the holding are roughly the same as the minimum agricultural wage.
|Item||12 miles away||6 miles away||1 mile away|
|Rent (3 bedroomed house)||£4,800||£4,200||£5,400|
|Transport (2 trips, 2 cars) *||3,920||2,460|
|Transport (3 trips, 1 car)||1,000|
*Where only two trips per day are made with the car, one personÍs working time will be considerably curtailed in summer, as one of the parents will be attending to the children at home from 3.30pm until dark. Costs are calculated at £1,000 per annum for maintaining a second vehicle and 100/6 (16.6) pence per mile running costs.
4.15 The financial test is designed to ensure that the agricultural enterprise is ñplanned on a sound financial basisî and will not collapse, leaving a new dwelling in the countryside bereft of the use for which it was given permission. Once again, the aim here is entirely reasonable; the problems lie in the way viability is assessed.
4.16 The main problem derives less from the actual wording of Annex I than from the way it is interpreted. Annex I does not prescribe any level of income to be attained, but this has not stopped local authorities and agricultural consultants demanding profit margins which are well in excess of what many applicants need to live on and maintain the holding.
4.17 Local authorities, and the agricultural consultants they employ, habitually take a profit level of around £10,000 to £15,000 as a basis for assessing viability, even though there is absolutely no statutory basis for this figure. For example Reading Agricultural Consultants state:
ñThe generally accepted standard is that enterprises should be able to provide a return at least equivalent to the minimum agricultural wage (£10-11,000) for each labour unit on the holding, as well as a small return on capital investment.î23
This target presumably reflects the requirement for a large commercial farm to pay any additional workers it might wish to house a minimum wage. It has little relevance to independent smallholders, many of whom are happily reconciled to working for less than the minimum wage, because they are doing what they want to do.
4.18 Moreover some local authorities continue to use the concepts of ñnotional rentî and ñnotional return to labourî (whereby entirely theoretical costs are deducted from an applicantÍs actual profit) even though there is no longer any authority for using this methodology. This accounting method derives from MAFF guidelines LU/1893 and LU/1913. We have a letter from DEFRA stating that these were made obsolete by the 1997 version of PPG7.24,Yet we have an Appeal decision letter dating from August 2002 where the local authority rejected an applicantÍs financial returns on the basis that they did not take account of notional rent.25
4.19 Income support for a single person is currently at a level of less than £3,000 per year. If unemployed people in towns are able to survive on such an income, it stands to reason that many smallholders obtaining subsistence benefits from their land (food, firewood, water, energy, building materials etc) can provide for themselves on a good deal less. If independent applicants can show that they and their holding can be sustained satisfactorily on a low income, why should they be expected to earn anything higher?
4.20 Two other difficulties smallholders encounter with the financial test are these:
´ Most smallholders have a low debt burden, and are therefore unlikely to go bankrupt. There is no recognition that an absence of indebtedness is an indicator of financial soundness.
´ Permanent permission is only given to full-time farmers, even though the NFU reports that over 60 per cent of all farmers rely on a secondary income.
4.21 Finally there is one further problem with Annex I, which is related both to the need to live on the land and to viability of the enterprise. Many smallholdings produce sufficient to provide a livelihood for people living on the land, but not enough to cover the costs of renting a nearby house, and of commuting from it. The additional costs of living away from the holding are considerable, as can be seen from the table on p.20.
4.22 This is not accepted as a ñfunctionalî need of the holding, and may even be held to be evidence of lack of viability; and yet it is clear that, in such circumstances, if the occupants did not reside on the holding, then the enterprise couldnÍt function, while as long as they do reside on the holding it remains viable.
4.23 The way this matter is dealt with in Annex I (ie. by ignoring it completely) is highly unsatisfactory. Effectively, it means that viable holdings can be made unviable by forcing people to live away from their work. This is hardly a sensible policy at a time of agricultural crisis.
The Underlying Purpose of Annex I
4.24 The underlying purpose of Annex I of PPG7 is to prevent speculative and harmful development in the countryside. Paragraph I3 states that much of the demand for residential development in the countryside: ñis speculative and stems from applicants seeking to exploit the physical or financial advantages of a new house in the countryside. It is therefore essential that all applications for new agricultural or forestry dwellings are scrutinized thoroughly with the aim of detecting attempts to abuse the concession that the planning system makes for such dwellings.î
4.25 We fully support the need to prevent speculative residential developments in the countryside, and we agree that a considerable measure of scrutiny is necessary. The problem with Annex I is that, in its zeal to weed out speculators, it also weeds out a considerable number of people who have no speculative intent at all.
4.30 Many of the people who do not conform to the tests it prescribes are not trying to abuse the system or to carry out speculative development, but are simply trying to establish a home in the countryside where they can make a modest full- or part-time livelihood carrying out traditional land-based activities in a sustainable manner. Many state that they would be content with a personal permission on a temporary structure. Moreover, harmful development is something that they would be unlikely to undertake, because by and large, they actively seek a simple rural lifestyle, and are usually willing to accept all manner of highly restrictive planning conditions.
4.31 A further purpose of Annex I, is to ensure (in the words of Lord Justice Buxton)26 that the proposal is not ñover-optimisticî, meaning that it is financially sound and unlikely to fail or go bankrupt, leaving an unwarranted dwelling in the countryside. In our experience the vast majority of smallholdings do not go bankrupt, because they are rarely heavily in debt, and their aims are modest. Where targets are over-optimistic, it is often because applicants feel they have to bump up their projections to meet the ñfinancial testî. What could be more conducive to overoptimism than guidance that dictates (or rather is assumed to dictate) that smallholders should aspire to achieve a level of income which is often higher than they either require or desire?
4.32 Smallholders have difficulty conforming to Annex I, because the tests appear to have been drawn up for large-scale, monocultural, heavily capitalized operations which are far removed from the enterprises which these people have in mind. The use of the term ñfarm or forestry workersî, when nearly all of the people Chapter 7 deals with are owner-occupiers, in itself suggests that the guidance is unsuitable. Annex I seems to be living in an era, now almost gone, when large farms had teams of workers living in tied cottages.27 The majority of applications refused under Annex I come from small-scale, independent landowners.28
4.33 Annex I is sometimes applied to developments for which it was obviously not designed, because there is no other more appropriate guidance to which a planning officer can refer. A recent report which carried out three case studies of low impact rural developments, one in England and two in Wales stated: ñIn all three case studies, the LPA officers concerned were interviewed as well as the residents of the site. The view of all the officers was that, although the policies for an agricultural workerÍs dwelling are often the only policy test they have readily available for Low Impact Development, this may not be the right test recognising the subsistence nature of these developments.î29
4.34 To a certain extent, the guidance in Annex I has already been superseded by case law. In the court case known as Petter and Harris30, the judges indicated that, in certain circumstances, planning authorities should be looking at the underlying purpose of Annex I, rather than slavishly following the specified tests. The Petter and Harris judgment needs to be reflected in any revised version of Annex I (see section below).
Petter and Harris
Seminal Case Law
Arthur Sydney Petter and Monica Mary Harris v Secretary of State for the Environment Transport and the Regions and Chichester District Council, 15 March 1999
Arthur Petter was a 67 year-old widower and former farm worker, who had saved up to buy himself a smallholding which he ran on a subsistence basis, with his cousin Monica Harris. He moved onto the property in 1988. Temporary planning permission was refused by the local authority but given on appeal in 1992. In 1996 renewal of this permission was refused by the authority who placed an enforcement notice on the caravan. An appeal against this decision was dismissed in 1997, on the grounds that the appellants did not meet the financial test, and in 1998 the High Court also ruled against Petter and Harris. The matter then went to Court of Appeal in 1999.
In passing judgment in favour of Petter and Harris, Lord Justice Buxton stated:
ñIt is necessary to stop and ask oneself about the purpose and intention of the particular parts of PPG7 with which we are concerned; . . . more particularly, the need set out in paragraph I5(c) for the agricultural activity concerned to have been profitable for at last one of the last three years and to be currently financially sound.
ñIn looking at that criterion, one has to ask why it is there. What is the object of that part of the policy document? Or, as my Lord, Lord Justice Sedley, put it in argument, what is the policy behind the policy . . .
ñAs agreed on all sides, the policy is to stop bogus or over-optimistic applications, and to ensure that the relevant agricultural activity is likely to continue . . .
ñThe inspector should have reviewed whether the operation, in its own terms, had a proper chance of continuing over the period for which planning permission was sought . . . Mr PetterÍs operation should, in the context of this policy, be considered in its own terms and not against abstract financial criteria suitable for a normal determination.î
Lord Justice Sedley, in the same case added:
ñViability is there [ie in PPG7] for an identifiable purpose: to ensure that any residential planning permission is both ancillary and proportionate to a true agricultural use. In most cases profitability will be a very good indicator of this . . .
But . . . circumstances will vary infinitely and a margin of flexibility may be needed to accommodate them. So here an unexpected but undoubtedly genuine application by someone living what amounts to subsistence farming, requires not a rigid application of criteria designed for commercial agriculture, but a practical adaption of those criteria to secure the underlying purposes of the policy.î
The only area where we might beg to differ with this judgment is in the use of the word ñunexpectedî. It is true that not many of these cases get to the Court of Appeal; but Chapter 7 has many cases on its records where the same judgment could apply, and some where it has been applied. For example:
Steward Wood is a small low impact community living in woodland in Dartmoor National Park. In 2001 a Section 78 appeal was dismissed, partly on the grounds that the proposal did not meet the tests in Annex I (although it was accepted that this guidance was not ñcompletely relevantî). A subsequent Section 174 appeal was allowed in August 2002 (APP/J9497/C/01/1067412). Part of the InspectorÍs reasoning was as follows:
ñThe judgment in the case of Petter and Harris v SSETR and Chichester DC makes it clear that it is the purpose behind that guidance which has to be considered in dealing with a particular case. That purpose is to prevent long term harm to the countryside caused by development which has no need to be there. In this instance the appellant does not seek a permanent permission and expressly wishes to avoid a situation where what he describes as ñhigh impact, unsustainable housingî and which others might describe as conventional housing for forestry workers, would be permitted as a result of this appeal. His intention (and that of the group who live on site) is to live by what amounts to subsistence farming and forestry in order to demonstrate that sustainability is not simply a theory but has practical application and benefits for the locality. Accordingly it would be inappropriate to apply the tests of functional and financial viability in paragraphs I5 to I13 of Annex I to this development, because there is no intention of the development becoming permanent. . . . It follows that the NPAÍs concerns about the absence of evidence satisfying those tests are thus misconceived.î
This decision was confirmed by Lord Justice Sullivan in the High Court, January 2003.
In the successful appeal concerning Hugletts Wood Farm (APP/C1435/C/00/1050705), a mixed smallholding in Wealden DC, the Inspector observed:
ñReference is made by the appellant to the judgment in Petter and Harris v SSETR and Another, 1999 in which it was held that it is the actual operations and intentions of the present occupants that is relevant and not the bare wording of the advice in PPG7 . . . To my mind, the nature of the operation and its needs are far removed from those of more conventional farming operations that advice in PPG7 seeks to address. That is not to say advice in PPG7 or the CouncilÍs policies are irrelevant, but I believe they need to be addressed in context.î
4.35 The guidance, which dates back to Annex E of the 1992 version, and indeed before, is out of date in the context of current farming and forestry circumstances, and is holding back forms of land management which could play an important role in the creation of a thriving rural economy. As Sue Miller (now Baroness Miller) commented in 1999 when she was on the committee which gave planning permission to Tinkers Bubble (49) against the recommendation of the planning officers:
ñPolicy 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 make some brave decisions to ensure that we achieve that.î31
Annex I: Recommendations
4.36 Our interpretation of the Green Paper on Planning suggests that Annex I may no longer be incorporated into PPG7, but may, for example, be expressed as good practice advice. If this results in a more flexible approach, where the ñunderlying purpose of the policyî becomes dominant, rather than the minutiae of the functional and financial tests, that will be well and good. However the guidance, or advice, will still need to be robust enough to allow local authorities to block speculative developments and other harmful development, while allowing bona fide operations to proceed.
4.37 In the long run there may be an alternative, which is to keep Annex I as a guideline for larger commercial farms and forestry operations, and to create a new Use Class for what might be called ñLow Impact Smallholdingsî. However research would need to be carried out before such a Use Class could be introduced. In the interim, the new version of Annex I should reflect the important concerns raised in the Petter and Harris judgment, and allow the needs of new kinds of land manager to be assessed on their own merits.
Recommendation 3: Annex I
´ It should be spelled out more clearly that the underlying purpose of guidance and policy on agricultural dwellings should be to ensure that the dwelling remains in the agricultural or forestry use for which it was intended, and that subsidiary advice should only be followed insofar as it may further this end.
´ The guidance should recognize that a multiplicity of small needs occurring throughout the day, and over the year, may amount to a need to live on the land. The special needs of permaculture-based operations should be recognized.
´ The statement in paragraph I1 that ñnormally it will be as convenient for [agricultural workers] to live in nearby towns or villagesî should be deleted.
´ Processing activities ancillary to the agricultural or forestry activities pursued on the land (for example farm-based cheese-making, fruit juice bottling, charcoal burning, hurdle-making) should be viewed as contributing to functional need.
´ Guidance should be phrased so that ecological communities and similar groups may be recognized as having a need to be living on the land they manage, as well as individuals and families.
´ Mention should be made in the financial test of the requirements of subsistence and semi-subsistence smallholders, and it should be recognized that where people are living modest existences on their holdings they may require only low returns to be financially sound. ´ In line with current economic realities, guidance should allow for a measure of part-time activity in other forms of employment
´ Absence of high levels of debt should be recognized as an indicator of financial soundness.
´ There should be a recognition in the guidance that in many cases an agricultural or similar land-based enterprise may provide sufficient income for a family to live on site, but not sufficient to rent or buy a house in a nearby village.
How Effective Is Annex I at Stopping Speculative Development?
4.38 Although the guidance in Annex I can make life very difficult for smallholders and new entrants into farming, we have doubts about how effective it is at preventing speculation and undesirable development.
4.39 It only takes a very elementary application of logic to see that the functional and financial tests are inadequate for the purpose of preventing new dwellings ñlosing their agricultural justificationî, for one very simple reason. The tests only apply to the applicant farmer who can, immediately if he or she wishes, sell the property and the enterprise on to another. There is no obligation for any new owner to satisfy either the financial or the functional test „ the standard agricultural occupancy condition states that the occupant merely has to be ñemployed or last employed in agricultureî „ so what is the point of these tests? They will only continue to have any relevance if the original farmer does not sell up, in which case one can reasonably assume that he or she did not have any speculative intent anyway.
4.40 As local authority planners know it is only too common for subsequent owners to apply to have an agricultural condition removed, on the grounds that the holding can no longer be made profitable, and there are a number of planning consultancies which specialize in doing this. An agricultural occupancy condition can also be removed by breaching the condition for 10 years and then applying for a Certificate of Lawful Use.
4.41 An agricultural condition, a Senior Planning Officer in Somerset tells us, typically reduces the value of a dwelling by 40 per cent. Small, unprestigious houses in the open countryside, in the South of England, are presently worth at least £150,000, very often more. A buyer of an agricultural tied dwelling in the countryside therefore stands to make at least £60,000 if he or she can get the agricultural condition removed. Since there is no condition or legal agreement tying the dwelling to the land, the house may be bereft of the land which originally provided the financial and functional need for its construction. The owner has only to show that there is not enough land to provide an agricultural wage, and that there are no other takers for the dwelling, to get the condition removed.
4.42 To take an example, here is a query posed by a reader of Planning magazine:
ñI have a client who has a 2 hectare farm and feels that it is too small to be viable. Please could you tell me whether anyone has successfully argued for the removal of an agricultural occupancy restriction because of the small size of the farm.î
Gordon Holt replied:
ñThe situation normally occurs when most of the land has been severed from the holding that originally justified an agricultural dwelling . . . An overview of cases in general would suggest that at 2 hectares your clientÍs land holding may well be considered too small to generate the necessary requirement that an agricultural worker could be ïemployedÍ there.î32
4.43 It is even possible for the holding to be partitioned and sold before the house is built. An advertisement in South West Farmer33 offers: ñA very rare opportunity to build a detached country house (Agricultural Tie) in a wonderful and private rural location with far-reaching country views. Planning permission for 4-bedroomed house. Available as whole or in two lots (50 and 20.7 acres); £200,000 to £250,000, with 50 acres.î The planning permission for this house, even with the agricultural tie, must be valued in the region of £75,000 to £100,000.
4.44 The situation is, frankly, corrupt, and needs to be addressed. As an immediate measure to reduce the loss of existing agricultural dwellings, we suggest that all such properties coming onto the market should be placed on a national register for a given amount of time, in order to enable potential buyers to locate suitable property.
4.45 In the longer term, we advocate the establishment of a dedicated body „ be it a government agency, Housing Association, charitable trust „ which could acquire such properties at the agricultural occupanc y price and let them out as affordable smallholdings to bona fide applicants „ or failing that, simply as affordable rural housing. This would increase the market for tied properties, take away the financial incentive for removing an agricultural occupancy condition, and significantly reduce speculative applications for agricultural dwellings.
Recommendation 4. Register for Agricultural Dwellings on the Market.
We recommend that all farmers wishing to remove agricultural occupancy conditions, should be obliged to place the property in question on a central register for a certain length of time, in order to enable potential buyers to locate suitable property.
Research should be conducted into what benefit there might be from a system whereby houses with agricultural occupancy conditions could be acquired by a Housing Association or other dedicated body to provide affordable tenancies.
Agricultural Occupancy Conditions
4.46 The logical long-term solution to the problem of speculation is to relate the condition to the tests which allowed the permission in the first place. This can be done either by tying the permission to the farming of the holding (on the assumption that if the original applicant wishes to sell up, someone else is likely to take the enterprise on).34 Or alternatively tying the dwelling to a personal permission (on the assumption that it is unlikely that anyone else will want to take up the enterprise). The latter case would only justify a temporary permission.
4.47 Tying a dwelling to land raises the question of what happens when a farmer retires through old age or ill-health? This is hardly a new problem, since the same question has caused considerable difficulties with the formulation and administration of the conventional agricultural occupancy condition, laid out in Annex I, para I17. The phrase ñlast working . . . in agriculture or forestryî, which is designed to accommodate retired people, is open to abuse.
4.48 In respect of tied properties, the difficulty could be overcome by a measure which allowed, under genuine circumstances, for a temporary dwelling on the holding when both the retired farmer and the new farmer were incumbent on the property, which could be inhabited either by the retiring farmer, or by the new one. The matter of when the temporary dwelling should be removed would be a clear-cut issue, relating only to the continued presence of the retired farmer on the farm, and not requiring any complicated assessment of functional or financial need.
4.49 Alternatively, where applicants are concerned about their future residence when retired, the residence could be made subject to a personal condition which allowed for retirement. In the Petter and Harris case, where the applicants were already in their 60s, the judges gave a number of options for conditions, including a life-long personal condition.
4.50 Annex I does allow for the tying of a residences to land through planning obligations ñunder appropriate circumstancesî but the mechanism is not given much prominence and is presently not often used. The main objection to tying dwellings to land seems to be a financial one. An inspector refusing renewal of permission to a permaculture holding at Tir Penrhos Isaf (11) in Snowdonia National Park, stated in his decision letter: ñMy experience is that conditions restricting the right of an owner to dispose of his or her property on the open market are considered by most financial institutions to be an encumbrance which so reduces its value that they would be unwilling to make mortgage funds available.î35 This echoes the concerns about tied properties expressed by Land Use Consultants in their 1995 research report36 that ñbanks might not lend moneyî on the security of farm buildings, and this could cause ñhardshipî to farmers.
4.51 This objection is irrelevant in the case of low impact smallholdings with relatively temporary accommodation, since they are rarely deemed suitable for mortgages by private institutions anyway. In respect of large established farms, the reluctance of financial institutions to lend on tied properties is not because they are valueless (which they clearly are not) but presumably because the tying of land to buildings is such an unusual encumbrance that institutions cannot make a reasonable estimate of the value of the property or the risk involved. If tied properties became a norm, like the agricultural occupancy condition, then lenders would be able to evaluate them.
4.52 We consider that conditions on these lines would help to keep agricultural properties on the market at a price that was commensurate with the returns which can be expected from agriculture, and would reduce the occurrence of speculative attempts to abuse the system. This in turn would reduce the number of people trying to establish new dwellings on bareland holdings.
Recommendation 5. Conditions and Legal Agreements
We recommend that the following two model conditions/legal agreements be inserted into Annex I, or its equivalent, as alternatives to the current agricultural condition:
(1) The dwelling and associated holdings (as shown on plan x) shall be jointly and non-severably maintained as a single hereditament and shall not be sold or leased separately. The occupation of the dwelling shall be limited to the person, or persons who farm or manage the land, and to the widow, widower or other surviving partner of such person(s), and to any dependents.
(2) The temporary dwelling will only be occupied by xxxxx and xxxxx and their dependents while they continue to farm the land marked on plan x. When the farming activity ceases, or the said persons cease to live on the land, the dwelling will be removed.
Low Impact Smallholding Use-Class
4.53 A potential alternative to adapting the guidance in Annex I to accommodate smallholders is to establish a new tier of land-use, effectively a new Use Class. The ñLow Impact Smallholding Use Classî option is more radical, and we stress that we are not advocating this solution for this round of PPG7. At the present time we view only that this should, along with other low impact options, be the focus of research, to assess the benefits and problems, and to identify the most appropriate way of implementing such a system.
4.54 The terms ñlow impact developmentî and ñlow impact housingî are now widely recognized in the planning profession. For the purposes of this document we define low impact development as: ñdevelopment which by virtue of its minimal or benign affect upon the local and global environment may be acceptable in locations where more conventional development would not normally be permitted.î
4.55 There are a number of advantages associated with introducing a special Use Class for low impact smallholdings.
4.56 Firstly, it would reflect the actual situation, in which there are a substantial number of smallholdings, typically with a mobile home37, but sometimes with a wooden building or similar structure, where an agricultural or forestry activity is pursued, but in a different way from on a large commercial farm. Many of these smallholdings have continued for years or even decades with a succession of temporary permiss ions (in spite of the guidance in para I 15 recommending aga inst this), or without any permission, and often through one or more changes of occupation or ownership.
4.57 Secondly, if there were a special Use Class, development on these holdings could be more easily restricted to that which was considered to have a low impact upon the landscape and environment. We would anticipate, for example, that for the purposes of a low impact Use Class: all buildings would be easily removable and the land returnable to its original state; masonry walls and foundations would not be permitted; utilities and sanitation would be autonomous, except where connection to the utilities already existed; that the holding would be subject to a different set of permitted development rights from that which pertains to agricultural holdings; and that an environmental management plan for the holding should be agreed upon with the local authority. A more rigorous approach might be based upon the 15 criteria cited in Defining Rural Sustainability(see section below).
Fifteen Criteria for Developments Associated with Sustainable Land-based Rural Activities
These criteria were developed by the Rural Planning Group as a means of assessing the sustainability of projects in the countryside wi th an element of land-based use.
 The project has a management plan which demonstrates:
[a] how the site will contribute significantly towards the occupiersÍ livelihoods;
[b] how the objectives cited in items 2 to 14 below will be achieved and maintained.
 The project provides affordable access to land and/or housing to people in need.
 The project provides public access to the countryside, including temporary access such as open-days and educational visits.
 The project can demonstrate how it will be integrated into the local economy and community.
 The project can demonstrate that no activities pursued on the site shall cause undue nuisance to neighbours or the public.
 The project has prepared a strategy for the minimization of motor vehicle use.
 The development and any buildings associated with it are appropriately sited in relation to local landscape, natural resources and settlement patterns.
 New buildings and dwellings are not visually intrusive nor of a scale disproportionate to the site and the scale of the operation; and are constructed from materials with low embodied energy and environmental impact, and preferably from locally sourced materials, unless environmental considerations or the use of reclaimed materials determine otherwise. Reuse and conversion of existing buildings on the site is carried out as far as practicable in conformity with these criteria.
 The project is reversible, insofar as new buildings can be easily dismantled and the land easily restored to its former condition.
 The project plans to minimize the creation of waste and to reuse and recycle as much as possible on site.
 The project has a strategy for energy conservation and the reduction, over time, of dependence on non-renewable energy sources to a practical minimum.
 The project aims over time for the autonomous provision of water, energy and sewage disposal and where it is not already connected to the utilities, shall make no demands upon the existing infrastructure.
 Agricultural, forestry and similar land-based activities are carried out according to sustainable principles. Preference will be given to projects which conform to registered organic standards, sustainable forestry standards or recognized permaculture principles.
 The project has strategies and programmes for the ecological management of the site, including :
[a] the sustainable management and improvement of soil structure;
[b] the conse rvation and, where appropriate, the enhancement of semi-natural habitat, taking into account biodiversity, indigenous species, and wildlife corridors;
[c] the efficient use and reuse of water, as well as increasing the water holding capacity of the site;
[d] the planting of trees and hedges, particularly in areas where the tree coverage is less than 20 per cent.
 The project can show that affordability and sustainability are secured, for example, by the involvement of a housing association, co-operative, trust or other social body whose continuing interest in the property will ensure control over subsequent changes of ownership and occupation.
From The Rural Planning Group of The Land Is Ours, Defining Rural Sustainability: 15 Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside together with Three Model Policies for Local Plans, TLIO, 1999, available from Chapter 7.
4.58 Finally, making these holdings subject to a separate Use Class would significantly reduce opportunities for speculative house construction, since there would be no assumption, as there is now, that an application for a permanent house would normally follow temporary permission. A permanent agricultural dwelling would be an entirely different Use Class. This would prevent the value of these low impact holdings escalating to unaffordable levels,38 which in turn could reduce the number of low income people who found that they had no opportunity other than to move onto other bareland holdings.
4.59 The closest comparable existing ñUse Classî in the UK is the crofting system in the highlands of Scotland which benefits from a number of special considerations, both as regards planning policy, and as regards tenure. James Hunter reports that demand for these crofts, both from locals, and from incomers from the South of Scotland and from England ñis well in excess of supply in those parts of the Highlands that have already experienced a degree of rural repopulation, such as Skye. Prices have duly been bid up to what are, by Highlands standards, extremely high levels.î39
4.60 At present there is a considerable demand for smallholdings with temporary accommodation attached, and sellers do not find it difficult to find buyers. If in the future, for any particular reason, demand were to slacken, surplus temporary buildings could simply be removed, rather than being converted into conventional houses (as is the case with current agricultural dwellings).
4.61 One problem with such a proposal is that such developments would probably be attractive as leisure plots,40 and so there would still be a need for some kind of test to ensure that occupancy was year round and land-based, a test in its way just as awkward and prone to difficulties as the financial and functional tests. One way round this would be to give consent only to holdings which were under the ownership and overall management of a dedicated body which would rent them out „ much as affordable housing is managed by housing associations.41 An advantage of this would be that clustering could provide significant benefits, for example in the minimization of transport through a car/van/tractor share scheme, and in the marketing of produce. A disadvantage would be that it would not necessarily match the atomized nature of the demand, and the availability of land.
Recommendation 6 Low Impact Smallholdings
We recommend that research be initiated into low impact development in England, and into low impact smallholdings, with one option being a possible new Use Class for low impact smallholdings.
4.62 It has been brought to our attention that there is a demand for sites for migratory seasonal agricultural workers who require a place to reside during the seasons where there is no work (rather like winter sites for travelling showmen). Two of the developments Chapter 7 has had dealings with, Llynpiod (57) in Wales (subject to injunction proceedings) and Warren Fruit Farm (66) in Gloucestershire (application refused and subject to enforcement proceedings) serve this purpose. Kings Hill (50) and Dragon Hill (51), two bender developments in Somerset, also house seasonal agricultural workers.
4.63 There is a shortage of casual and seasonal labour in the UK and immigrant workers are allowed in for the purpose from abroad. The Curry Commission on Farming and Food (p.39) recommends that the quota of seasonal workers from abroad should be raised to 50,000 ñat onceî . We do not know to what extent this shortage may be due to the difficulties of finding accommodation „ we are not aware of any research „ but it stands to reason that housing could be a factor.42 Immigrant workers are housed, typically, in bunkhouses and then return to their (much cheaper) homes in Eastern Europe, or elsewhere.
4.64 The needs of indigenous migratory seasonal workers should be covered by the advice in DoE Circular 1/94 on gypsy sites „ seasonal agricultural work is mentioned in paragraph 6 of the circular „ but there is little evidence that these needs are being recognized. The application at Warren Fruit Farm was lodged partly on 1/94 grounds, and partly on agricultural grounds, but was summarily turned down by Tewkesbury local authority, and the owner of the land is now terminating all the tenancies. We consider it would be helpful if PPG7 acknowledged the accommodation needs of these people, and their contribution to the agricultural economy.
Recommendation 7. Seasonal Workers
PPG7 should acknowledge the accommodation needs of migratory seasonal workers, and their contribution to the agricultural economy.
5 Sustainable and Low Impact Developments
Conflict Over the Meaning of Sustainability
5.1 In this chapter we examine ways in which PPG7 might encourage more developments aiming for very high standards of sustainability to occur in the countryside.
5.2 PPG7 states that:
ñsustainable development is the cornerstone of both the GovernmentÍs rural policies and its planning policiesî43 a statement that we wholeheartedly applaud. Nonetheless, in spite of this unambiguous endorsement of sustainability, there is conflict between a number of people proposing what they view to be sustainable rural developments in the countryside, and planners who consider that such developments are, almost by definition, unsustainable.
5.3 In particular, all the new-build community projects in the countryside set up in the last 10 years, to our knowledge, consider sustainability to be one of their prime aims „ and yet all bar one of them, Hockerton Housing Project (64), have had severe planning problems.44 Individual and family projects aiming to achieve a similar sustainable lifestyle in the countryside very often encounter the same difficulties.
5.4 This conflict needs to be resolved: a first step is to examine how ñsustainabilityî is defined in PPG7, and then to analyse how this differs from the aspirations of people seeing to create a sustainable way of life in the countryside.
How PPG7 Defines Sustainability
5.5 Having asserted that ñsustainable development is the cornerstone of both the GovernmentÍs rural policies and its planning policiesî, PPG7, in paragraph 1.4, proposes four objectives for sustainable development which are:
•meeting the economic needs of people who live and work in rural areas;
•maintaining or enhancing the character of the countryside and conserving its natural resources;
•improving the viability of villages and market towns;
•recognizing the interdependence of urban and rural policies.
5.6 These are all laudable objectives but they fall a long way short of a comprehensive list of all that sustainable development entails, and beyond this, there really is very little detail in PPG7 as to what sustainable development in the countryside actually involves. For example, in its Chapter 3, entitled ñTypes of Developmentî, there are separate sections on matters such as agriculture, forestry and farm diversification, rural businesses, services, tourism and housing; but we are not told what sustainable agriculture, sustainable housing etc. entails, and indeed the words ñsustainableî and ñsustainabilityî do not occur once in the 1997 version of this chapter45.
5.7 Instead PPG7 leaves local authorities to work out the detail of what sustainable rural development involves for themselves. Referring to the four sustainable objectives cited above, paragraph 1.5 states:
ñIt is for local authorities, through their development plans to determine more specific policies that integrate these objectives in ways which reflect the different types of countryside and the economic and social circumstances found in their areas.î
5.8 This is rather a tall order for local authority planners who have not normally been trained in the application of sustainability measures. While some local authorities have begun to introduce forward-looking policies, there remains a tendency on the part of many planners to equate sustainability largely or solely with the siting of new development close to existing settlements. This reflects a narrow land-use planning interpretation of sustainability which dates back to the 1993 version of PPG3 on Transport.
5.9 For example, in its recommendation for refusal of the Kings Hill low impact community (allowed by the Secretary of State five years later), Mendip DC stated: ñAlthough there are problems with definition and application of the concept, the main role of the planning system in working towards sustainable development is through demand management. This includes restricting development in the ope n countryside which has long been an objective of national and local government.î46
This attitude was summed up by Hertfordshire planner Richard Tiffin when he stated: ñForget sustainability as a practical concept, it is far beyond us. As planners, the best we can do is try and secure an improvement in future environments by looking for reductions in consumption through movement [ie transport]. We may flatter ourselves that this amounts to a sustainable approach, but this is plainly not the case.î47
5.10 In the absence of any detailed guidance, local authority planners often conclude, by default, that the only criterion for sustainability is that of being sited within the area allocated for development. But while it may well be more sustainable to focus the bulk of residential development around towns and key villages, it is simplistic and dogmatic to insist that all residential development is more sustainably sited in built-up areas.
5.11 In 1999, over two years after the revision of PPG7, the Government published its strategy for sustainable development in the UK, A Better Quality of Life48 which lists about 150 sustainability indicators. Many of these indicators are relevant to development in the countryside. For example, if we are to achieve more sustainable forms of agriculture and forestry then we are likely to have to take into account the following indicators:
• pesticide residues in food;
• the area converted to organic production;
• concentrations of organic matter in agricultural topsoils;
• area under agri-environment schemes;
• area of woodland in the UK;
• sustainable management of woodland,
• trends in plant diversity; populations of wild birds;
• nutrients in water;
• rivers of good or fair quality;
• energy and water consumption;
• emissions of greenhouse gases;
• electricity from renewable sources;
• primary aggregates per unit of construction value;
• landscape feature „ hedgerows, stonewalls, and ponds;
• access to the countryside;
• proportion of people of working age in work;
• ethical trading;
• world and UK materials consumption levels per capita;
and many others.
5.12 A similar list of indicators could be compiled for other ñtypes of developmentî, such as rural businesses, tourism, services and housing. This suggests a need for the planning system to shift its focus away from traditional ñland useî priorities and embrace wider sustainability issues „ in line with current concerns about the need for ñjoined up thinkingî and ñspatial planning.î Up till now, at least as far as housing is concerned, planners have concentrated their attention upon just one of the GovernmentÍs headline indicators: ñNew homes built on previously developed landî.
5.13 There is clearly a need for PPG7 to take on board the thorough work that the Government has performed in detailing the specific requirements of sustainable development. However it is out of the question for PPG7 to spell out all the detail involved in formulating criteria for sustainable development in all of the various different kinds of rural development „ particularly since the approach taken in the Planning Green Paper is to simplify Planning Policy Guidance. There may be a case for spelling out some of this detail in the good practice guides that are envisaged in the Green Paper, and we shall elaborate upon this later. But the primary objective for PPG7 must surely be to lay down a framework by which development control planners can weigh these various elements of sustainability against each other when considering any specific development.
5.14 On the whole, the aspirations of people seeking a sustainable rural lifestyle accord with many of those put forward in A Better Quality of Life. Such people donÍt want just to pay lip-service to these objectives, they want to put them into practice in their personal lives. Typically, their aims include:
• the production of sustainably, organically and humanely produced food and fibre;
• the generation of renewable energy, and reduced use of fossil fuels;
• the recycling of water and organic waste; the planting and management of woodland;
• the use of natural, local and environmentally sound building materials,
• the promotion of wildlife and biodiversity;
• the provision of public access to the countryside;
• and the creation of a simple, low consumption, lifestyle which they perceive to be ethical in terms of global resources.
5.15 These are all objectives which correspond with the indicators cited above from A Better Quality of Life. They are also objectives which, when carried out to any meaningful degree, tend to involve land management. They are not the sort of things that can easily be achieved on any scale in a suburban home or a city flat.
5.16 Many people aiming for a highly sustainable lifestyle envisage establishing or joining some kind of sustainable community or ñeco-hamletî, because there are obvious sustainable advantages in grouping together. Most of these communities require the management of sizeable areas of land, not vast, but too large to be located within areas allocated for housing development.
5.17 There is one acre of land per inhabitant in the UK. Land-based sustainable communities producing an agricultural surplus tend to require about 2 to 10 acres for every working adult; that appears to be the density at which they work best. This corresponds with traditional levels of rural population density.49 But it sits rather uncomfortably halfway between two extremes which now dominate rural society: UK agriculture currently employs, on average, one worker per 80 acres „ while new-build edge-of-village housing densities aim for about twelve households per acre.
5.18 Development plans provide almost exclusively for these two extremes: a few isolated farmers are anticipated in the countryside, while all other residential development is constrained within the village envelope. There is no provision for intermediate levels of population density.
5.19 Planners, understandably, associate intermediate densities with car-dependent, sporadic development; but the one is not a necessary corollary of the other. Sustainable land-focused communities and hamlets are clustered, self-contained, and well-positioned to provide alternatives to the private car; and the people involved are more aware than most of sustainability issues.
5.20 Wildlife and Countryside Link, in their Initial Comments on PPG7 state: ñthe current planning system is already flexible enough to allow truly exceptional proposals for new development in a rural setting.î50 There is some truth in this, and the flexibility of the English planning system is to be valued. Nonetheless, there is a high risk attached to any proposal which is in conflict with the development plan, particularly since Section 54A was introduced into the Town and Country Planning Act.51 There is no way of predicting whether or not an appeal inspector will conclude that material considerations such as sustainability outweigh non-conformity with the development plan, and it is safer to assume that they will not. Financial investment is hard to attract, few proposals come forward, and projects that do materialize have to run a gauntlet of unfavourable planning policies.
5.21 The consequence is that in England and Wales in the last 12 years, only three new-build land-based communities have been given planning consent „ Hockerton, Tinkers Bubble, and Steward Wood „ and the latter two only gained temporary consent retrospectively after going to the courts. Other projects, such as Plants for a Future (twice), Brithdir Mawr, Holywell Fields and Warren Fruit Farm, instead of being met with co-operation, negotiation and helpful guidance, have been hounded by their respective planning authorities, and several have collapsed as communities.
The Evolution of Policy on Sustainable and Low Impact Developments
5.22 Despite the lack of national policy guidance on this matter, there have been a few attempts by local authorities to provide for sustainable developments of this kind. An early attempt to establish a policy was made in the 1997 draft of the Gloucestershire Structure Plan, in which Policy H10 stated:
PROPOSALS FOR HIGHLY SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT IN RURAL AREAS WILL BE PERMITTED WHERE THEY COMPLY WITH STRINGENT CRITERIA SPECIFIED IN THE LOCAL PLAN.
5.23 The reasoned justification for this policy went on to give some general guidelines to district authorities as to what sort of criteria might be suitable to be included in the local plan. In this respect, the policy seemed to be entirely in line with paragraph 1.5 of PPG7 which states that ñit is for local authorities through their development plans to determine more specific policiesî for sustainable rural development. Nonetheless, the Government Office of the South West (GOSW) objected to the policy, and it was dropped.
5.24 In 1999, the Rural Planning Group of The Land Is Ours published a document entitled Defining Rural Sustainability: Fifteen Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside. The criteria (see section above about 15 criteria) have been submitted in support of about 12 applications and are written into one of the conditions attached to the planning consent given to Steward Wood community in August 2002.
5.25 In 2000, Milton Keynes District Council incorporated Policy H11 Low Impact Dwellings in the Open Countryside into its draft local plan (see box). The 10 listed criteria are apparently derived from those listed in Defining Rural Sustainability. The plan states that ñthe number of proposals that meet the criteria are expected to be very limited.î
5.26 South Somerset DC and Oxford also have draft policies for low impact dwellings (see paras 6.21-6.24). Mendip DC is developing supplementary planning guidance for low impact developments. In Wales, Pembrokeshire UDP has a draft low impact policy.
5.27 What we have in England is a sporadic emergence of disparate policies designed to meet the needs of sustainable and low impact developments, formulated by a few authorities in the absence of any national planning policy guidance. Given the fate of the Gloucestershire policy (and the fact that the South Somerset policy has also been heavily criticized by GOSW) it is perhaps a wonder that any policies are emerging at all.
5.28 This is in contrast to Scotland and Wales, where policy on low impact and sustainable development has been led from the top. In Scotland both NPPG 15 Rural Development and NPPG3 Housing have policies for low impact development, the latter stating that low impact developments ñmay be acceptable at locations where more conventional buildings would not.î
5.29 In Wales, there are no national policies as yet, but the Welsh Assembly has a statutory duty to implement sustainable development, and in 2001 it sponsored a report on Low Impact Development from the University of the West of England. The report, delivered early last year was originally scheduled to appear in May, but its release has been repeatedly set back and it is still not in the public domain. Concerns have been voiced that the report is being suppressed.
5.30 We view that it is time that the English planning system pursued either of these options „ the Scottish one of introducing a policy, or the Welsh, of initiating research „ or both, and that the correct vehicle for taking these matters on board is PPG7. If the current revision of PPG7 does not take some stance towards the increasing numbers of sustainable and low impact initiatives in the countryside, then it is likely that local authority planners will have to continue dealing with them, for some years to come, in a policy vacuum. This will result in an unnecessary number of appeals and court cases , and a proliferation of the antipathy towards planning authorities expressed in Lucy NicholÍs survey (see above).
5.31 It will also be an opportunity missed. The people who are putting forward these applications have much to offer in respect of vision, sustainability and social inclusion. The planning system should take the opportunity to channel this energy into productive activity.
5.32 The main objection to low impact development policies has been that that they risk opening the door to undesirable and speculative development. There is a risk, but precisely the same can be said about new agricultural dwellings and this has never been advanced as grounds for not having a policy for them. Instead the planning system has endeavoured to find ways of meeting needs and securing agricultural dwellings from abuse. Finding ways of discriminating between socially benign developments and socially disruptive ones is what the planning system is there for.
5.33 In respect of low impact and sustainable development the risk appears high, because the planning system is ill-equipped. PPG7 provides no guidance or criteria to help planning authorities make any distinction between sustainable low impact developments which might justify a rural location, and other residential developments which normally would not.
5.34 That is not to say that local authorities cannot make these distinctions, and secure them through conditions or Section 106 Obligations „ a few do.52 But in the absence of firm national guidance, most planning authorities play safe and refuse any projects which do not conform to development plan policies, on the grounds that they create undesirable precedents. There is a clear need for PPG7 to provide a framework whereby criteria for sustainable rural developments can be formulated, in response to regional and local needs.
5.35 The Green Paper on planning, in paragraphs 4.6 and 4.10 signalled a shift away from comprehensive site-specific policy-making and towards criteria-based policies embedded in a core strategy outlined in Local Development Frameworks. There is some consonance between these objectives and certain policy goals more explicitly outlined in recent documents from the Countryside Agency. The Agency has stated:
ñWe favour a greater use of criteria in planning policies to determine applications, complementing area-based policies . . . Plans must give reasonab le certainty to communities and developers alike. They do so through a mix of area-based policies, using ïlines on mapsÍ and those based on criteria, which clearly define a set of requirements which must be fulfilled if development is to be permitted . . . We believe the approach to sustainable development set out here needs a greater use of criteria based policies.î53
ñLocal plan policies should set out the criteria which a development must meet in the locality if it is good enough to approve rather than bad enough to refuse . . . The approach will demand a greater use of criteria based policies typically written as ïdevelopment will be permitted provided that (followed by a list of local factors that will make development ïgood enoughÍ for the locality) . . . For developers, criteria-based policies will provide a clear target to aim for rather than a hurdle to cross.î
5.36 We firmly support this ñpositive planningî approach. The private sector „ both companies and individuals „ is responsive and adept at raising its performance to meet high standards when the incentive is there. Strong sustainability criteria would lead to developers aiming for the highest practically attainable standard, rather than seeking to get away with the minimum level of compliance. Strong criteria for exceptional development in the open countryside would not constitute a constraint upon business in areas allocated for conventional development, but would provide an incentive for the private sector to show what it can achieve when the standards required are high. This performance could, in the long term, provide models for more sustainable development in areas allocated for conventional development.
5.37 The criteria will only be strong if a strong lead is taken by national government. The sustainability indicators provided in A Better Quality of Life provide a useful basis for developing these criteria; and the 15 Criteria formulated by the Rural Planning Group in Defining Rural Sustainability, while they do not aspire to be definitive, provide a useful model. One obvious vehicle for such criteria is a good practice guide, supplementary to the tailored down PPG7, as envisaged in paragraph 4.60 of the Green Paper.
Recommendation 8. Sustainable Criteria Criteria for highly sustainable development that might be acceptable as an exception in rural areas not allocated for conventional development should be formulated by the Government and presented in a good practice guide.
The Country House Policy
5.38 In support of the view that criteria based policies for exceptional development in the countryside are unlikely to ñopen the floodgateî to all sorts of undesirable developments, we can cite the ñCountry Houseî policy, inserted into paragraph 3.21 of PPG7. This allows for ñan isolated new house in the countrysideî on the basis of a bare minimum of criteria: it must be: ñclearly of the highest quality . . . truly outstanding in terms of its architecture and landscape design, and . . . significantly enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings.î There is nothing to state that the house must be a large one, but permission has so far only been granted to prestigious residences over 1000 m2 in plan area, perhaps because of the cited aim ñto add to the tradition of the Country House which has done so much to enhance the English countrysideî The use of capitals here is significant: the sentence reads quite differently with ñcountry houseî in lower case.
5.39 Despite the very lax and ambiguous criteria, there were only seven successful applications for such houses by August 2001, and only one of these was on a totally greenfield site.54 This slow uptake suggests that exceptional criteria-based policies can be introduced without great risk, and allowing time for the policy to be reviewed before any unforeseen ñfloodgatesî open.
5.40 We are glad to note that the Government, in summer 2001, announced its intention to review this policy. In a written answer published in Hansard, Beverley Hughes said: ñThe Government believe there is a need for more affordable housing in rural areas, and do not see the current planning exception for isolated large dwellings which may be built in unsustainable locations as consistent with that priority, or with its objectives for the countryside more generally.î55
5.41 Quite right too! Over and above the clear injustice of allowing to the rich what is denied to the rest of the population, there is a further objection to the policy which is that it appears to be based on a misconception of what the ñtradition of the Country Houseî actually was. The Country Houses of the past, were entire rural communities, with their home farm and outlying farms, and employing a wide range of skilled workers, including ploughmen, gamekeepers, coppice-workers, ostlers, butlers, dairymaids, governesses and so on. By modern standards they were very hierarchically run, but in another sense they were models of rural sust ainability and self-sufficiency. The new Country Houses are likely to be nothing more than prestigious residences, owned by wealthy people with city-based incomes, having little connection with the surrounding community and employing only a few servants provided by a national agency.
5.42 If one wanted to examine the modern continuance of the tradition of the Country House from a social perspective, one might do better to look at some of the intentional communities set up in the UK over the last 50 years, where members often carry out a range of similar activities, although in a less hierarchical social framework. Some of these communities „ for example Old Hall, Canon Frome Court, Monkton Wylde, Redfield, and Braziers Park „ occupy old traditional Country Houses. On greenfield sites, communities such as Findhorn in Scotland, TinkerÍs Bubble (49) in Somerset, and (embryonically) Warren Fruit Farm (66) in Gloucestershire are creating new working villages. Farm-based communities, such as Keveral Farm (62) in Cornwall, Brithdir Mawr (70) in Wales and the Rudolph Steiner Camphill communities around the country, are proving that farms can support as many livelihoods now as they did 70 years ago. If it is a living working countryside that the Government is seeking, then it should encourage this sort of development, rather than a new wave of piles for the privileged.
5.43 Rather than simply dropping the Country House exception, it would be better to replace it by a policy allowing for outstandingly sustainable rural developments. There are two main advantages of such a policy: (1) It would cater for people of all incomes, rather than simply the very well off. (2) It would create an incentive for developers and interested groups to put forward developments that aimed for very high standards of sustainability. This would bring forward models for rural sustainable development, akin to the ñmillennium villagesî which (paradoxically) have so far been more or less urban developments.56
5.44 Something very close to such a policy already exists in Policy HG11 of the draft Milton Keynes Local Plan (see below). We consider this to be the best policy so far proposed for low impact or exceptionally sustainable developments.
Milton Keynes Deposit Draft Local Plan Policy H11: Low Impact Dwellings in the Open Countryside
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.
(i) Any structures will; be largely self-built using renewable or recycled building materials
(ii) Any structures will not be visually intrusive and can be easily dismantled and the land restored to its former condition.
(iii) Built development incorporates the highest standard of energy efficiency, to achieve an energy rating of 10 on the NHER scale.
(iv) It maximizes the potential for energy, water supply, surface water drainage, sewage treatment and waste disposal to be generated or managed on site.
(v) It demonstrates how the number and length of car trips will be minimized.
(vi) it will be partly self-sufficient in terms of food production and agricultural , forestry or similar land based activities comply with sustainable principles.
(vii) It will increase woodland cover and other wildlife habitats.
(viii) The principle employment of residents will be on site.
(ix)The development will be managed by a housing association, co-operative, trust or other mechanism to ensure control over possible changes of operation.
(x) The proposal includes a management plan showing how the above criteria will be met.
5.45 The only existing permanent multiple development we can think of in England that might qualify under such a policy this would be the Hockerton Housing Project (64) in Newark and Sherwood District, designed by architects Robert and Brenda Vale, which was opened by Housing Minister Nick Raynsford in 1999.57 Hockerton was given permission in 1994 when the planning authority, in its recommendation for approval stated:
ñIf this was a simple application for a housing scheme in the countryside it would not be at all acceptable. . . . I feel that in this exceptional case there is a justification . . This is because the applicants have outlined in some detail how the whole development would interact and go some way towards creating a sustainable development. The project has been well-researched and has the involvement of some renowned architects who have experience of designing buildings with energy environmental sensitivity. It is unlikely that this situation would arise often in Newark and Sherwood and of course each application would have to be treated on its own merits.Í
5.46 This assessment is entirely in line with the kind of policy we are advocating. In theory, such a decision could be made for any appropriate development, in any district or borough, under the existing planning system. But with the weight of the development plan against them, few comprehensively designed projects, with options on appropriate land and the necessary backing, are likely to come forward.58 Opportunities for state-of-the-art sustainable developments which could provide models for future rural development are being lost, because there is no policy framework under which they can be put forward.
5.47 One possible application of such a policy would be in the redevelopment of an uneconomic farm to provide a number of smallholding, craft and other micro-industry opportunities, along with collective management of the farmÍs outlying land and woodland. A proposal for one such development was submitted informally to South Somerset DC in 1998, but a £500,000 bid on the 140 acre farm in question was unsuccessful, and the project was shelved.59 Such projects could carry considerable benefits for rural regeneration.
Recommendation 9. Highly Sustainable Developments
A policy along the following lines should be incorporated into the new PPG7:
ñAn isolated new residential development in the countryside may be exceptionally justified if it provides live-work opportunities that will be integrated with and a benefit to the surrounding community; if it can meet outstandingly high standards of sustainability ; and if it can demonstrate a quality of design that will enhance its immediate setting and wider surroundings.
ñWhen assessing sustainability, local authorities should refer to appropriate criteria as suggested in the Best Practice Guide (see Recommendation 8).î
Protecting the Countryside: Strict Limits or Strict Control?
PPG 7 (paragraph 2.14) states that ñthe countryside should be safeguarded for its own sakeî, a principle with which we fully agree.The unique and varied character of the English countryside has been forged by centuries of farming and forestry activities, by the growth of communities focussed upon these activities, and by the construction of buildings which, until recently, were made of materials that were predominately local.
The threat to the character of the countryside comes from two main pressures: the demand for new residences in desirable locations from people who have little or no connection with the economic life of the countryside; and the increase in c ar traffic. These two forces are linked. PPG7 (paragraph 2.3) therefore states that ñBuilding in the open countryside, away from existing settlements or from areas allocated for development in development plans should be strictly controlled.î
Again, this is a policy which we support. However the phrase ñstrictly controlledî is ambiguous. In relation to residences in the open countryside, planning officers and appeal Inspectors habitually take it to mean ñstrictly limitedî, or ñonly allowable under very exceptional circumstances.î This is not the case in relation to agricultural buildings, particularly those subject to permitted development rights, where ñstrictly controlledî is taken to mean ñconstructed and sited in a manner that involves minimal harm to the landscape and the environment.î* This dual use of the phrase ñstrictly controlledî needs to be cleared up.
The control of new buildings in the countryside also needs to be viewed in the context of what is actually happening. Very large numbers of agricultural buildings are being turned over to industrial or leisure uses, or into non-agricultural dwellings. Recent changes to paragraph 3.4 of PPG7 and to business rates for former agricultural buildings are encouraging this process.
However, the land still needs to be managed, and land management inevitably requires buildings and residences. It stands to reason that if a large number of buildings are withdrawn from the agricultural sector, there will be a need for replacements and this is what appears to be happening. A survey carried out in part of Somerset, by Lucy Nichol,* reported that, in 1999, while there were 50 applications to take agricultural buildings and dwellings out of agricultural use, there were 76 applications for new agricultural buildings and dwellings.
What is the sense in waging a campaign against agricultural dwellings in the countryside, whilst pursuing policies that result in the erection of more high impact agricultural buildings?Ê And where are the new entrants into land management who are erecting many of these new structures supposed to live?
Some people need to dwell in the countryside. This is perfectly normal and has been going on since time immemorial. When a need for a dwelling in the countryside has been established, there should be stricter control of how it is constructed and serviced, in order to preserve the character of the countryside. The criteria for such control is more appropriately formulated at regional or local level. Guidelines for such control are offered in the 15 Criteria, listed above. Matters of relevance to the safeguarding of the countryside include: use of local or natural building materials, autonomous service provision, waste management, tree planting, landscape and wildlife protection and, in particular, traffic minimization.
Broadly speaking, the stricter the control exerted over new dwellings in the countryside in these respects, the less requirement there will be to limit the numbers of such dwellings. Regional and local authorities may well come to different conclusions as to how best to balance these two forms of ñcontrolî.
Although, on aggregate, more dwellings in the countryside are likely to lead to more car traffic, this does not mean that each and every new dwelling in the countryside will generate traffic. In the case of the vast majority of smallholdings, collective developments and other enterprises where the bulk of the work and daily life is carried out on the land, on-site residence is likely to lead to less car traffic than would be occasioned by off-site residence (see table about costs of commuting).
From a strategic point of view there are transport benefits to be gained from clustering. These benefits are most easily achieved by sustainable communities of the kind outlined in Chapter 5. Tinkers Bubble, Kings Hill, Hockerton and Steward Wood all have limits on car use imposed by condition or Section 106 agreement, and/or a car share scheme. Tinkers BubbleÍs S106 agreement stipulates a maximum of 3 motor vehicles for 12 adults. The community usually only operates two.
It is also possible that, in certain situations, local authorities might identify areas where clustering of certain kinds of low impact development could be allowed, and in these circumstances participation in or contribution towards a shared or public transport system could be made part of a legal agreement. However the dispersal of available land holdings might make such circumstances unusual at present. This approach is something to consider in the future.
*Nichol, L., The Impact of the Planning System on Local Food Producers in Somerset, Oxford Brookes University, 2000. Ê Even more perversely, planners and Inspectors sometimes turn down traditional-style agricultural buildings made of stone, brick or timber because they could be converted into dwellings, and actually prefer to see an obtrusive modern shed constructed.
Lack of Affordable Housing
6.1 The Cabinet Office Report Rural Economies60 states: ñWithout adequate provision of social and affordable housing, large parts of rural England risk becoming the near-exclusive preserve of the more affluent sections of the population.î Since 1999, when this was written, rural house prices have risen still further, and the difficulty of finding accommodation for low income (and indeed middle income) people in villages has become a major focus of concern.
6.2 The 1997 version of PPG7 does not mention social exclusion, or the problems of finding affordable housing in the countryside. This is presumably because the matter is assumed to be covered by PPG3 on Housing, which includes the rural exceptions site policy, relating to sites which are outside the development boundary, but within or adjoining a village.
6.3 However it is PPG 7, not PPG3 which provides policy guidance for housing taking place exceptionally in the open countryside: agricultural dwellings, barn conversions, the Country House etc. And in our experience some socially excluded people find themselves living in the open countryside because it is cheaper, or because they can hide there more easily. There is a significant ñinformal housing sectorî in the countryside, which is likely to grow if house prices continue to remain high. There is also a lack of coherent planning policies which provide for the needs of these people. This is a problem which arguably needs to be addressed in PPG7, rather than in PPG3.
The Rural Exceptions Sites Policy
6.4 The Rural Exceptions Policy in PPG3 has produced some first class developments, but it also has its limitations. We do not have the experience to judge what all of these benefits and shortfalls might be. 61 However, what we can assert is that out of the hundreds of cases of people seeking affordable housing that Chapter 7 has dealt with over the past few years, not a single person has, to our knowledge, succeeded in securing housing through the Rural Exceptions Site policy.
6.5 The reasons for this are as follows:
(1) The land that can be used must either be in a village or adjoining it. There is often a measure of hope value attached to this land making it unaffordable for low income people.
(2) The rural exceptions policy is only available for local people. While we agree that local people should have priority, there are many poor newcomers to country areas who have accommodati on needs as well.
(3) The procedure may be appropriate for housing provision through housing associations working in partnership with developers and the local authority, but it does not meet the needs of self-builders and others capable of providing their own accommodation. Many rural people, including farmersÍ sons and daughters, have the skills to build their own home and the contacts and access to land necessary to put a package together, but the rural exceptions site policy does not capitalize on this. Individuals seeking an affordable home through the policy are often told that they are not eligible because there has not been a survey conducted by the local authority.
6.6 As an illustration of the last point, consider the case of Ann Morgan a 60 year old woman, who has been living at TurnerÍs Field (26), her permaculture holding in Somerset for 15 years, most of that time without planning permission. At her 2002 Appeal, she argued (inter alia) that since (a) she was a local person, (b) her land adjoined the village, (c) she was in need of affordable housing and (d) the Parish Council had stated in writing that there was a shortage of affordable housing in the village, she was eligible for housing under the rural exceptions site policy HG8 of the local plan. The Inspector, dismissing the appeal, argued that:
ñHG8 requires the demonstration, firstly, of a genuine local need for such housing. This would generally be done by survey. If a need were so identified, sites to meet that need would have to be investigated on a comparative basis, and a site selected to relate carefully in scale and design to the existing settlement.î62
The Informal Housing Sector
6.7 The ñinformal housing sectorî which Chapter 7 deals with consists of people who have (like many rural people) the skills, the contacts and the general ability to construct or provide their own home, and who have access to land that they regard as suitable. What they do not have is planning permission, or else it takes them a considerable time to get it, and they only get it retrospectively. They tend most frequently to live in caravans or mobile homes, but they may also be living in barns, shacks or sheds, kit log cabins, low impact houses (of straw bales or earth, for example), holiday chalets, trucks, buses or tent structures (eg benders, yurts or tipis).
6.8 We have no reliable figures as to how many such people there may be, and any estimate is complicated by the fact that these people have an interest in remaining hidden. In Chapter 7Ís memorandum to the House of Commons Urban Affairs Sub-Committee on Affordable Housing we estimated 10,000 people (including smallholders but not counting gypsies and travellers) but this is purely conjectural.63 We suspect that this number is growing, and may continue to grow if rural housing costs continue to increase.
6.9 Many of these people are located on land where they carry out some form of agriculture, forestry or other land-based activity, either on a commercial or on a subsistence basis. Many are there because they cannot find anywhere else affordable to live. Some are there because they do not like living in ñbricks and mortarî, and land allocated for residence in villages is too scarce to be affordable for anything else. No normal person would pay £40,000 for the right to erect a yurt, or park a touring caravan.
6.10 Some of these people remain hidden from the authorities, and after either 4 years or 10 years of concealment may succeed in acquiring a certificate of lawful development. But others live under the shadow of enforcement proceedings which may continue for years. Families in particular find this situation stressful and some do eventually leave their home (or even split up). But many people dig their heels in, and when they do, only relatively rarely will the authorities use all the methods at their disposal to force them out of their homes.64
6.11 Planners, understandably, are not keen to make people homeless; often they pursue enforcement, not because they consider the residential development to cause great harm, but because there have been objections from a few members of the public. After the planning procedure has been exhausted, development control officers may pass the case on to local magistrates, who often appear to be equally unwilling to impose draconian punishments on people whose crime is to try and make a home for themselves. After two years another application for permission can be lodged. We know of cases where people have resided on their land for up to 17 years without planning permission, but under the shadow of enforcement.65
6.12 We suspect that planning authorities are reluctant to pursue enforcement to the conclusion because they know that the moral grounds and the public support for eviction are usually very thin.66 Such cases get covered in the local paper, where the planning authorities are typically pictured as heartless bureaucrats.67 ñRespect for the homeî has long been a principle dear to the British public (ñan EnglishmanÍs home is his castleî) and this sentiment is now enshrined in Art icle 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
6.13 This situation is unsatisfactory. It is stressful for occupiers to live for so long with the threat of enforcement hanging over their head. And the understandable reluctance of many authorities to pursue effective enforcement measures risks undermining the credibility of the planning system.
6.14 The hardline response to this problem might be to make development without planning permission an offence, and this is what was mooted in the Planning Green Paper (para 5.69), although probably for other reasons. The Government, in its recent consultation paper on the enforcement system,68 views this remedy as ñtoo draconianî. We agree: it would turn significant numbers of people into criminals, for no other reason than living on their own land. Many would be displaced and this could result in another set of problems, such as a rise in the number of people living in touring caravans and vans requiring transit sites. Some of the settlers upon land now pursuing occupations which are a benefit to the local economy are former travellers69 and it would be a thoroughly retrograde step to send them back onto the road and recreate the unpleasant showdowns between travellers and the police that took place during the 1980s. There are al so serious questions of compatibility with Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
6.15 A more constructive approach would be to formulate guidance which controlled and regulated such developments in a way that was beneficial for the rural economy and environment. These are all people who want to provide their own accommodation for themselves at no expense to the taxpayer, and it seems absurd not to allow them the opportunity. Given that these developments do not, even in their present unregulated state, engender a great deal of harm, and to a great degree go almost unnoticed, this should not be as difficult as one might at first think.
Low Impact Housing Policy
6.16 We consider that the time has come for the English government to initiate research into the possibility of introducing some kind of low impact housing policy. We use the term ñlow impact housingî here to refer all housing (a) that has a sufficiently low impact upon the environment to be allowed, exceptionally, in areas where more conventional housing might not be, and (b) whose purpose is purely residential (ie not tied, by one means or another, to an agricultural or other use).
6.17 Evolving policies for such housing is easier than for low impact smallholdings or agricultural dwellings, because there is no overriding need to secure the use of the property (except perhaps to keep the property affordable). Policies for purely residential low impact housing do not need to be burdened with tests to assess the genuineness of the occupiers; it is merely sufficient to secure the initial environmental acceptability of the structure, and to ensure that this is not compromised through permitted development rights.
6.18 In the long run, low impact housing is arguably more the concern of PPG3 than of PPG7. However, much low impact housing occurs, and by definition is likely to occur, in the countryside, because that is where high impact housing is not normally permitted. It is noteworthy that the Scottish low impact housing policies first emerged in NPPG15 on Rural Development, and were then updated and clarified in NPPG3 on Housing.
6.19 There are, in England, three draft policies for low impact housing in development plans, in the Milton Keynes Plan Local Plan, in the South Somerset Local Plan and in the Oxford Local Plan.
6.20 The Milton Keynes local plan has already been discussed above (para 5.25). The authority views that its stringent conditions mean that there will be few developments that comp ly. It is, anyway, partially linked to land-based activities.
6.21 The South Somerset policy, which dates from 1994, originally stated that PROPOSALS FOR LOW IMPACT DWELLING SITES WILL BE PERMITTED PROVIDED THAT: 1 ALL STRUCTURES ARE TEMPORARY, NOT VISUALLY INTRUSIVE AND THEIR REMOVAL WILL ALLOW REGENERATION OF THE SITE; together with other criteria relating to traffic, services, refuse, water and waste.
6.22 As such the policy was relevant to two developments in the district: Tinkers Bubble (49), a low impact community given permission for 15 residential structures in 1999, partly on the basis of this policy; and Turners Field ( see para 6.6). However the Government Office of the South West objected to the policy and demanded its withdrawal. The policy has stayed in the local plan, which has recently gone to public inquiry, but considerably watered down. It now begins: PROPOSALS FOR LOW IMPACT DWELLING SITES WILL NOT BE PERMITTED UNLESS: 1 ALL STRUCTURES ARE TEMPORARY BENDER OR YURT TYPE STRUCTURES . . .
6.23 The slightly absurd result of this amendment is that neither Tinkers Bubble, nor TurnerÍs Field conform to this policy any longer since they do not solely consist of benders and yurts, and TurnerÍs Field lost a recent appeal partly on that account. The only d evelopment we know of in the district which would conform to this policy, an intermittent bender site known as The Field (56), has never been subject to any planning control, presumably because there have been no objections from the public and it is doing no harm. The South Somerset policy, which was potentially a useful one, has thus been reduced to quasi-irrelevance by interference from a regional government which has no on-the-ground knowledge of the situation.
6.24 The Oxford Policy HS23 Low Impact Housing, in the draft local plan, states:
PLANNING PERMISSION WILL BE GRANTED FOR LOW-IMPACT HOUSING ON A LIMITED BASIS IN EXCEPTIONAL CIRCUMSTANCES WHERE RESIDENTIAL APPLICATIONS WOULD OTHERWISE BE REFUSED. ANY APPLICATION FOR SUCH A PROPOSAL WILL BE ACCOMPANIED BY SUCH ADDITIONAL INFORMATION AS THE CITY COUNCIL DEEMS APPROPRIATE TO CONSIDER THE CONSTRUCTION, IMPACT, DURATION AND OCCUPATION OF THE PROPOSAL.
6.25 This is an open ended policy which seems to say that low impact housing may in principle be allowed, and each application will be assessed on its own merits. However, the reasoned justification does state that the housing should be made from locally available natural materials (which most likely will mean wood, straw bale or earth); should be temporary in it s consent; and will usually be self-built. Oxford is a primarily urban district, and one would expect this policy to allow a small number of potentially interesting experiments to take place which otherwise could not because the land prices would be too high. This seems entirely appropriate for a city like Oxford.
6.26 Mendip DC, which has at least five bender sites and a number of other low impact developments in its district, has embarked on a process of drawing up supplementary guidance for low impact developments. The bender site at Kings Hill (50) in Mendip, which was established in 1993 and given permanent retrospective permission in 2000, provides 16 housing units and is the only example in England of a low impact housing estate. The landscape impact of benders on a bare hillside, which initially gave rise to concern, has now been completely covered by the growth of what is effectively a new woodland. There are probably no examples, as yet, of low impact housing estates constructed of timber, straw bale, earth or similar, though there are ñone-offsî, for example, Simon OrmerodÍs house in Cornwall.
6.27 We do not consider any of the three local plan policies listed above to be remotely likely to invite a flood of applications from developers seeking to exploit loopholes, and in the case of the South Somerset policy which has been extant for eight years, this has not been the case. There is a lot to be said for allowing local authorities to assess their own need in this respect. We do however consider that, as is the case with low impact smallholdings, there is a need for research to establish what forms of ecological or low impact housing could provide significant benefits in terms of affordable housing and environmentally friendly development, across England as a whole.
Recommendation 10. Low Impact Housing
(a) that research should be carried out to determine what benefits may be obtained from low impact housing in the countryside;
(b) that the new PPG7 contains a statement along these lines:
Low impact housing is housing whose environmental impact is so low that it may be allowed on land not otherwise allocated for residential use; as such it can contribute to the provision of affordable housing. Research has been initiated by the Government to establish what benefits low impact development may offer as a possible exception to housing policy, including in the countryside. Local plan / local development framework policies for low impact housing, where appropriate, should be tailored to the needs of the locality, and should be carefully worded to preclude any developments that might be harmful to the countryside, the landscape and the environment. Permitted development rights should be withdrawn so as to ensure that the low impact of such projects is not compromised.
7.1 Chapter 7 and the PPG7 Reform Group are hopeful that the PPG7 Team will find the above views and recommendations a helpful contribution to the review process. We are not, of course, under any illusions that our recommendations will be accepted in their entirety. The people and interests we represent are a minority, albeit a growing one.
7.2 Nonetheless the policy for the future of the countryside requires some vision, and visionary policies for the future have rarely come from the mainstream. In the 1930s, organic agriculture was an obscure cult adhered to by a few apparent ñcranksî, centred around the embryonic Soil Association. In the 1960s and early 1970s, renewable energy in the UK was being most publicly propagated by some visionary technologists focussed around a now defunct magazine called Undercurrents and an ambitious project in a slate quarry in Wales called the Centre for Alternative Technology. Now, both organic agriculture and renewable energy are important elements in the governmentÍs drive for sustainable development, the Soil Association is government funded, and CAT is a highly successful research centre and tourist attraction.
7.3 Similarly, the proposals advocated in this submission, although they are only immediately applicable to a minority of rural people, potentially lay the basis for a coherent approach to rural planning which is different from anything proposed in the last 50 years. The approach outlined here is worthy of consideration, not least because it offers a third way that goes beyond the wearisome confrontation between the forces of development on the one hand and the forces of rural preservation on the other „ and therefore may hold some lessons for more conventional developments. It is also interesting that certain aspects of what we are advocating mesh with some of the objectives expressed in the recent Green Paper.
7.4 We are therefore hopeful that the PPG7 team will take some of what we are saying on board, and will identify, at the very least, a niche in the planning system where experiments on the lines we have been describing can take place without being hassled to near-extinction by planners. It should not be difficult to establish such a niche (or even two or three) without great risk, and the recommendations we have given offer a number of options. There is a lot to gain, and very little to lose, by providing such an opportunity.
Appendix: The People We are Talking About
The following nine pages comprise a list of 88 people and projects whose interests and concerns are raised in this report. The list is by no means exhaustive, and entries have been selected to provide a broad picture of what such people are trying to achieve and the problems they face. In individual cases names have not been provided, to protect privacy, and because some people are living in concealment. Where any of these cases is referred to in the main text of this report, its number in this list is cited.
1. Section 178 Eviction Notice (Norfolk): Couple with three children on 3 acres in two mobile homes, making a full time living from rabbits. There is an enforcement notice against residential caravans on the land dating from 1993, before they acquire d the land. In 2001 they were given 12 months temporary permission; in 2002 they reapplied, but the decision was delegated and permission was refused. The family cannot appeal against the enforcement notice, and the local authority put a 28 day section 178 notice to remove the caravans at his expense, offering the family bed and breakfast. The family had to move out and are presently lodging a planning appeal. In this unusually harsh case, a family was evicted without the benefit either of an appeal, or even a committee vote on their application.
2. Enforcement Against Disabled Full-time Worker (Lincs): 2.5 acre holding run by couple with three children with 17 goats and 300 chickens. The man, disabled, works full-time on holding, earning his share of the family income, the woman part-time. Council turned down retrospective planning application for a caravan, polytunnel, and animal sheds, after advising them to apply, and imposed enforcement notice. Now reapplying for a temporary wooden eco-home and agricultural buildings, and appealing against enforcement order.
3. Inconvenience of Living Elsewhere (Somerset): Wife working full-time, husband part-time on a 15 acre organic smallholding, supplying vegetables, fruit, meat and eggs, with a turnover of around £8,000. The couple is experiencing difficulties from living in a house in the nearby village, in particular combining child-care with several daily visits to the land. They want to apply for permission to live on their land, but have been discouraged by the planners.
4. 14 Years of Insecurity: Mary Harvey lives on an 8 acre smallholding on the Surrey/Sussex border, 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).
Mary moved onto Horton Farm in 1985 after obtaining temporary permission for a caravan. She soon found that living in a caravan can be damp and uncomfortable, so she moved into one of the wooden buildings that was on the land. Waverley Borough Council served her with an enforcement order saying she must remove the building.
Over the years the planning authority went to extraordinary lengths to prove than she was not serious about her business. Mary has shown us 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 g ates. 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.
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 ñacceptableî. A vet wrote in MaryÍs support saying that he was ñamazed and appalled ñ that the planners should suggest that she should lower her levels of stockmanship, by leaving her ducks unattended.
Mary lost one appeal largely on the grounds that the local authority considered that accommodation was available nearby. She was then queue-jumped up the housing-list, and offered an unfilled council flat in a development designed for elderly people. Mary finally got permission in a further appeal in 2002.
5. Multifunctional Smallholding Wins Appeal (Sussex): Mixed 15 hectare smallholding with poultry, working oxen, charcoal and vines. Permission for temporary dwelling refused by local authority, but allowed at appeal where the inspector took into account the multiplicity of operations and the intimate working relationship to the land and stock. Very unhappy with attitude of local authority, which is noted for campaigning against smallholders in the planning press.
6. Tenant of ñFailedî Farmer (Herefordshire): Young man making a living from organic horticulture on about three rented acres, living in a caravan on the land. The owner of the land got permanent permission for an agricultural dwelling on the land, which he now lives in without farming the land. and is trying to get the agricultural occupancy condition removed. The young man knows that neither the planners, nor his landlord would look kindly upon him applying for residential permission.
7. Chris and Lynn 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 the Snowdonia National Park, in 1986, when it was a 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 ParkÍs ecologists have been impressed by the DixonÍs 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 ñchaoticî nature of the holding. The DixonÍs 2001 application for a permanent low-impact dwelling was refused, and turned down at appeal, partly on the bizarre grounds that they did not earn enough to afford to build a house (building a wooden home is far cheaper than renting a village property). The other reason was that part of their income derives from horses, which do not class as agriculture: Lynn is an authority on natural horse care, and runs the only courses in the country focussed on permaculture and horses.
Even worse, in 2002, their application for renewal of temporary permission was refused, so now, after living on their land for 11 years and bringing up their son there, the Dixons are about to receive an enforcement notice. Lynn comments ñOur land was so bare and overgrazed when we first moved on; now when I look down on everything growing there I think ïIts so beautiful!Í. Why donÍt they they want this in the National Park? They wonÍt accept our small wooden cabin, and yet any farmer can stick up a 400 square metre barn „ as long as its painted grey.î
8. Struggling Family (Norfolk): Small horticulture, florist, and landscaping business run by 2 sons because the father has had heart attack. Family lives in a mobile home. Applying for temporary permission, but have doubts about conforming to Annex I.
9. Demolition of Barn (W Midlands): 6 acre holding with horses, sheep and chickens. Constructed a barn which they later had to remove half of because council did not think there was enough agricultural justification; they now need more stable space.
10. Excessive Consultancy Expenses (Devon): Chicken farmer living in caravan on 38 acre chicken farm. Went through a long appeals process which incurred £19,000 legal expenses. Found it difficult to prove viability without residency, because needed to be there to start the business. Had further planning problems with chicken houses.
11. Family Split Up (Devon): Former traveller living on one acre in bus, until recently with partner and kids. Runs a successful organic duck hatchery, one of very few in the country. Applied retrospectively for temporary accommodation. Annual returns are around £9,000 per annum but local authority expect returns of £14,000. Permission refused, after four yearÍs negotiation, on viability and functional needs grounds. Partner has moved out into a house 10 miles away recently, apparently because of stress and insecurity. Last time we contacted him, he was depressed and said he feels like giving up.
12. Chicken Farmer Told to ñWind Up Businessî (Oxon): A chicken farmer with 3,000 hens in organic conversion, and woodland, was refused separate applications for a silo, a barn and temporary mobile home. The local authority wrote in its recommendation: ñEither 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.î These remarks were later withdrawn, after complaints. The application was supported by the NFU, the Soil Association and the Diocese of Oxford. One letter of objection (sic) stated: ñThe profits shown on his calculations will put most other farmersÍ books to shame „ many of them farming much larger acreages. If the applicantÍs figu res are correct he is bucking the national trend.î
13. Twenty Year Struggle in the Courts (Herts) Man on 5-acre organic livestock holding. 20 year struggle for permanent permission for a small residence adapted from the caravan. He proved functional need and short term viability, but not long term viability at standard set by the council. Two High Court appeals, the first lost; the second, revolving around the issue of notional rent, he won citing Petter and Harris.
14. High Court Injunction (Hants): Smallholder with 1,000 hens and 12 cows, since 1991. He was refused permission for a dwelling, and was evicted off his land by an injunction. He has since made two appeals. The Inspector in the second was sympathetic but said that there was ” not enough outlets for his produce.”
15. Ten Year Battle for Permanent Dwelling (Yorks): 4 acre holding with farm shop and residential mobile home. In appeals process, for a permanent home for about 10 years. Grosses up to £19,000 but was refused permission because of ñnotional rentî. Says the ploys of the local authority leave him ñspeechlessî and finds the prolonged planning process drains valuable energy from holding. When we first interviewed him in 1996, he claimed that expensive houses nearby had bee n given permission under dubious circumstances, and that the local authority planning dept was ñriddled with corruptionî. We didnÍt publish this allegation, but shortly afterwards members of his local authority, Doncaster, were convicted of corruption.
16. Farming Wife Faces Enforcement While Husband Converts Dwellings (Devon): 70 year-old woman who runs profitmaking 250 acre farm, in organic conversion, and under Countryside Stewardship scheme. She lives in a wooden shack on the land which has had an enforcement order upon it since 1998. Fined £300 in 2001, she offered to move out into a seasonal caravan, but the local authority have still not let her know whether they will accept that. In the interim she has been fined another £1050. The situation is aggravated by the fact that two barns which were originally attached to the farm, have been converted into dwellings by her husband. The local authority gave permission for these conversions without requiring an agricultural occupancy condition. Now the farm belongs to her, and the dwellings to her husband. who, she says, ñdoesnÍt give an **** about the farmî.
17. Sustainable Smallholding Secures Permission (Cambs): Mixed organic smallholding with veggie box scheme and articulated sustainable aims. Eco-timbe r frame cottage, renewable energy, compost toilets. Given temporary permission by local authority, refused full permission.
18. Margaret Y: Hiding in the Barn: Margaret Y. 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 ownland. In the the mid 1990s they sold their cottage and bought 36 acres without living accommodation „ a house would have been out of their price range.
The couple 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 didnÍt 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 donÍt make enough money from them to be considered viable by the planners. The couple 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. ñIf we had tried to start the business without being here, the planners might have said that that proved we didnÍt need to be here at all.î
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 donÍt 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.”
19. Market Attendance Shows Lack of Functional Need (Cornwall): Woman living on 42 acre organic beef and pig farm, in mobile home, due to needs of animals and convenience of processing activities. Application for mobile home under threat of enforcement action denied on functional need grounds. 2001 appeal for house, cold store and feed store dismissed: the Inspector described her as ñan industrious farmer who is working long hours to try and make a success of the enterpriseî. He considered that the fact that she had a stall at a farmerÍs market twice a week was evidence of lack of functional need.
20. Refusal of Poultry Houses Undermines Case for Residence (Lincs}: Family keeping poultry on 11 hectares, who got 5 years temporary caravan permission, but subsequently had an application for poultry houses turned down.They then were refused a renewal of permission, because of lack of viability. Facing enforcement.
21. Couple Expected to Earn One and a Half Incomes, Plus Notional Rent (Devon): Couple with horticultural business plus some chickens and sheep on 7 acres of land in Devon. They bought it in 1999 with an enforcement notice for a mobile home dating back to 1993. Cottage and farm buildings previously attached to land had been sold off and buildings converted to unaffordable residences. Their 2002 appeal for mobile home was dismissed on financial grounds, despite a net income of £12,600, because notional rent was not factored in, and the part-time labour of the woman, over and above the full-time labour of the man, meant that one and a half workerÍs incomes were required. Functional need was also dismissed, despite frost and storm damage to crops.
22. Barn Demolished (Kent): 16 acre l avender farm. Had to demolish barn after permission was refused because it was difficult to prove viability (even though heshould have benefited from permitted development rights).
23. Warren Fruit Farm: 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 migratory agricultural workers who have settled and started small land-based enterprises, including fruit and veg, fruit juice, and poultry. (see case no.60)
For Jim Aplin and his partner Hayley Morland, who lived for years on the road doing seasonal 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. In 2001 they supplied 30 boxes, plus extra veg for the farmers markets, plums, pears and free range eggs „ as well as looking after their toddler,Will.
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 Agricultur al Consultants to pull his project to pieces, and then turned it down.The Borough Council even tried to ban them from selling goods at the farmers market. Meanwhile Jim and Hayley more than doubled production in 2002, in the face of ReadingÍs predictions that their targets were unachievable.
The couple went to appeal, but the appeal was dismissed in November 2002. The inspector ruled that there was no functional need, and that it had not been ñconclusively provedî that there was no accommodation in the nearby village. Jim had been told by the local authority that they knew of no available accommodation anywhere nearby for a caravan. Houses in the village rent for £600 per month, and anyway, Jim and Hayley do not want to live in a house.
Now they face enforcement action. Despite years of being moved on by the authorities, Jim remains hopeful: ñIf you’re working 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 case, and you’ve got a fighting chance.”
24. Elderly Local Farmer Denied Mobile Home (Beds): Locally born and bred agricultural worker and cereal grower, in his sixties, with a mobile home on 4 acres of family land. Failed functional needs test, fa cing eviction despite ill health and need to care for elderly mother. Lost appeal. Does not think he will be able to afford local accommodation on his low income.
25. Fifteen Year Struggle Ends in High Court (Somerset): Well-known permaculture project with 60 year old woman living in caravan on-site, at edge of village, for over 15 years. She wants to build low-impact dwelling. In 2002 she lost an enforcement appeal and then in High Court, because her income is from teaching rather than produce. Now at a loss as to what to do.
26. Facing Enforcement after 13 Years (Devon): Smallholder, since 1988 on site in mobile home. Lost appeal for Certificate of Lawful Use because of occasional absences. Presently facing eviction.
27. DEFRA Ignores Worried Man (Devon): Single man, 54, living in caravan on smallholding with vegetables and poultry; very low income. Letter from enforcement officer has requested an application , under threat of enforcement, but advises that the authority will recommend against permission. The man has been trying to get the free planning advice for farmers offered by DEFRA, but considers ñthey are fobbing me off. They originally told me that they would come in October; now its nearly Christmas, and I canÍt get any response from them. I just get passed on. I donÍt think they are interested in small people like me.î He sounded agitated and suffering from depression when he phoned us.
28. Full-time Management Requires Residence (Somerset): Family running smallholding, 5.5 acres with milking sheep, lambs, bees, fruit and chickens. Presently operated part-time, from a house three miles away, with frequent car-trips to the land. Husband wants to leave his job as a quantity surveyor and go full-time, but calculates that this is not feasible without living on the land. First application for a mobile home refused, second application presently being prepared.
29. Stress after 13 Year Struggle (Lincs): Have lived on 3.4 acres for 13 years in mobile home. Recently lost an appeal for the mobile home. Experienced a great deal of stress from planning problems. We are not sure of their current position because when we phoned up, Mrs. A told us ” Please, I don’t want to talk about it, they caused us so much stress we just want to forget it all,î and ended the phone-call.
30. Unlawfully Lodged Agricultural Workers (South West): Agricultural workers now employed full time for over a year on a very successful box scheme, and living without planning permission, in a caravan on the holdin g. Owner of land and enterprise has residential permission, but his workers donÍt, and probably wouldnÍt get it because of the functional test.
31. Detailed Application Secures Permission: (Hants). Wooden house given permanent permission on 12 acre smallholding supplying an organic vegetable box scheme. The grower had temporary permission for a dwelling while the business was built up. The original temporary planning application was very thorough, with a business plan detailing the number of rows of every single crop, and their distance apart in centimetres. He states that he had to compromise his ideals to get temporary permission.
32. Permaculture Plot DoesnÍt Comply (Somerset): Respected 4 acre permaculture plot with vegetable and fruit production. Income partly from teaching permaculture. Have lived in caravan since 1998, now applying for permission, after visits from planners. Worried because they have have difficulty complying with Annex I.
33. Abandoning Project (Cornwall): Woman wants to restore old croft and make it into a working farm. Refused permission for caravans for her family during restoration. Feels that they need to live on land to set up the farm, so abandoning project until they can.
34. Animal Sheds Bulldoz ed (Kent): Retired, deaf ex- army smallholder with chickens, ducks, and livestock. Had his permitted development rights taken away for his animal sheds. Council bulldozed down his sheds and destroyed electricity connections under Section 178. Forced to give up his animals.
35. Home Hidden in Haystack (South West): Couple with part-time smallholding; the man works as an agricultural contractor. Long history of planning problems and there is an enforcement notice against residential caravans on the site. In one of their barns is a stack of hay bales, which is in fact only two bales thick. Slipping through a hidden gap in the bales, you enter a two roomed flat, neatly furnished with cooker, fridge, three piece suite and telly.
36. Life Savings Wasted (Midlands): Former gypsy with £21,000 returns of smallholding. Cattle-rearing, chickens. Mobile home on the land. Lost his appeal on viability among other things, and was advised by a solicitor to go to High Court; he lost again, with £12,500 legal costs, which came out of his life savings
37. Husband Died After Eviction (Kent): Woman used to live on a 4 acre smallholding with husband, but moved off after enforcement notice 10 years ago. Her husband died of cancer soon afterward, she says because of the stress of losing their home. Now she is in the process of moving on again.
38. Permission After 7 Years (Devon): Former traveller family, now seven years on holding. Recently acquired permission for wooden log-cabin type structure. Section 106 agreement tying residence to land. Smallholding with woodland, charcoal, horticulture, chickens. Article 14 attempt to rescind permission dismissed by Secretary of State.
39. Dwelling Refused (Dorset): Man in his twenties working full-time to bring his familyÍs 220 acre neglected woodland back to life, selling timber, firewood, hazel hurdles, charcoal and other crafts. Refused permission to build a small green oak dwelling. Told by planners (citing Annex I para 16) that a dwelling would only be allowable for a nursery. Feels that planners do not understand traditional approach to woodland management.
40. Permission Given Unanimously against Planners Recommendation (Sussex): Permanent permission for wooden house on his farm after the council voted unanimously against the recommendation of the planners. Keeps free-range poultry and manages woodland. Had difficulty proving profitability to the council because they used figures fro m intensive systems of poultry production to dispute his figures.
41. Charcoal Burning Classed as Industrial (Sussex): Third generation charcoal burners were told by council that charcoal production was change of use and an industrial activity. An enforcement notice was served, and they had to close business, as they could not afford the cost of an appeal.
42. Charcoal Burner Told to Move to Industrial Estate (Wales): Former teacher, turned charcoal burning hobby into a business with returns of £10,000-£15,000 from 50 acre woodland. He was refused permission for a timber-frame house on the site, and the council opposed a caravan for his apprentice. He was told that charcoal burning should take place on an industrial estate, and that, as a processing activity, it cannot justify a forestry dwelling. He has halted further expansion and job creation.
43. Benders in Woodland (Somerset): Small woodland where 6-8 people live in benders without planning permission and are working to convert conifers to broadleaf.
44. Hidden Craft Worker (Devon): Coppice and woodland craft worker and family making full time living for many years, and living surreptitiously in woodland. Now applying for permission.
45. Single Woman Loses at High C ourt (Carmarthenshire): Lives in sheds/caravan on 17 acres of woodland for at least 8 years without permission. Lost appeal and high court case, but still residing in one shed not covered by enforcement notice.
46. Yurt Refused „ Timber House Allowed (Sussex): Traditional woodland worker who manages 8 acre chestnut coppice. Author of well-known book on permaculture forestry. He received planning permission to build a straw bale and timber cabin in his woodland after 8 years of living on his land. All committee members abstained except two, who voted in favour. Many planning difficulties trying to get permission for an initial temporary dwelling, including dismissed appeal for a yurt (tent) in his woodland.
47. Successful Coppice Workers (Northants): Working family in 20 acre woodland. Successful application for temporary caravan, prepared by commercial consultants, which has been renewed. Recently awarded prize for best managed woodland.
48. Houses Hidden in Woodland (S. West) Timber framers living surreptitiously in woodland, in beautiful self-built timber frame cruck houses.
49. TinkerÍs Bubble: Community Smallholding: TinkerÍs 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 a minimum price for pony-paddocks. Collective ownership also gave the community the opportunity to work cooperatively.
The members of TinkerÍs Bubble now manage a wide variety of micro-enterprises including orchards, apple juice, timber, vegetables, cheese, and green woodwork. Most provide enough for subsistence and a minimal income per person, presently averaging around £1,500 per year. This is adequate: each adult resident of TinkerÍs Bubble pays only £20 cash per week for all their food, shelter, water, heating, lighting, agricultural infrastructure, tools and insurance.
TinkerÍs Bubble has five-year temporary permission for a low impact settlement in association with agricultural and forestry business. It took them five years to get it, during which time they went through three applications, an enforcement notice, a failed Article 4 direction, a withdrawn 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, donated by a well-wisher.
After all that, the local planning committee gave them permission, against the recommendation of the planning officers, because it was apparent that the project was potentially a good one. Even some of the planning department, who recommended against it, have signalled that they were sympathetic to the project, but were constrained by national policy. As one of the original Bubblers commented: ñWe knew from the start that we would never in a century get permission if we applied beforehand. The only way to get planning consent was to move on without permission and show that the project worked.î
50. Pobl-y-Coed (Wales): Group of people living in benders and trucks on land of sympathetic owner in return for management of forest with no planning permission. They hope to establish a new eco-community elsewhere.
51 The Field (Somerset): Field of about four acres which serves as a perennial stopping place for people travelling with benders and similar. Planning officers have visited but no action has ever been taken.
52. Kings Hill (Somerset): A four acre field with permanent planning permission for 16 benders. Permission was given by the Secretary of State in 1999, on human rights grounds after two appeals and a High Court challenge. The benders are built by individuals and families who own a share of the land. The site has small individual gardens and has been reforested with trees, but is primarily a low-impact housing project. Residents do seasonal agricultural work on local farms, greenwood building, etc.
53. Dragon Hill (Somerset): A four acre woodland inhabited and managed for the last 30 years by 6-12 people who live in benders. The land has no registered owners and there is no planning permission, though it would qualify for a certificate of lawful use.
54. Walton Hill (Somerset): A 5 acre field near Street in Somerset with 6 families in bender type dwellings. The field is owned by a sympathetic individual. Planning permission for the dwellings has been refused partly on highways grounds. One child living at the site was run over and killed, allegedly after occupants were denied permission to create a lay-by at the entrance to the site.
55. Unnamed Site (Devon): Travellers and settlers sited on farmland, with caravans, trucks and benders. The occupants want to establish a more permanent community and are negotiating with the planners. The farmer/landowner, apparently, is unpredictable.< /p>
56. Tipi Valley (Wales): A large settlement of individuals and families (130) living in a wide range of alternative housing in a Welsh valley. Many of the dwellings are tipis but there are also benders, yurts, roundhouses and wood and thatch buildings. Many gardens and reforestation project. A few certificates of lawful use, but most have no recognized legal status. Wide range of occupants and aspirations.
57. Brickhurst Farm (Kent): A permaculture holding where occupants live in benders and work on the land. Has a turbulent history of planning and landlord problems. The occupants appealed against an enforcement order in 2001. The appeal was not heard because the Inspector ruled the enforcement notice was not properly drafted.
58. Llyn Piod (Wales): Large settlement of people living in tipis benders and caravans near Rhayader, Wales. Planning department has initiated injunction proceedings to clear the land.
59. NickÍs Field (Wales): Land where some people live in benders with the permission of the owner, but no official permission.
60. Yoke Farm (Hereford): Settlement of benders and caravans on a farm. Planning permission for four caravans on a small part of the site was allowed at appeal in 2000, after two previ ous appeals and two High Court judgments. Allegedly, the community has never worked as well as it could have, partly because of the insecurity caused by the planning problems, and partly because owner takes a sizable rent and puts little of it back into the improvement of the community.
61. Tir Coed (Wales): Community of artisans living on land in yurts, wagons and benders practising land-based arts, such as woodwork and pottery.
62. ñBeechwoodî (North of England): Eco-community on farm. Many people living in benders and yurts with no planning permission. Apparently unnoticed by planners. Impressive multi-bender complex.
63. Keveral Farm (Cornwall): A community organic farm (21 people, 35 acres) based on permaculture principles. They operate a large box scheme in their area. Most of the members live in an old farmhouse, but some live in caravans. They want to build more eco-homes, but are unsure about how the planners will receive this..
64. Fox Housing Cooperative (Wales): An organic farm (70 acre) managed by a coop. They operate a large box scheme. Some members live in a house, and others in converted barns. They plan to build low impact dwellings from straw bales and coppiced wood to house more coop workers and visitors.
65. Warren Farm (Glos): Former fruit farm divided into 14 smallholdings . All, bar one, now occupied. Each holding was equipped with a polytunnel and a wooden agricultural building with windows and veranda, but the timber buildings have been removed after an enforcement appeal was dismissed. Tenancy agreement precludes permanent dwellings but permits temporary and seasonal use. One family who run a successful box scheme lost an Appeal in November 2002 (see 28) Four families applied for a years residence, on a mixture of agricultural and travellers site grounds, and were also refused permission. Enforcement proceedings are beingdirected against the owner, who is terminating the tenancies.
66. Hockerton Housing Project: Permanent Pemission: Hockerton appears to be the only sustainable community in England that has succeeded in acquiring planning permission for permanent residences on a greenfield site outside the area allocated for development (which is why most of the other communities listed are temporary developments of caravans, tents or removable wooden buildings).
Hockerton consists of five earth-sheltered houses, located outside but close to a village near Newark, in Nottinghamshire. The houses are among the most energy efficient in Europe, electricity is generated by solar and wind power, rainwater is harvested for drinking and domestic use, and waste water passed through a reed bed. There is a car-share scheme based around a home-powered electric car. The community runs a smallholding, and carries out research into sustainable projects and communities in the UK.
The development was given permission in 1995 by Newark and Sherwood District Council, who had already worked with the architects on other eco-houses in the district, and was opened by Nick Raynsford, Minister of Housing, in 1998. Planning permission was granted because of the sustainability of the project, and is linked to a Section 106 Agreement governing the management of the site, which took two years to negotiate with the local authority.
67. Plants for a Future (Cornwall): A vegan-organic plant research charity and mail order business who have two sites. The first in Cornwall lost an appeal for a residential caravan in the late 1980s, and an Article 4 Direction was placed on the land. This land has now utterly changed in character from pasture land to a highly biodiverse ñedible landscapeî of plants, shrubs and trees. Its managers are still trying to find a way to live on the land.
68. Plants for a Future (Devon): Because of the enforcement notice and Article 4 Direction, PFAF eventually bought another 80 acres in Devon on which they are seeking to establish a demonstration centre. They bought the land with outline permission for 28 holiday chalets but had their application for the chalets to house a permaculture community refused. They had great problems getting permission even for one temporary mobile home, which they eventually received at appeal.
69. Steward Community Woodland (Devon): A community on 35 acre woodland. The woodland is managed by 8 people living in bender type dwellings. They lost a planning appeal and were facing enforcement, but recently won an enforcement appeal. The national park is challenging the the decision in the High Court. The planning proceedings cost them a lot of money.
70. Brithdir Mawr (Wales): An agricultural and forestry focused community with 12 members, 165 acres. The majority live in a restored house, but a few live in self-built dwellings on the land. Tony WrenchÍs wood and turf roofed roundhouse is the most well-known dwelling. He has been refused permission for his roundhouse, recently lost an appeal, and is required to demolish it in March.
71. Centre for Alternative Technologies (Wales): Well established community (12 adults ) living in eco-homes in an abandoned slate quarry: timber frame, slate cottages, straw bale, with renewable energy and composting systems. The community runs a centre for demonstrating alternative technology.
72. Pentiddy Woodland Project (Cornwall): Six people on 27 acres for agroforestry project incorporating a sustainable woodland business with small livestock. Applying for permission for a low-impact terrace of 3 dwellings , but unsure of being able to prove a functional need for all residents.
73. Holywell Fields (Bucks): Project for 5 eco-homes (straw and wychert clay) on a 90 acre mixed use organic holding. Box scheme and other agricultural activities. Applied for permission for mobile homes and LIDS for 5 farm workers, some are in use. Still struggling with enforcement notice on caravans etc. Their planning application was turned down, and they are appealing against enforcement.
Low Impact Housing: Single Units
75. Eco-House Under Threat of Demolition (Glos): Sculptor and family living in self-built wooden house in quarry for 17 years. The house is an innovative example of reciprocal frame roof architecture, made from sustainable local timber and recycled materials. Appeal lost in 2002 in Hi gh Court on human rights grounds. Under threat of enforcement and demolition. Wife and family have moved out because of stress.
76. House Not Enforced Against (Wales): Family with a wooden house in woods. Permission was refused many years ago, and the house is subject to an enforcement notice which has never been never carried out.
77. Man Driven to Emigrate (Wales): Young man, living in his workshop on his holding, lost an enforcement appeal and was taken to court for non-compliance. He was fined £1,500, including £500 for living in the workshop, £150 for not taking down the last two hoops of a polytunnel (all the rest had been dismantled) and £250 for not returning the land where the polytunnel had been to pastoral use. The man abandoned his holding and emigrated to Spain.
78. Chalet Traded for Earth Sheltered Eco-House (Cornwall): Family lived in abandoned quarry in a chalet for 6 years for which they got a Certificate of Lawful Use. They negotiated permission for earth sheltered dwelling. The house is energy-efficient, powered by a water wheel and other renewable energy, and a smallholding is maintained.
79. Father Sent to Prison (Kent): A father was sent to prison for 28 days for defying a court injunction forbidding him and his family from living in a mobile home on green belt land. The home was the maximum size permissible (60 foot by 20 foot), and not exactly low impact. The father was treated for a heart condition whilst in Pentonville. This information was culled from a local press report and we donÍt now how it was resolved.
80. Dream Ends in Suicide (Yorks): Retiring couple sold bungalow and bought 15 acres to pursue non-profit-making domestic animal and wildlife management. They lived in a caravan on a friendÍs farm for 18 months, until an enforcement notice was received, and then moved their caravan onto their own land.They received an enforcement notice on this promptly, and missed the 6 week deadline for appeal, through a misunderstanding. In November 2002 we heard that the wife had committed suicide. The husband is certain that it is because of losing their home, and feels guilty for ñfollowing a dreamî
81. Domes Refused: (Hants) Two geodesic domes in 4 acres of spruce plantation, so dwellers could live an “ecofriendly lifestyle”: refused permission. Inspector ruled that landscape harm and generation of traffic outweighed the benefits of the energy efficient lifestyle.
82. Man in Shack: (Norfolk) Man built shed and lived in it, then successfully a pplied for certificate of lawful use after 4 years.
83. Bankrupted FarmerÍs Son Hides in Shed (Yorks): Hill farmerÍs son and wife, with child, who got a Certificate of Lawful Use for residence concealed in a shed on the family land, after the farm went bankrupt and his home was sold off in the 1980s recession. Magic mirrors were used to let light into the shed. The local authority refused the CLU, but it was granted at appeal.
84. Home for Handicapped Person (Sussex): One of our correspondents has a craft-worker with mental health problems living on his land in a caravan. He feels he is providing the best possible opportunity for this person, and is hoping that enough time will elapse to claim a certificate of lawful use.
85. Liz Bond: Fined for Living Where She Was Brought Up Liz Bond and her partner Tony (not their real names) 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.
For several years the couple have been living under threat of an enforcement n otice, and two years ago they were taken to court and fined £250. Now the planners are threatening to take her to court again. Liz says: ñThe 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.î
86. Enforcement against Retiring Couple with Animals (Beds): Couple approaching retirement age, on very small holding, who make a part time income from keeping animals. They have been living for 8 years in a mobile home which is under an enforcement notice. The local authority found them accommodation in a neighbouring local authorityÍs council flat, which they refused; they believe they were ñqueue-jumpedî up the housing list. They are presently threatened with court action. Wife had a breakdown 4 years ago which she partly attributes to the insecurity: ñIt was irrational „ I wouldnÍt go out of the home because I was afraid someone would come and take it away from us.î She is now on antidepressants.
87. Hidden for 13 Years (Wales): Man has lived undiscovered 13 years in low-energy house on stilts.
88. Underground House (Wilts): Underground dwelling on 3 acres, built in 1987. 8 years undiscovered. Now has certificate of lawful development. The occupant works as farm labourer and builder.
89. The Dryden Case (Durham): This well known case occurred in 1991, and Chapter 7 had nothing to do with it; but it is cited here because it is relevant. Our only source of information is Derwentside CouncilÍs internal report into the matter. In June 1991, Albert Dryden, shot planning officer Harry Collinson dead; Collinson was at the head of a team of Council employees and bulldozers, converging on DrydenÍs home, to destroy it. From the report, it appears that Dryden was a difficult and violent character, and Derwentside acted properly. On the other hand, Dryden made four separate attempts to locate a place where he could carry out the activities from which he made a living „ firewood, small scale agriculture and car mechanics „ and on each occasion he was blocked by the local authority. It appears, from the report, that he had a measure of support in the local community. The event was traumatic, and has probably led to a cautious approach, on the part of many local planning departments, to enforcement action involving eviction.
We cannot vouch for all the information provided above. Some of these people are clients whom Chapter 7 has worked with and visited; some of the information comes from local authority documents, appeal decisions and court cases; a few items are culled from local press reports. But some of the information is what the people concerned have told us in telephone interviews, and so cannot be regarded as any more reliable than information deduced from any other survey. Nonetheless, the issues and problems highlighted here are recurrent, and they provide an accurate picture of how people at the receiving end of this particular arm of the planning system perceive their position.