Defining Rural Sustainability

Fifteen Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside

together with

Three Model Policies for Local Plans

Sustainable Development is the cornerstone of both the Government’s rural policies and its planning policies.”

-Planning Policy Guidance 7

“The concept of ‘sustainability’ is comparatively new to the environment field, is protean in meaning and extremely difficult to define in any precise sense.”

-Deputy Judge Nigel Macleod QC


l. Introduction

II. Fifteen Criteria for Sustainable Land-Based Rural Developments

III. Three Model Local Plan Policies

IV. Using the Criteria

V. Explanatory Notes

  • Land-Based Activity
  • The Financial Test
  • Ecological Footprint
  • Minimizing Car Use
  • Certification
  • Low Embodied Energy


  • Gloucestershire Structure Plan Deposit Draft, Policy H10
  • South Somerset Deposit Draft Local Plan, Policy HG11


Further information

List of Organizations

Description of Authors / Acknowledgments

To order a copy of  report

1. Introduction 

What are the Aims of this Document?

I.1. The government has made plain its commitment to sustainability, and sustainability is regarded as a material consideration in planning decisions. However there is very little guidance on what actually constitutes a sustainable form of development in the countryside. Planning Policy Guidances 1 and 7 list a number of broad “objectives”, such as “to meet economic and social needs” and “to maintain or enhance the character of the countryside”.1 But neither of these documents nor any other government guidance give any yardstick by which the sustainability or the environmental impacts of projects which provide people with livelihoods and homes in the countryside can be assessed.


I.2. Planners, and other professionals involved with rural development may therefore find it difficult to assess the merits of a project which claims to be “sustainable” or “low-impact”, or find grounds for refusal of one that they suspect is not. For example, the reasoned justification for policy HG11 on “Low-impact Dwelling Sites” in the emerging South Somerset Local Plan states, “The District Council will seek to establish criteria which can be used to evaluate the success or otherwise of low-impact dwelling sites.” The council’s search eventually led to the High Court. In an appeal against a South Somerset DC decision concerning a low-impact development, Deputy Judge Nigel McLeod QC unhelpfully concluded that “the concept of ‘sustainability’ is comparatively new to the environment field, is protean in meaning and extremely difficult to define in any precise sense.”2

I.3. In 1996 a working group under was set up under the auspices of The Land Is Ours in order to address this policy vacuum ; this document is the initial result of the work performed by that group. The document has two main aims:

(1) to provide a list of criteria or indicators designed to help planners and other decision-makers seeking clarification on the sustainability of a given project. They represent a check-list of attainments and objectives which are likely to characterize a dedicated sustainable or low-impact rural land-based project.

(2) to suggest means by which adherence to these objectives can be encouraged, assured and maintained over a period of time.


To Whom is this Document Addressed?

I.4. The document is addressed to two separate constituencies of professional people concerned with these issues. On the one hand, there are those who work within the planning system – council officers, employees of the Department of the Environment Transport and the Regions (DETR) and planning committee members. On the other, there are those who work from outside the planning system – for example representatives of regional and economic development agencies, voluntary organizations and funding bodies, Local Agenda 21 officers, environmental consultants, agricultural and forestry experts, land managers, architects etc. Their roles, in this context, are fairly distinct.

I.5. The role of non-planners is frequently pro-active: to identify, encourage or carry out forms of rural development that will contribute to a more sustainable countryside and rural economy. Such people are not necessarily invested with the power to ensure that such developments stick to their original objectives

I.6. The role of planners, on the other hand, is more reactive. They are required to operate according to the guidance provided by the DETR, and in their development plans. Their opportunities for pro-active encouragement of new forms of development are limited. However, they have tools at their disposal for ensuring that an established low-impact development does not change into something high impact. These two stances are reflected in the two main sections of this document.

I.7. Chapter II examines the land-use and planning issues from the wider viewpoint of the pro-active advocate of sustainable rural development. What exactly is “sustainable development”? What are the primary indicators of a sustainable low-impact rural project? What are the criteria by which proposals for such developments can be assessed?

I.8. Chapter III covers the same field, but more from the standpoint of the professional planner, working within the present policy context. How can sustainable rural developments be distinguished from unsustainable ones? How can planners encourage sustainable projects without opening the door to unsustainable ones? And how can the continuing sustainability of a project be assured? The framework that we have chosen to present possible answers to these questions is one that is familiar to planners: that of model policies and conditions, backed up by reasoned justification.

What Kind of Developments are Discussed?

I.9. The criteria and policies put forward here are only applicable for rural projects where the site, immediately or over time, will generate a significant proportion of the occupiers’ livelihood through land-based activities conducted on a full-time or a part-time basis. (The term “land-based activities” includes agriculture, forestry, equicultu re, fish-farming, game management, small-scale quarrying, landscape management for conservation or amenity purposes and activities which add value to these pursuits – see note p. xx). The criteria and policies have not been designed for developments which are solely residential, retail or light industrial, nor for projects sited in an urban or suburban setting .

I.10. We have concentrated on land-based projects for two main reasons: because sustainable land management is fundamental to a healthy rural economy;3 and because any project involving land-based activity has, by its very nature, a clear need to be sited in the countryside. With other projects the need may be questionable and we do not wish, at this stage, to tackle this controversial question. This in no way suggests that we consider non-land-based projects in the countryside to be necessarily unsustainable; nor that there is no need for criteria for such projects; nor that the criteria here presented are totally inapplicable to such projects.

I.11. Provided that there is a significant element of land-based activity, the criteria and policies presented in this document are not in any other way restricted to any particular kind of development. They could be applied to a farm, a woodland workshop, a hamlet of smallholdings, a retail outlet selling home-grown a nd home-processed goods, a school, a recreational centre focussing on craft or conservation activities, an equestrian centre, a religious community, a travellers’ site, a “Country House”, or a large-scale “ecovillage”.


Any Other Questions?

I.12. The recommendations made in Chapters II and III raise a number of other questions, some of which are covered in subsidiary sections. Chapter IV provides a brief conclusion examining how and where the criteria and policies outlined in the previous two chapters are likely to be used, and raises the prospect of setting up a body charged with assessment. A number of explanatory notes are provided on pages xxx, and two policies from deposit drafts of development plans are printed in the appendices. A list of relevant organizations capable of directing readers to further sources of information is provided on p. xxx.


Fifteen Criteria for Developments associated with sustainable land-based rural activities

[1] The project has a management plan which demonstrates:

[a] how the site will contribute significantly towards the occupiers’ livelihoods;

[b] how the objectives cited in items 2 to 14 below will be achieved and maintai ned.

[2] The project provides affordable access to land and/or housing to people in need.

[3] The project provides public access to the countryside, including temporary access such as open-days and educational visits.

[4] The project can demonstrate how it will be integrated into the local economy and community.

[5] The project can demonstrate that no activities pursued on the site shall cause undue nuisance to neighbours or the public.

[6] The project has prepared a strategy for the minimization of motor vehicle use.

[7] The development and any buildings associated with it are appropriately sited in relation to local landscape, natural resources and settlement patterns.

[8] 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.

[9] The project is reversible, insofar as new buildings can be easily dismantled and the land easily restored to its former condition.

[10] The project plans to minimize the creation of waste and to reuse and recycle as much as possible on site.

[11] The project has a strategy for energy conservation and the reduction, over time, of dependence on non-renewable energy sources to a practical minimum.

[12] 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.

[13] 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.

[14] 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 conservation 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.

[15] 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.


The Criteria in Detail

(1) The project has a management plan which demonstrates: (a) how the site will contribute significantly towards the occupiers’ livelihoods; (b) how the objectives cited in items 2 to 14 below will be achieved and maintained.

PPG7 (para. C24) recommends, but does not require, provision of a farm plan in support of applications for farm diversification. Such plans “can demonstrate how a proposal fits into the wider farming picture and set out its environmental consequences”.

A management plan should be deemed necessary, in conjunction with all sustainable rural developments (other than very small ones), for the following reasons:

  • To allow the public, local councils and other interested bodies, such as local wildlife groups, to assess the aims and objectives of the project;
  • To ensure that the specific objectives of the project are fully integrated and that there is no inherent conflict betw een any of these objectives;
  • To assess whether these objectives can realistically be achieved over a given     time-scale and with the resources available.
  • A management plan should normally have three sections: (i) Description of the site, including a comprehensive biological survey; (ii) Evaluation of the site, including a set of management objectives: suggestions and support for these should be sought from appropriate agencies or experts; (iii) Prescription, listing the work necessary to achieve the management objectives.

The management plan does not necessarily need to be a weighty document. However, it could become legally binding and should be drafted with care. It should normally be drawn up together with a business plan showing financial projections.

(2) The project provides affordable access to land and/or housing to people in need.

As noted above, access to land is a primary objective of Section 7 of Agenda 21. Affordable rural housing is encouraged through the rural exceptions policy, outlined in Annex A of Planning Policy Guidance 3 (Housing). A project should not necessarily be viewed as unsustainable if it does not provide access to land or accommodation for lower income people; but if it does provide affordable housing or access to land, that should be r egarded as a point in its favour.

(3) The project provides public access to the countryside, including temporary access such as open-days and educational visits.

Public access to land is more restricted in the UK than in most European countries, where a “right to roam” and other communal rights are often statutory. The Labour Government is “firmly committed to achieving our objective of securing greater access to open countryside”, and at present encourages landowners to open up their land to the public voluntarily.10 Public access to the countryside is a natural corollary of the sustainable objective of siting more residences in dense urban situations. It has also been argued that allowing public access would be the cheapest way of monitoring and guarding against ecological abuses by landowners (just as the condition of public footpaths is presently monitored free of charge by vigilant and concerned public users).11

Public access to land may also be understood in the wider sense to include: access to the public for amenity, education and transport; access (within the bounds of what is strictly sustainable) for activities such as grazing, gleaning, fishing, and the gathering of firewood, berries, and mushrooms; and other customary, communal or usufructory rights, such as the right of travellers to stop on verges. Agenda 21’s section on Sustainable Land-Use Planning states as a prime objective “the encouragement of communally and collectively owned and managed land”. Over the last few centuries the communal and usufructory rights of the ordinary citizen to the English countryside have been progressively eroded.12 Any project which proposes to restitute any of these rights, or which welcomes a greater element of public participation in the management of its property, is to be encouraged.

In particular, projects should: undertake to maintain all existing rights-of-way crossing the site, as is their statutory duty; guarantee that no application for the extinguishing of any rights-of-way will be made; and make assurances that applications for diversions of rights-of-way will only be entertained where the proposed diversion offers at least the same amenity and benefits to users as the original route. The enhancement of public access, for example by creating new rights-of-way or permissive paths, or by holding open days, will improve integration of the project into the local community and increase local people’s awareness of their immediate environment.

(4) The project can demonstrate how it will be integrated into the local economy and community.

The Government’s rural policy aims to “sustain economic and social activity in r ural communities” and to “promote sustainable development by strengthening villages and market towns, protecting the open countryside, sustaining local services and moving towards a better balance between employment and housing in rural areas, thereby reducing the need to travel.”13

Any project that is sited on agricultural or forestry land in the open countryside should maintain links with nearby villages and towns. Projects that are well integrated into the community will encourage the development of a sustainable local economy, by providing support for schools, local shops and public transport, and by providing local produce. A project that is unduly reliant on distant linkages (for example for its income, its schooling, or it resources) will be undermining the local economy and be heavily dependent upon transport.

Projects which are reliant upon tourism for a part of their income should be scrutinized particularly carefully. Will this tourist enterprise enhance the local economy and community life, or will it invite an Žlite to enjoy an area of countryside that has been made inaccessible to local people?

(5) The project can demonstrate that no activities pursued on the site shall cause undue nuisance to neighbours or the public.

The matter of public nuisance is covered by the Environmental Protection Act 1990. However the potential of a project to create a public nuisance should be examined in advance.14 When assessing the potential for public nuisance, it should be borne in mind that a considerable number of people now living in rural residences are urban refugees seeking “peace and quiet” who do not appreciate that rural activities – even sustainable ones – can be noisy or smelly. The Environmental Protection Act (EPA) authorizes measures to suppress activities that would normally be viewed as an integral part of a sustainable rural economy, such as the keeping of noisy livestock. A project concerned to maintain low-impact would (in line with the EPA) establish in advance the “best practicable means” for mitigating any potential nuisance from such activities.

(6) The project has prepared a strategy for the minimization of motor vehicle use.

The potential generation of traffic is often the main, and in some cases the only, objection to a proposed low-impact rural development. Agenda 21, Chapter 7, calls for the encouragement of “development patterns that reduce transport demand” and this approach is given government sanction in PPG 13 on Transport.

The central message of PPG 13 is that: “By planning land use and transport together in ways which enable people to carry out their everyday activities with less need to travel, local planning authorities can reduce reliance on the private car and make a significant contribution to the Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy.” The implications of this policy are discussed in further detail on p. xxx

In practice, it may be difficult for families or communities working or living in the countryside to find ways of limiting their car use, particularly if there are few public transport facilities nearby. However, it is by no means impossible and a number of strategies are listed on p. xxx.

(7) The development and any buildings associated with it are appropriately sited in relation to local landscape, natural resources and settlement patterns.

PPG 7 and PPG 13 contain advice concerning the siting of new developments in relation to agricultural land and settlement patterns, while PPG 9 (Nature Conservation) outlines Government policy in relation to designated sites.

Issues which may be of particular concern include matters such as groundwater, landscape quality, existing patterns of land management and proximity to services. Local plans should set a context for decisions relating to these issues.

Consistent observation of these factors might lead to a clustering of sustainable projects which could in itself be beneficial.

(8) New buildings and dwellings ar e 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.

Agenda 21, Chapter 7G, Promoting Sustainable Construction Industry Activities states that all countries should encourage the use of locally available natural resources and energy-efficient designs and technologies; protect eco-sensitive zones from construction-related activities; and promote the use of labour-intensive and self-help housing methods.

PPG 1(paragraph 18) states that it is “proper to promote or reinforce local distinctiveness . . . LPAs should not concern themselves with matters of detailed design except where such matters have a significant effect on the character or the quality of the area.” The emphasis on natural local building materials is important since they are “easily accessible, easily accountable and easily assimilable.”14: in other words, they involve low transport and energy costs, their impact can be managed at a local level, and they naturally ad apt to the surrounding countryside and vernacular architecture. It is the employment of local building materials, and of the architectural solutions to structural problems associated with these materials, that has created the local distinctiveness to which the Government is committed.

Details concerning the embodied energy of various building materials are given in the note on p. xxx.

(9) The project is reversible, insofar as new buildings can be easily dismantled and the land easily restored to its former condition.

Reversibility in the event of collapse of a project or upon its completion does not feature highly as an indicator of sustainability in international agreements or in Government guidance. However an obligation to restore land after use is a common feature in minerals applications; and a temporary three year trial period for residential developments associated with new agricultural or forestry enterprises is required by PPG7.

In practice, this criterion principally guarantees that there will be no extensive earthworks, foundations, areas of concrete, roads or other heavy infrastructure associated with a proposal which might be viewed as experimental or prove to be short-term. However there may well be elements of a project which, although they are relatively permanent, are judged to be of long-term benefit or very minimal impact to the environment or landscape – the excavation of a pond or the construction of an earth-sheltered building, for example. In such cases non-adherence to this criterion should not be taken as an indication of unsustainability.

(10) The project plans to minimize the creation of waste and to reuse and recycle as much as possible on site.

Agenda 21, Chapter 21 advocates a hierarchy of waste-management strategies which is reflected in UK Government policy.16 The priority strategy is minimization, followed by re-use, recycling and environmentally sound treatment and disposal.

Waste does not exist in nature, since what is waste to one species is food or habitat to another. A sustainable mixed farming holding operating in harmony with nature will be able to minimize waste to a high degree, since waste products, such as trash wood, whey, grey water, human and animal manure can be used elsewhere. The use of disposable plastics, such as mulch and silage wrap should be kept to a minimum.

(11) The project has a strategy for energy conservation and the reduction, over time, of dependence on non-renewable energy sources to a practical minimum.

Agenda 21, Chapter 7E states that a major objective is “to extend the provision of more energy-efficient technology and alternative/renewable energy for human settlement”.

PPG12, on Development Plans, contains a section entitled “Energy Conservation and Global Warming” which begins with the words, “The conservation of energy is one key issue to which the Government has already asked local authorities to have particular regard as an issue in development plans.” (paragraph 6.10). The section focusses on patterns of development as “one way in which development plan policies need to take account of energy conservation”, but it also highlights factors such as housing type and orientation, and the use of renewable energy.

PPG22 on Renewable Energy states that authorities should include in local plans “detailed policies for developing renewable energy sources” (paragraph 25) and cites as one of the Government’s general aims “to prevent the unnecessary sterilization of energy resources.” (paragraph 20).

Every site in rural Britain has abundant access to the resources of wind-power and sunshine, and many have access to water-power, wood fuel or animal power. Urban houses which are totally self-sufficient in energy have been constructed in this country, so it is entirely feasible for a rural holding to generate enough renewable energy for its domestic needs, (and often for its economic needs as well). Failure to do so could be interpreted as “an unnecessary st erilization of energy resources”.

On-site production of some forms of renewable energy may, however, take some time to establish, since the technology is relatively new and some of the equipment involved can be expensive.

Consideration should also be given to energy conservation, through measures such as insulation and energy efficiency and through a discriminating approach to mechanization in the management of the land.

(12) 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.

Local authorities faced with a new development are often concerned about the inadequacy of existing services and infrastructure, or are concerned that the provision of such services will have an undue environmental or economic impact. However many low-impact developments can provide all their own water, sanitation and energy on site, through the application of traditional techniques and more recent technological developments.

Autonomous services carry several advantages:

  • They are not a drain on community supplies or resources;
  • They do not involve the provision of high impact infrastructure;
  • They encourage the use of renewable energy and wa ste minimization;
  • Their environmental impact can be easily assessed.17

(13) 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.

It is Government policy to encourage organic farming18, and conversion to organic agriculture is supported by MAFF grants. PPG 9 (para 15) also states that, “In some areas the maintenance of traditional agricultural practices is important for nature conservation objectives”. Conservation bodies such as the CPRE and the RSPB would like to see an increase in organic farming. But the UK still lags behind many other European countries in the proportion of land farmed organically.

Certificating bodies for the sustainable management of agricultural and forestry holdingsare listed in the note on

(14) 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 conservation and, where appropriate, the enhancement of semi-natural habitat, taking into account biodiversity, indigenous species and wildlife corridors;

(c) the efficient u se 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 Government is a signatory to a number of relevant international treaties, including the Biodiversity Convention drawn up at the Rio Earth Summit in 1992, and has issued a wide range of publications outlining its policy on nature conservation. Many of these are listed in PPG 9, Nature Conservation. The Government is also committed to doubling the tree cover in England over the next 50 years.19

PPG 9 states that “with careful planning and control, conservation and development can be compatible”(para. 3). It also confirms the importance of locally designated areas (as distinct from statutorily designated sites), but warns that local planning authorities should “take care to avoid unnecessary constraints on development” in such areas (para 18).

The strategies and programmes adopted by a sustainable rural project should aim not only to protect the existing habitat, but where appropriate to enhance it. These strategies will be highly site specific and should be drawn up after consultation with local experts and representatives of bodies such as the District Council, local Wildlife Trusts, the Forestry Authority etc. See list of contacts on

(15) The project can show that affordability and sustainability are secured, for example, through 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.

Assurance that a sustainable low-impact project will not metamorphose, over time, into an unsustainable, high impact project is not easily come by. In many ways it is a matter for planners, and this problem is more comprehensively covered in Chapter III. The establishment of some kind of trust or similar body should provide a measure of assurance, but this may not be appropriate for smaller, family-based projects.

The problem of securing sustainability will only be definitively resolved when society establishes pricing mechanisms and other incentives that make it more profitable for people to live sustainably than otherwise, but this solution is still some way away. An interim measure might be to introduce some form of certification that confers financial or other advantages upon sustainable lifestyles (analogous to certification for organically produced food), a proposal which is examined in Chapter IV.


III Three Model Local Plan Policies

Together with a Number of Model Conditions and Other Recommendations

III.1. This chapter presents three model policies covering sustainable development in the open countryside. Model Policy A covers non-residential activities that come under the heading of sustainable land-based activities. Policy B covers residential development associated with such activities. Policy C refers to affordable housing where agricultural or land-based activity is a part-time or marginal element. Each of these policies is preceded by a review of relevant Government policy. A number of model planning conditions and other measures are also presented and discussed.

III.2. These models are designed to demonstrate how policies enabling sustainable rural development in the open countryside can be integrated into the development plan framework, whilst fully conforming to current planning policy guidance. No claim is made that they are definitive. The problems involved in formulating such policies are complex; the team responsible for preparing this report has spent many hours deliberating the wording of them, and any local planning authority broaching the issue will doubtless do likewise. The policies are presented simply as a reference point from which local authority planners can evolve policies tailored to local circumstances and need s.

Sustainable Land Use:

The Policy Context

III.3. PPG 7, on The Countryside, begins with the affirmation that ‘sustainable development is the cornerstone of both the Government’s rural policies and its planning policies.’ (para.1.2) It then cites four objectives, which are to:

  • ‘Meet the economic and social needs of people who live and work in rural     areas…
  • Maintain or enhance the character of the countryside and conserve its natural     resources…
  • Improve the viability of existing villages and market towns …
  • Recognize the interdependence of urban and rural policies.’ (para. 1.4)

III.4. This section continues: ‘It 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 area’. The onus for drawing up the details of sustainable development is unequivocally placed upon local government planners. This is a message that is repeated in Government Guidance, and one which, in this chapter, we have chosen to emphasise when it occurs.

III.5. The problem for local planners is that, beyond the broad objectives listed at the beginning, PPG 7 gives very little additional guidance as to how sustainable rural development can be identified, assessed, encouraged, monitored and ultimately secured through development plan policies. Having established sustainability as the ‘cornerstone’ of rural policy, PPG7 makes surprisingly few references to it in subsequent chapters and annexes. For example, Chapter 3 of PPG7, entitled ‘Types of Development’, includes eight headings – Agriculture, Rural Business, Tourism, Housing and so on – but there is no mention of sustainable or unsustainable types of development, nor any clarification here, or anywhere else in the PPG, as to what constitute sustainable types of agriculture, rural business or tourism.

III.6. Where there is detailed planning guidance on the subject, this tends to concentrate on how to prevent unsustainable development in the countryside, rather than how to encourage sustainable development. PPG13 on Transport counsels against development away from existing centres in cases where this might increase car use. PPG 9 on Nature Conservation gives ample advice on preventing damaging impacts on designated wildlife habitats, but does not provide any guidance as to what forms of development might have beneficial impacts on wildlife in less pr otected areas.

III.7. This absence of positive guidance has led some planning policy-makers to equate sustainable development in the countryside with ‘no development in the countryside’ and to forge development plan policies which, because they do not distinguish between sustainable and unsustainable forms of rural development, make it difficult for positive experiments in rural sustainable development to gain planning permission.

III.8. This is clearly not the Government’s intention. Paragraph 3.20 of PPG7 states that ‘new development in the open countryside . . . should be strictly controlled’ – not that it should be discouraged or prevented. Paragraph 1.3 states that sustainable development ‘entails accommodating necessary change in rural areas’ and that ‘new development should respect, and where possible enhance, the environment in its location, scale and design.’

III.9. Many of the necessary changes that the Government sees taking place in the open countryside are grouped in PPG 7 under the heading of ‘farm diversification’ – a concept which is given considerable emphasis. Any local planning authority wishing to find Government backing for sustainable land-use policies would be well advised to phrase them within this context.

III.10. Farm diversification is a rural form of mixed use, which is identified in PPG 1 as one of the three basic elements in ‘The Government’s Approach to Planning’: ‘Mixed-use development can help create vitality and diversity and reduce the need to travel. It can be more sustainable than development of a single use. Local authorities should include policies in their development plans to promote and retain mixed uses.’ (PPG 1 para. 8).

III.11. In PPG 7, agricultural diversification is initially described in paragraph 1.7. ‘Environmental objectives are being integrated into agricultural policies. Farmers are increasingly diversifying into other activities to supplement their incomes. Landowners need the flexibility to consider a range of options for the economic use of their land, including non-food crops, planting more woodland, recreation and leisure enterprises, the management of land to provide environmental benefits, and the restoration of damaged landscapes and habitats.’ Further examples of diversification are cited in paragraph 3.4, including specialization in regional and speciality foods and activities such as woodland management, farm shops, sporting facilities, nature trails, craft workshops and holiday accommodation. ‘This provides potential benefits for the local economy and the local environment’, the PPG concludes. ‘Development plans should state the criteria to be applied to applications for farm-based diversification.’

III.12. Further related advice is given in paragraph E8 which states that ‘local planning authorities should consider including in their local plans policies for development on agricultural units of less than 5 hectares’. This is apparently a call from the Government for local plans to address problems relating to the fragmentation of farmland outlined in a 1995 DoE Research Report.20

III.13. The overall message is perhaps not as clearly stated as it should be, but it is clear enough: local planning authorities are advised to draw up policies and criteria relating to new land-based activities, and activities on smaller holdings; and such policies, like all rural policies, should be founded upon the ‘cornerstone’ of sustainability. The details of what is or is not sustainable are to be laid down by local authorities according to ‘the different types of countryside and the economic and social circumstances found in their area’. (para. 1.5)

III.14. This advice is now beginning to be reflected in emerging structure plans. For example, Policy H10 of the Deposit Draft of the Gloucestershire Structure Plan states: ‘proposals for highly sustainable development in rural areas will be permitted where they comply with stringent criteria specified in the Local Plan,’ and goes on to sugg est in the reasoned justification a number of examples of criteria that local plans might include.(see

III.15. The requirement to formulate criteria for sustainable rural development is, in itself, a considerable challenge for local planners. They will need to liaise with their Local Agenda 21 teams and with representatives of organizations in the voluntary sector which have developed considerable expertise in dealing with these issues.21 The criteria listed in Chapter II are presented as a synthesis of current opinion on sustainable rural development.

III.16. The planner’s task, however, goes beyond simply assessing what is sustainable. Planning policies need to be formulated which allow sustainable developments to take place; and conditions and planning obligations will need to be applied to ensure that such developments, once permitted, remain sustainable, and that undesirable developments do not slip through the net.

Model Policy A:

Sustainable Land-Based Economic Activities

Developments associated with agriculture, forestry and other land-based economic activities in the open countryside should be sustainable and should demonstrate that they, and the activities concerned, have a beneficial or minimal adverse impact on the surround ing countryside and its occupants, and on the wider environment.

In judging the sustainability of such development, regard will be had to:

  • ecological management of the site;
  • farming and forestry methods;
  • waste, energy and resource management;
  • the siting and structure of buildings;
  • vehicle use;
  • the impact upon the surrounding community;
  • public access.

Model Policy A refers to all forms of ‘land-based economic activities’;and so covers activities that might come under the heading of ‘agricultural diversification’. The policy does not list criteria, but refers to areas of concern; fuller criteria may either be listed and explained in the plan itself, or in Supplementary Planning Guidance (although in this case they may carry less weight).

The criteria are likely to resemble the criteria relating to sustainable land-use listed on p. xxx. A development aspiring towards sustainability should not necessarily be expected to conform to all of these criteria. They are stringent and represent an ideal. It is for the local planning authority to make a judgment as to how far a proposed development in a given situation may be permitted to fall short of the ideal.

Particular attention needs to be given to proposals which inc lude a significant element of tourist activity upon the land, since they will often require some residential use on site. There is already a demand for low-impact holiday accommodation in the country in association with educational courses or to allow city-dwellers a taste of ‘the simple life’, and this demand is likely to grow. PPG 21, on Tourism, (para. 4.11) states that structure and local plans should adopt a strategic approach to tourism, with respect to its scale, distribution, demand management, traffic generation and environmental impacts. Applications for sustainable or ‘eco-friendly’ tourist-based activities should be scrutinized within the context of this strategy.


Dwellings Associated with Sustainable Land Use: The Policy Context

III.17. Government policies concerning new residences in the open countryside are complex and are articulated in two principal documents, PPG 13 on Transport, and PPG7 on The Countryside.The wording of these policies is often delicate and should be scrutinized with care.


III.18. The central message of PPG 13 is that: “By planning land use and transport together in ways which enable people to carry out their everyday activities with less need to travel, local planning authorities can reduce reliance on the private car and and make a significant contribution to the Government’s Sustainable Development Strategy.” (Para. 1.3)

III.19. PPG 13 goes on to state: “If land-use policies permit continued dispersal of development and a high reliance on the car, other policies to reduce the environmental impact of transport may be less effective or come at a higher cost.” (Para. 1.10) This suggests that dispersed development where there is not a high reliance on the car may be acceptable. There is no suggestion in PPG 13 that dispersed or isolated development is intrinsically linked with increased reliance upon the motor-car. A later section on housing states that the overall strategy, to be reflected in structure plan policies, should be to “avoid sporadic housing development in the open countryside” (para. 3.2). It is important to note that this advice, whilst counselling against a general policy of sporadic housing development, in no way rules out the acceptability of individual isolated dwellings, particularly where it can be shown that there will not be a high reliance on the car. Indeed where an isolated dwelling serves to “enable people to live near their work” (para. 3.5) then this will be a positive argument in its favour.

III.20. Paragraph 3.2 also coun sels against “the development of small new settlements . . . especially where they are unlikely to be well served by public transport.” Again, it is important to observe here that it is not the actual existence of public transport which is relevant, but the likelihood of it existing. Where a small new settlement might generate demand for new public transport, or even (perhaps under the terms of a planning obligation) become the provider of such a service, this could be an argument in its favour.


III.21. PPG7 states that “New house building and other new development in the open countryside away from established settlements or from areas allocated for development in the development plan should be strictly controlled . . . Isolated new houses in the countryside require special justification – for example when they are essential to enable farm or forestry workers to live at or near their place of work” (para. 3.21). There are three important points to observe in the wording of this advice.

III.22. Firstly, it states that isolated rural housing should be strictly controlled, rather than discouraged or prevented.

III.23. Secondly, it states that housing in the open countryside requires special justification – and farm/forestry-worker residence is given as ju st one example. The traditional Country House is – bizarrely – cited as another example (para. 3.21). A third is the rural exceptions policy for affordable housing, described in PPG3. Sustainability is not cited in the PPG as a fourth “special justification”, but it is not precluded and there are several instances where local authorities, appeal inspectors and in at least one case the Secretary of State have considered that the sustainable nature of a residential development justified its being sited in the open countryside.22

III.24. Thirdly, in particular cases concerning farm or forestry worker’s residence, the status of farm/forestry worker may need to be assessed according to the criteria for modern diversified agriculture adopted by the local plan in conformity with paragraph 3.4, (cited above, para. III.10). On many sustainable rural projects there is likely to be a high element of mixed use. Government has left it largely up to the local authority to decide what constitutes agricultural diversification, and hence to decide what constitutes a bona fide agricultural worker.

III.25. Once the status of an agricultural/forestry worker is confirmed – and assuming that there are no other “special justifications” warranting an exception to local policies concerning rural development – then any application for a dwelling will be subject to the advice contained in Annex I of PPG 7. Annex I advises that new dwellings associated with new farming activities should be subject to a three year temporary trial period, with accommodation provided by a caravan, a wooden structure that can be easily dismantled or other temporary accommodation. Applicants are obliged to produce evidence that residence is necessary for the running of the holding and that the enterprise is planned on a “sound financial basis”; but no statutory levels of income have been introduced, and it will be up to the local authority to assess what is financially sound (see p. 25)

III.26. However, should the local authority decide that the activities carried out on the site do not constitute farming or forestry, but instead, for example, could be characterized as “sustainable mixed-use economic activity”, and that these activities constitute a justifiable exception to development plan policies, then in such a case the measures laid down in Annex I do not apply. However the applicant would therefore not automatically benefit from permitted agricultural development rights – or alternatively, existing permitted development rights could be withdrawn, as advised in PPG 7 G8 (see also model condition (C) p. 21)

III.27. The Planning Officers’ Society, in its publication Better Loca l Plans:, gives the following relevant advice:

“There are policies for new housing in rural areas outside [settlements identified in the local plan]. They are:

  • Policies for agricultural and forestry worker’s dwellings, whether permanent     or temporary.
  • Policies for affordable housing.

Beyond these special cases, it is unwise to mention in policy that new housing in the countryside might be permitted in association with any one of a list of specified uses. The crux of policy should be that an applicant should have to demonstrate that it is essential to the efficient operation of any use established or proposed in a rural area that somebody should live at or near the site, rather than in a nearby town or village.”23

III.28. Model Policy B is applicable in cases where a residence is required in association with sustainable land-based activities and where such activities are deemed to fall under the broad heading of agriculture or forestry, and hence are subject to the advice in Annex I of PPG 7.

III.29. Model Policy C is applicable where an application conforms with plan policies for affordable housing and hence is subject to the advice given in Annex A of PPG 3.

III.30. Applications for dwellings in association with sustainable activities which are not deemed to co me under either of these two headings should not, according to the advice given by the Planning Officers’ Society, normally require a separate policy, and therefore we have not formulated a model policy for his purpose.

Model Policy B:

Dwellings Associated with Sustainable Land-Based Activities

Applications for isolated dwellings in the countryside will be permitted where:

[a] It is essential for the proper functioning of the enterprise for one or more workers to be readily available at most times;

[b] There is clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis and with a firm intention and ability to carry it out;

[c] On-site residence will help to minimize rather than increase overall car use;

[d] The dwelling and its services will, as far as is practicable, be sustainably designed in regard to siting, scale, resource use and environmental impact.

[e] Other planning policies, for example on access or design, are satisfied.

Dwellings associated with new sustainable land-based enterprises will initially be granted planning permission for a temporary period of three years.

When assessing functional need, the specific examples given in PPG7 (care of animals and of sensitive crops and site security) do not constitute a comprehensive list. Many smallholdings, permacultural projects and mixed farms involve a diversity of activities which collectively require constant presence on the land, not because of one over-riding need, but because the number of essential daily tasks and unforeseeable minor emergencies make commuting impracticable.24

As regards the “financial test”, there is no statutory definition in planning guidance of what constitutes financial soundness in this context. It should be borne in mind that soundness means that the venture shows no sign of failing – not that it may generate high returns.The income necessary to support a sustainable life-style may not necessarily be very high by conventional standards, particularly if there are no debts to pay.(See Appendix B: South Somerset Draft Policy HG11) Where a guideline is deemed necessary, current levels of income support or its equivalent may be taken as an indication of what the Government considers to be the minimum necessary to support an acceptable lifestyle. ( for fuller discussion of this issue, see note p. xxx).

It should be noted that Annex I of PPG7 states that full-time activity on the site is required for permanent permission, but this is not a requirement for temporary permissi on.

When assessing the transport implications, local authorities should try to establish whether living on site in proximity to the work will involve less car-use than commuting from a nearby village. This will have a bearing, not only upon the sustainability of the project, but also upon financial soundness and functional need.

When assessing the sustainability of the proposed dwelling, regard should be had to the criteria relating to buildings, as detailed in the local plan or in supplementary planning guidance (see criteria 7 to 12 on page xxx)

Three years is the period suggested in PPG7 for temporary permission. The original consultation draft of PPG7 stated five years, and it is not clear why this was reduced in the final version. In many cases the longer period might be preferable.

PPG7 specifies caravans and “wooden structures that can easily be dismantled” as examples of temporary accommodation


Sustainable Affordable Housing: The Policy Context

III.31. As noted above, PPG7 allows for isolated developments in the countryside where there is “special justification”. Annex A of PPG 3 on Housing gives detailed advice upon the constraints to be observed when a local authority is of the opinion that affordabili ty does constitute a special justification; it also emphasises that the case for releasing land which would not normally be subject to planning permission “will be essentially a matter for local judgment” (para. A4). 25

III.32. The matter of sustainability is not referred to in PPG 3, which was last revised in March 1992, before the Rio Summit, but affordable housing in itself is recognized by PPG 7 as contributing to the sustainable objective of improving the viability of villages and reversing the decline of rural services (para. 1.4).

III.33 Agenda 21 Chapter 7A states that “all countries should, as appropriate, support the shelter efforts of the urban and rural poor, the unemployed and the no-income group by adapting and/or adapting existing codes and regulations to facilitate their access to land, finance and low-cost building materials.” The reference to building materials is amplified by the advice in Chapter 7G that “all countries, as appropriate, and in accordance with national plans, objectives and priorities, should . . . develop policies and practices to reach the informal sector and self-help housing builders.” In many European countries self-help accounts for over 40 per cent of housing provision, but in the UK the figure is less than 10 per cent.26 Model Policy C, which allows for affordable housing on economically marginal small-holdings, is highly suitable for self-build projects; in some cases the land itself may provide a source of low-cost low-impact building materials.


Model Policy C: Sustainable Affordable Housing

In considering new dwellings associated with sustainable land-based activities, the council may exceptionally grant permission for a sustainable housing development where the need for land-based occupancy is part-time, seasonal or inconclusive, provided that:

[a] Occupancy is restricted by legal agreement or condition to those meeting the criteria of local need for affordable housing;

[b] The dwelling and its services will, as far as is practicable, be sustainably designed in regard to siting, scale, resource use and environmental impact.

[c] The scale and nature of the dwellings meet the criteria for affordable housing identified in this plan.

This model policy is particularly appropriate for those parts of the countryside where agricultural activity on available holdings can no longer provide an adequate year-round income, or where part-time farmers have traditionally relied on other activities beneficial to the local economy (such as fishing, crafts, light industry or tourism), to supplement their income. It could also be integrated wit h a local plan policy for holdings under 5 hectares (as counselled in PPG7 para. E8). Properly applied, such a policy would enable local people, particularly younger people who might otherwise leave the locality, to maintain otherwise uneconomic holdings in an environmentally sound manner, to contribute to the local economy, and to acquire affordable housing at no cost to the local authority.

Some authorities might prefer to incorporate elements of this model policy into their main policy for affordable housing.

Some Model Conditions and Planning Obligations

III.34. Local authorities may wish to impose conditions or Section 106 Agreements in order to guarantee that the development achieves and maintains the standards to which it aspires. Section 106 Agreements may also provide a way of securing wider environmental and countryside benefits.

III.35. The problems of ensuring that an initially sustainable project does not lapse into an unsustainable or speculative development are similar to the problems of ensuring that an affordable residential development stays affordable, or that an agricultural venture remains such, and similar planning mechanisms are involved. The following are presented as possible models.

[a] The occupation of the dwelling shall be l imited to persons solely or mainly engaged in sustainable land-based activity upon the site and gaining a significant proportion of their income from such activities, or retired through age or ill health from such activity on the site, or a widower or widow of such a person, and any resident dependents.

This is based on the occupancy condition recommended in PPG7 paragraph I. 17. As well as securing agricultural occupancy, the condition is also designed to discourage, though not absolutely preclude, the use of the dwelling as a secondary residence. It would normally be difficult to satisfy the condition of being “solely or mainly engaged in land-based activities on the site” if the dwelling in question were not the principal place of residence. However exceptionally there may be circumstances, particularly during the initial three year period, where a gradual transition to full-time operation of the site imposes the use of two residences.

[b] 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.

This is a formulation of a planning obligation tying buildings to land recommended in PPG7 “so as to discourage the subsequent fragmentation of the agricultural unit” where re-use of agricultural building s is associated with farm diversification (para. G.9.).

[c] Permitted development rights for the alteration or extension of the dwelling house / for development within the curtilage of the dwelling house / for agricultural buildings are withdrawn to ensure that the enterprise maintains the standards outlined in the application.

A similar condition is recommended in PPG7, paragraph G8, in connection with grants of planning permission for the re-use of agricultural buildings.

[d] The development shall not commence or continue except in accordance with a management plan approved and, where appropriate, reviewed by the local planning authority.

Such a management plan might include: a biological survey, landscape and wildlife conservation measures, provisions for public access, a business plan etc. Both the Lowland Crofting developments in West Lothian and the Hockerton sustainable housing project were granted permission subject to planning obligations tying the development to a management plan. Planning obligations tying a development to a management plan are attractive for local authorities seeking to achieve wider environmental or countryside benefits.27

[e] No more than x licensed road vehicles shall be operated from the site.

Such an undertaking was imposed, as part of a Section 106 agreement, by the Inspector when he recommended planning permission in the appeal by Tinker’s Bubble; the local planning authority (South Somerset District Council) submitted that it was unenforceable, but the Inspector disagreed. The appeal was called in by the Secretary of State who overturned the Inspector’s decision, although not on transport grounds.28 When formulating the wording of such conditions or legal agreements, planners should bear in mind the ambiguous status of tractors. Other possible conditions and agreements relating to transport are discussed on p. xxx.

Other Means of Regulating Sustainable Developments

III.36. Besides conditions and planning obligations, there are a wide variety of other powers which a local council may call upon to secure low or beneficial environmental impact, such as those available under the Assessment of Environmental Effects Regulations (1988), the Environmental Protection Act (1990), and the Wildlife and Countryside Act (1981). It is also worth citing two non-statutory procedures available to local planning authorities which wish ensure that a sustainable development remains sustainable.

Trusts and Co-operatives

III.37. The first is to encourage the applicant to invest the land in a trust, a co-op erative, a housing association or another public body that will guarantee that the sustainable aims of the development cannot be subverted by any future owner or occupier. A similar approach in relation to affordable housing is elegantly described in paragraph 43 of PPG3: “The best way of ensuring that affordable housing will be enjoyed by successive as well as initial occupiers of property is by the involvement of a housing association or other social body (e.g. a trust) providing housing for rent or shared ownership; the body’s continuing interest in the property will ensure control over subsequent changes of ownership and occupation.” Similarly, such bodies can help to ensure that a sustainable development will remain sustainable through successive changes of ownership or tenure. There remains, of course, the worry that the trust itself may, over time, change its aims. However, in the case of a charitable trust, it is entirely possible to make legal arrangements so that its constitution cannot be changed without the consent of the Charity Commissioners, or indeed without the consent of the local authority.

Legal Agreements Outside the Planning System

III.38. Local Planning Authorities are given a number of mechanisms, through the planning acts, by which they can secure conditions and ob ligations relating to the maintenance of a given property. However both planning conditions and Section 106 Planning Obligations are subject to appeal, and some planners do not have confidence in their long-term effectiveness. Some local planning authorities have entered into independent legal agreements, uncircumscribed by the appeal procedures relating to planning mechanisms, with the owner of a site, or with a body entrusted with its management. Newbury District Council has entered into a number of such agreements which stipulate, for example, that should the development fail to achieve certain objectives, the site should be returned to its original condition, or even that the local authority would have an option to purchase. Newbury DC has also persuaded some developers to enter into restrictive covenants with the Council. For these covenants to be effective the Council needs to own land in the vicinity, and in some cases, as part of the package, land on the edge of the site in question has been ceded to the Council to manage as a small nature reserve.

III.39. Some local authorities may not have come across such mechanisms before. Objections have been raised that such agreements are not publicly accountable (and hence open to abuse); or that planners should not seek to circumvent the planning system but instead strive to formulate robust conditions and Section 106 Agreements which stand up at appeal. On the other hand, where a local council wishes to see a development take place subject to proper controls, but is fearful that the mechanisms available under the 1990 Town and Country Planning Act cannot be made watertight, these solutions may prove attractive. If, in the future, they are commonly used to secure the sustainability of specific developments, it would suggest that the planning system is not fully equipped to address the problem.


IV Using the Criteria

IV.1. Although, as we stated in the Introduction , the fifteen criteria are designed to be used or referred to by a wide spectrum of professionals, much attention in this report has been directed towards the concerns of planners and the emphasis of present planning policy. This is because it is only with the encouragement and assent of the planning system that sustainable forms of land-use can be implemented on any scale, and controlled with any effectiveness.

IV.2. However the planning profession is unlikely to be in the front-line of those encouraging sustainable rural developments of the kind envisaged here. The planning system is (with some justification) cautious and conservative, a nd the complex and lengthy process of forging structure and local plans almost guarantees that planners will lag behind many other elements of society in their approach to social change.

IV.3. It is much more likely that these criteria, or something like them, will initially be taken up by those who play a more proactive role in land management: farmers and foresters, community developers, architects, designers, and funding bodies. It is when the endeavours of these people become translated into applications for planning permission that the planning system will have to take note. It will not then be sufficient for planners, whether they specialize in forward planning or development control, to bury their heads in the sand and argue that sustainability is “extremely difficult to define in any precise sense”. Sustainability can be, and has been, defined.

IV.4. That is not to claim that the criteria for sustainable rural land-use presented here are in any way definitive (although we believe that they come as close to being so as is feasible). Attitudes and scientific opinion will change over time; details are open to debate and wording to interpretation. Our aim has been to reflect, as accurately as possible within a limited space, the current climate of opinion within the international community on these questions, the o bjectives laid down at the Rio Earth Summit, the moves made in this direction by the British Government, and the experiences of practising land managers. Our hope is that this will provide a platform for mediation between the idealism of pioneers and the circumspection of planners.

IV.5. There is one potential mechanism which could underwrite this platform: an independent certification system. A need will emerge for an organization competent to assess the sustainability of proposed or existing projects according to agreed criteria. Planners cannot be expected to be experts in sustainability (any more than they are at present expected to be experts in agricultural viability), and they will need to refer to a competent body for assessment and monitoring (just as they presently refer to ADAS or the county land surveyor for agricultural expertise). Certification has already proved a useful way of monitoring organic agriculture and environmental building techniques (see note p. xxx) and it is not difficult to envisage an umbrella agency which liaised with these existing and emerging certificatory bodies to supply a more comprehensive assessment of sustainability. A stamp of approval from such a body might carry weight not only with planners but also with potential funders or investors. In this respect a certification body could p lay a very useful facilitating role, since any project attracting funding would be more convincing for planners, and any project with planning permission would be more convincing for funders.

IV.6. However a certification body is perhaps some way ahead, and at this stage we do not feel the need to do more than suggest the idea. The most pressing task is to achieve a degree of consensus between those working in the field and those working in council offices, as to what rural sustainability really means; and from this consensus, to build a public conception of the countryside, not just as somewhere that ought to be better protected from abuse, but as a place where human activities can flourish and prosper in harmony with nature. We hope that the criteria presented in this document will contribute towards this process.

V Explanatory Notes

Land-Based Activity

For the purposes of these criteria, the phrase “land-based activities” means activities which are centred around the use of resources grown, reared or occurring naturally on the site in question, or in the local neighbourhood, and which enable the occupiers to obtain all or part of their livelihood.

These activities can be divided in to two main categories (see table 1):

  • primary activities which involve the growing, rearing, harvesting, capture or extraction of primary products (such as crops, meat, timber or stone);
  • secondary activities which involve the processing of primary products (for example the manufacture of bread, sausages, sawn timber or stone birdbaths).

Many primary activities come under the heading of “agriculture” as defined in Section 336(1) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990, whilst others will fall under the headings of forestry, or mineral extraction.

Many secondary activities can be grouped under the heading “farm diversification” as described in PPG7, Annex C . The annex states that “On farm food-processing adds value to farm produce and increases local employment opportunities. Small operations , especially those processing mostly local produce housed in farm buildings, including re-used ones and small purpose built ones, should be encouraged.” The same reasoning, presumably, applies to the processing of non-food products derived from agriculture, forestry and other land-based activities.

In this respect it is likely that many applications for sustainable rural developments will involve a strong element of mixed use farm diversification. In some cases, it may be difficul t to determine to what extent the multiple activities are land-based. For example a fruit farm producing preserves from its own fruit will initially require only sugar and packaging to be delivered to the site; but seasonal shortages may require the importation of fruit from elsewhere to meet demand; or the enterprise may expand its range to cover fruits that cannot be grown on site. An identical problem is identified in PPG7 para C17 in relationship to farm shops.

It may be helpful for local authorities and others to assess developments according to a hierarchy of land-based use, ranging from production of primary products at the top, to the provision of services that have no connection with land-based activities at all at the other end of the scale. (see table 2)


Land- Based Activities

This is intended to show the range of activities which can be considered to be “land-based”, and which may be carried out in an environmentally sustainable (or very nearly sustainable) manner in rural situations.

Table is not available on the website (it is, however, on the hard copy- available from the Chapter 7 office)



Hierarchy of Land-Based Use

1 The production of primary produce such as crops or timber grown on site or rearing of animals on home produced feed.

2 On-farm processing of on-site produce (possibly together with produce from neighbouring farms).

3 On-farm services directly related to the use of the land such as farm holidays, recreational horse services and educational courses.

4 On-farm processing of produce from neighbouring farms; on-farm services related to local land-use, such as farriery or agricultural contracting.

5 Services, not related to land-use, but serving the local community, such as nursing or recycling.

6 On-farm processing of produce imported from other regions or from abroad. Intensive livestock units entirely dependent upon imported feeds may be placed under this category.

7 Activities pursued on the site that have no connection with land-use or the local community whatsoever, such as mail-order services for goods manufactured elsewhere.

In a mixed use development, a preponderance of activities near the top of this list would indicate a high level of land-based use, whereas a preponderance of activities near the bottom of the list would indicate a low level of land-based use and call into question the need for the development to be sited on the land.

The Financial Test

Current guidance in PPG 7, Annex I, states that applications for new agricultural dwellings associated with new farm activities should provide clear evidence that the proposed enterprise has been planned on a sound financial basis. No statutory definition of financial soundness has been provided and local authorities are left to make their own assessment. Sometimes this is based upon the agricultural minimum wage of something over £8,000 per annum, in other cases local authorities have required applicants to demonstrate net profits in the region of £15,000 per annum.

These targets are much too high for many applicants who wish to live a simple sustainable lifestyle, and who can provide for many of their needs with the produce of their land. Moreover, within the context of present economic conditions, most forms of land management are not viable, including the majority of conventional farms, which are massively subsidized through the Common Agricultural Policy. It would often not be reasonable to demand that an agricultural enterprise not benefiting from these hand-outs should be totally financially self-sustaining, nor that the occupants should not seek some of their income or capital expenditure outside the property.

Where some numerical measure of viability is deemed necessary, current levels of income support, or their equivalent, may be used as a guideline. Social security benefits are set by the Department of Social Security at a level which is sufficient to acquire an acceptable, if basic, standard of living, and there is no reason why these levels should not apply to those aspiring to live on and work land.

A subsidiary problem for some applicants has been that home produce produced on site has been valued by ADAS at farm-gate prices, rather than retail prices. However the principal economic advantage of subsistence production lies in the fact that negligible distribution costs compensate for the inefficiencies of small-scale production. It is clear that any produce consumed by the occupants of the holding has a value, to them, equivalent to the retail price of that produce. Any subsistence produce should therefore be valued on this basis.

Local authorities should bear in mind that income is not the only way of assessing financial soundness. Other indicators of financial soundness include: low levels of consumption and expenditure; multiple activities which spread the risk of failure; no loans to pay off; and the ability to live and work on the site year-round. If occupants can derive livelihoods from full-time presence on a site which is financially secure, then the project will be financially sound, even if the income is close to zero.

Some local authorities and inspectors are becoming aware of these issues. South Somerset DC have inserted guidance to this effect in the deposit draft of the local plan (see Appendix B) and in 1998, a horticulturalist, who had been living on his holding in South Somerset for over 15 years as a “seasonal worker”, was finally awarded planning permission on the basis of an income of £30 per week. In 1994, an inspector allowed a mobile home on a smallholding in Cornwall on the grounds that normal methods of assessing viability did not in this case apply.29

Ecological Footprint

Any assessment of the sustainability of a given area should take into account its ecological footprint This involves drawing up a balance sheet of all the goods produced, consumed, imported and exported by the community; these sums are calculated, not, as would normally be the case, in financial terms, but in the amount of acres required to produce these goods. Any community that required more acres to supply its needs than it actually possessed would be in a state of “deficit”: this shortfall, which is sometimes called “Acquired Carrying Capacity” (ACC), must be supplied by land from other communities. According to one source :

“Provisional data for Greater Manchester (the City and surrounding rural areas) suggests this large community requires an Acquired Carrying Capacity of at least ten times its own area. Much of a community’s ACC will be overseas and consequently out of sight and out of mind. Methods of production used overseas to resource the community can be both eco-destructive and oppressive, but largely invisible.” 30

The concept of Acquired Carrying Capacity is borrowed from the work of US agronomist George Borgstrom, who used the more evocative term “ghost acres”. Borgstrom cited the UK, Germany, Japan, the Netherlands and Italy as countries heavily dependent upon ghost acres, maintaining that the UK “farmed” two ghost acres abroad for every acre under the plough in Britain itself.31 The concept of ghost acres does not only apply to agriculture. Britain has so neglected its forests that it is dependent upon timber harvested unsustainably in Indonesia, Canada and elsewhere; and it has become so protective about its own countryside that it imports minerals such as iron and coal from open cast mines in countries such as Brazil, Colombia and South Africa.

Precise calculation of the ecological footprint of every sustainable rural project is not a practical proposition, but the wider environmental impacts of a project should constantly be borne in mind when assessing its sus tainability – and the concept of a “footprint” can help to bring a clearer focus upon these issues. Many of the criteria listed in Chapter II, including those covering car-use, waste management, energy conservation and sustainable husbandry are designed to ensure that the project restricts itself to consumption patterns “which can be attained by all within the bounds of the ecologically possible”. 32

One other aspect connected with the ecological footprint is worth highlighting here. In some quarters sustainable agriculture has been mistakenly identified with extensive agriculture. While certain extensive forms of husbandry, such as light grazing regimes or non-commercial woodland, may be ecologically benign for the immediate environment, they may also be of dubious value for the global environment if the goods that might have been produced on the site are instead imported from parts of the globe where resources are in high demand, people are deprived or the environment is being degraded. In some situations extensive forms of husbandry may well be the most appropriate form of management, but in many other cases the most sustainable course will be to develop, on smaller areas, highly productive forms of agriculture or permaculture which simultaneously enhance and enrich the natural environment.

Minimizing Car Use

Proposals for developments in the open countryside, and particularly developments with a residential element, will need to demonstrate how the project will minimize car use. They can do this in a number of ways.

(i) Reducing Commuting

The occupiers may be able to demonstrate that, by living where they work, they will be driving less than they would if they were commuting to their work from a nearby village. This may be particularly true in the case of people who have to feed animals twice a day, or tend to greenhouses. However it should be borne in mind that this may be offset to some degree by an increased demand for recreational car use.

(ii) Providing a Choice of Modes

The project should show how access to facilities, such as shops, schools and entertainment, can be provided without the use of a car. This may be achieved by foot, bicycle, horse or public transport, or by a combination. In many circumstances, the use of a moped will provide a preferable alternative to the use of a car .

(iii) Using Delivery Services

The project should explore the extent to which delivery services for incoming goods can offer an alternative to making dedicated journeys by car.

(iv) Efficient Distribution of Produce

The project should sell and distribute its produce in wa ys that do not generate excessive traffic. Local markets, affiliation to a local co-operative, or subscriber “box” schemes are all likely to be more transport efficient than a farm shop, except where the shop is largely dependent on passing trade.

(v) Distancing

Proposals should give consideration to the distances from which incoming materials are to be sourced, and over which produce is to be distributed. Economic integration with the local economy, in preference to the wider or international economy, will involve less transport.

(vi) Restricting Car Access to the Site

This may involve restricting motor-vehicle use on site to a single car park, or restricting the car park space available (although great care should be taken to ensure that this does not result in visitors parking down the road).

(vii) Restrictions upon the Number of Vehicles

The project may undertake to limit the number of cars operated from the site – or indeed to operate no car at all. Such an undertaking may be made subject to a Section 106 agreement.

(viii) Provision of Car-Share Facilities

In larger projects, such as communities, or groups of sustainable developments, there may well be opportunities to establish car share schemes or car hire schemes, which would eliminate the need for private car ownership. Such schemes are, in effect, embryonic forms of public transport. Again such undertakings may be made subject to a Section 106 Agreement.

The burden of limiting car use and establishing a sustainable rural transport system should not, however, be left entirely to pioneers of sustainable rural lifestyles. It is not, after all, their fault that the rural railway network was demolished in the 1960s and 1970s and then built over. Sustainable rural transport is primarily the responsibility of the local authority and of the community at large. Local authorities should be examining ways in which public transport systems can be supported and extended, and means of improving facilities in outlying districts.

In particular, local authority planners should be looking at how best to ensure that sustainable developments which minimize car use can rekindle the demand for public transport and village facilities and make them more viable. There is much to be gained from elaborating development plan policies that tend to concentrate sustainable developments in certain appropriate areas. The clustering of sustainable and low-impact developments in pockets of marginal and fragmented farmland or around “farm villages” will quickly create new village facilities and demand for public transport.


The concept of certification for sustainable practices has been pioneered in the UK by the organic agriculture movement, but has spread into other fields. Certification is primarily designed to enable discriminating consumers to identify products, but it can also be helpful for those whose job it is to assess projects. There are several certification systems operating in the UK which guarantee that their members abide by sustainable principles.

The Soil Association, UKROFS, Organic Farmers and Growers, and the Biodynamic Association ( the Demeter symbol) all prescribe standards for agriculture that not only preclude the use of chemical inputs, but are also written to encourage good practice in soil, crop and livestock husbandry. Certification with one of these organizations can significantly increase the marketability of produce and the price obtained for it. The Soil Association and UKROFS are supported by MAFF, which provides grants for conversion to organic production.

The Permaculture Association advocates a holistic approach to land management which attempts to create a balanced ecosystem within the holding and to integrate the enterprise into the local environment and economy; chemical usage is not encouraged but is deemed acceptable in certain circumstances. The Permaculture Association does not operate a certification system, but issues diplomas to those who have qualified in the theoretical and practical application of its principles.

The Forestry Stewardship Council, based in Mexico, operates a worldwide certification system for sustainable forestry enterprises. Two FSC approved systems are operative in Britain: the Qualifor symbol, administered by SGS, and the Woodmark symbol, operated by the Soil Association. Affiliation to either of these schemes is expensive for a small enterprise. Consequently, while certification may be taken as an indication that the enterprise is operating sustainably, lack of certification does not necessarily imply that the enterprise is not being operated sustainably.

BREEAM (the Building Research Establishment Environment Assessment Method) sets standards for environmental performance in buildings. However the scheme is directed principally at improving the performance of potentially high impact development, rather than endorsing dedicated low-impact projects, and the price of affiliation restricts accessibility to larger companies and Government projects. The Association for Environment-Conscious Building operates a more accessible scheme under the SPEC (Sustainable Projects Endorsement Certificate) symbol. This scheme takes into account many aspects of the building project, including appropriateness, materials, energy, waste, land-use and enhancement of the site’s ecology.

With all such schemes it is necessary to bear in mind that while certification gives a useful assurance that a project complies with certain standards, no weight should be attached to non-certification. The fact that a project is not certified in no way suggests that it cannot comply with a given set of standards: it is equally likely that the operators of a non-certified project cannot afford certification, are unwilling to deal with the paperwork, are unaware of the scheme, are indifferent to it, or even are ideologically opposed to the concept of certification. Certification operates successfully as a voluntary measure and as a market mechanism – a carrot rather than a stick.

Low Embodied Energy

The term ’embodied energy’ refers to the amount of energy which a particular material takes to produce. Straw and wood have a low embodied energy; the embodied energy of brick, tile and slate is higher; and that of metal is higher still. Within these broad categories there are further distinctions. For instance, locally produced timber has a lower embodied energy than timber brought in from some distance. Rough-sawn timber has a lower embodied energy than prepared, or planed, timber. Coppice timbe r has a lower embodied energy than plantation timber, where trees must be replaced by replanting. And reclaimed timber has a lower embodied energy than new timber. The material with the lowest embodied energy is likely to be earth extracted from the foundations of the building in which it is used. Low embodied energy is especially important with temporary structures, less important with long-lasting ones.

The following table giving approximate values for the embodied energy of different materials is taken from Eco-Renovation: The Ecological Home Improvement Guide, by Edward Harland.33

Construction Material Energy Units Used in Production


  •     Sawn Timber 1  
  •     Brick 4  
  •     Cement 5  
  •     Plastic 6  
  •     Glass 14  
  •     Steel 24  
  •     Aluminium 126  
  •     Straw bales, thatch, unsawn timber, cob, and wattle and daub are all likely     to have a value of considerably less than 1.

  • Appendix     A:

Excerpt from Gloucestershire Structure Plan Deposit Draft

Policy H10 Proposals for highly sustainable development in rural areas will be permitted where they comply with stringent criteria specified in the local plan.

6.5.25. …Policy H10 provides opportunities for genuinely sustainable development which, by implication, is land-based and therefore rural. It is not the intention of Policy H10 to preclude innovative housing solutions in urban areas, but as these do not require a specific policy at the strategic level they should not need to be treated exceptionally.

6.5.26. …Government Guidance, outlined in PPG’s 3, 7, 13, and RPG 10, states that housing development in the countryside, away from open settlements, should be strictly controlled in order to safeguard the countryside and not increase car use. Rural development is usually seen as being incompatible with sustainability objectives. Therefore, within the existing framework, applications for innovative, highly sustainable development proposals may be refused permission. However where the development proposal delivers social and environmental goods this view may be challenged.

6.5.27. …Where a development proposal genuinely intends to enact the principle of living in the countryside, in a way which uses few environmental resources, is not car dependent and positively enhances the diversity and character of the local area, then it should be permitted.

6.5.28. …Certain types of low environmental impact housing may be justified on the grounds of environmental and social sustainability, and may meet affordable housing needs in the countryside without the need for any form of financial subsidy.

6.5.29. To ensure that Policy H10 does not lead to inappropriate development in the countryside, local plans should include careful and locally applicable criteria. These must ensure that the resulting development conforms to extremely high standards in terms of environmental impact. These criteria need to be stricter than those applied to conventional development and might include the following types of requirements: the development must be based on Permaculture principles; temporary (thereby not sterilising the land resource that it uses); self-built of local or recycled building materials; highly energy efficient in its design; independent from mains servicing in respect of energy supply, water supply, surface water drainage, sewage and waste treatment; partly self-sufficient in terms of food provision; and contributing to the maintenance and enhancement of tree and woodland cover, both to ensure the conservation of the natural beauty of the landscape and to contribute to wider sustainability goals.

6.5.30. This list is intended to be neither comprehensive nor prescriptive, but to describe the types of criteria which could be used to determine an application for genuinely low-impact development. In addition the proposal should be considered in the light of ways in which conditions or planning obligations might be used to secure low environmental impact development and environmental improvements.

Appendix B

Excerpt from the South Somerset Deposit Draft Local Plan (1998)

This policy applies mainly to residential sites and seems to be intended for bender settlements and similar – hence the emphasis on removal and regeneration; but paragraph 11.44 is of particular interest in this context since it refers to applications for sites where there is an element of agricultural activity.

Policy HG11

Proposals for Low Impact Dwelling Sites will be permitted provided that:

(1) All structures are temporary, are not visually intrusive and their removal will allow regeneration of the site.

(2) Vehicle movements, noise, fumes or any subsidiary business activities would not harm the residential amenities of neighbouring dwellings or the character of the area.

(3) The site is reasonably well related to schools and other community facilities.

(4) No serious highway problem would result.

(5) The site includes the following facilities:

(i) A refuse collect ion point; (ii) Access to a drinking water supply; (iii) A satisfactory means of sewage disposal/management.

11.44 The District Council has previously received applications for low impact dwellings in conjunction with agriculture/permaculture proposals. Proposals for permanent structures connected with agricultural use will be considered under usual countryside/housing policies. When agricultural use is submitted as part of an application, applicants will be expected to demonstrate that it is sustainable and viable to support all persons concerned. However it should be borne in mind that the income sought to sustain this lifestyle will be considerably less than is sought through mainstream agriculture to maintain more conventioal lifestyles.



1. PPG 1 General Policy and Principles, HMSO,1997; PPG7 The Countryside – Environmental Quality and Economic and Social Development, HMSO,1997.

2. Chant and Others v.SSE and South Somerset District Council, May 1996.

3. Agenda 21, Chapter 32 states: “a farmer centred approach is the key to the attainment of sustainability in both developed and developing countries and many of the programme areas in Agenda 21 address this objective.” The word farmer, in this context, is defined as “peop le who derive their livelihood from activities such as farming, fishing and forest harvesting.”

4. The Rio Declaration and an abridged version of the text of Agenda 21 is available in Earth Summit ’92, The Regency Press Corporation, London, 1992. The full text of Agenda 21 is available from the United nations

5. Eg, Harvey, G., The Killing of the Countryside, Jonathan Cape, 1997.

6. CPRE, Rural Roulette, September 1996. For detailed research on this question consult the bibliography in Rural Roulette. PPG7, para 1.4, acknowledges a “general decline in rural services”.

7. Land Use Consultants and Countryside Planning and Management, Planning Controls over Agricultural and Forestry Development and Rural Building Conversions, DoE Research Report, HMSO, 1995. See also Fairlie, S., Low Impact Development, Jon Carpenter 1996, p.40.

8. This is no coincidence. Historian Joan Thirsk has shown recently that when prices for mainstream agricultural products stagnate, demand rises for alternative products and enterprising farmers seize these opprtunities. Thirsk, J., Alternative Agriculture, Oxford 1997.

9. For instance improved grants for organic farmers, local authority support for farmers markets, EU objective 5b grants, the proposed shift in the CAP from production subsidies to farm support, and increases in carbon taxes.

10. DETR, Access to the Open Countryside in England and Wales, Consultation Paper, HMSO, 1998.

11. Monbiot, G., “Conservation by Rights” in Barnett, A. and Scruton, R. (eds), Town and Country, (uncorrected proof), Jonathon Cape, 1998.

12. Shoard, M., This Land is Our Land, Paladin, 1987.

13. PPG7, paragraphs 1.3., and 2.10.

14. PPG 23 Planning and Pollution Control, HMSO,1994, para 1.31 and PPG 24 Planning and Noise,1994 Annex 7 para 2, .

15. Fairlie, S., (op. cit.7) p.59.

16. Making Waste Work: the UK Strategy on Sustainable Waste Management, HMSO,1995.

17. For a detailed study of autonomous services see: Building Services Research and Information Association, Sustainable Housing – Options for Independent Energy, Water Supply and Sewerage, BSRIA 1997.

18. This Common Inheritance: The Third Year Report, HMSO, 1993.

19. Rural England: A Nation Committed to a Living Countryside, Government White Paper, HMSO, 1995.

20. Land Use Consultants, (op.cit. 7).

21. PPG 9 Nature Conservation, para 20.

22. Hockerton, five earth-sheltered, terraced houses with autonomous services and associated smallholding activities, Newark and Sherwood DC, 1994; Avoncliffe Square, Bradford on Avon, earth-sheltered dwelling in green belt, recommended for refusal by inspect or but allowed by Secretary of State, SW/P/5411/220/5, 6 Feb 1995; Brickhurst Farm, Pembury, Kent, caravan on Permaculture holding, allowed by inspector, T/APP/M2270/A/94/241023/P2, 5 January 1995; Tir Penrhos Isaf, permaculture holding in Snowdonia National Park, 1991.

23. Planning Officer’s Society,Better Local Plans: A Guide to Writing Effective Policies, 1997. Gypsy sites are another kind of development for which policies are advised (DoE Circular 1/94) Policy HG11 of the South Somerset deposit draft local plan (see Appendix B) may be applied to agricultural, affordable or traveller’s housing, but is not necessarily related to any of these uses. Government Office of the South West have objected to this policy on the grounds that there is not sufficient justification for including it.

24. In some cases appeal inspectors have taken a broader interpretation of functional need. The Inspector in the Brickhurst Farm, Pembury appeal (op. cit. 21) observed “for Permaculture, the farmer should live on his land, and this should not be judged only on produce and livestock . . . I find that this, coupled with [support from ADAS, the NFU and an organic horticultural advisor], the husbandry needs of the flocks of hens and the remoteness of the location, together justify residence on the holding, which otherwise could not be esta bished or operated.” In the Tinker’s Bubble appeal, the Inspector “agreed with the Inspector at Pembury that . . . such a project should not be judged by the criteria of a normal farm . . . The alternative lifestyle and the form of the agriculture are, from the evidence presented, manifestly part of the one experiment. It therefore follows that the Appellants, if they are to make this experiment, need to live on their land in the countryside.” The Secretary of State agreed with the Inspector in this respect: “It is accepted that your clients would have to reside on site to have any chance of achieving their aims.” (Tinker’s Bubble, APP/R3325/A/94/244042, 17 August 1995.)

25. See also DETR Circular 06/98, para. 2.6.

26. Duncan, S, and Rowe, A., Self Help: The World’s Hidden Housing Arm, Centre for Urban and Regional Research, Sussex University, August 1992.

27. The Countryside Commission recommends the use of planning obligations “to secure countryside benefits” and to “help meet wider environmental and social objectives. Countryside Commission, Planning for Countryside Quality, Policy Statement, 1998. Lowland Crofting is an authority led initiative to subdivide uneconomic farms into smallholdings, and use the profits to achieve landscape improvements, in particular extensive tree planting (West Lothian DC). For Hockerton, see op.cit. 21.

28. Chant and Others v.SSE and South Somerset District Council, May 1996.

29. Coppergon, Par, Cornwall, T/APP/C/93/Q0830/629612, 17 March 1994.

30. Community Council of Devon, Designed Visions and Devon County Council, Developing Sustainable Communities: A Fieldworker’s Manual, Part 1, 1995, p.20.

31. Borgstrom N., The Hungry Planet: The Modern World at the Edge of Famine, Collier MacMillan, 1972. See also Wackernagel, M. and Rees, W., Our Ecological Footprint, New Society Publishers, Canada, 1996.

32. UNCED, Agenda 21, “Introduction to Overview”, 1992.

33. Harland, E., The Ecological Home Improvement Guide, Green Books, 1993.


A bibliography listing a worthwhile fraction of the literature available on the subject of rural sustainability is beyond the scope of this document. Readers seeking further information on a given subject are advised to contact appropriate organizations in the list given on the following page. Most of these organizations publish magazines, reports or books, and many offer a book order service.

The following publishers and mail-order companies specialize in relevant literature.

HMSO Publications Centre, for all Government publications, inclu ding Planning Policy Guidances and DoE and DETR circulars; PO Box 276, London SW8 5DT, 071 873 0011.

Earthscan Publications Limited, 120 Pentonville Road, London N1 9JN, 0171 278 0433.

Jon Carpenter Publishing, The Spendlove Centre, Charlbury, Chipping Norton, OX7 3PQ, 01608 811969.

Ecologic Books, 19 Maple Grove, Bath, BA2 3AF, 01225 484472 (send s.a.e. for catalogue).

Some Relevant Organizations

  • Action with Communities in Rural England (ACRE), Somerford Court, Somerford Road, Cirencester, Glos, GL7 1TU; 01285 653477.
  • Action for Sustainable Rural Communities, (Rod Hughes)Nichol Armstrong Lowe, 3 Crowns Yard, Penrith, Cumbris, CA11 7PH; 01768 863812.
  • Architects and Engineers for Social Responsibility, (Martin Quick) The Old Rectory, Walkley Hill, Stroud, Glos, GL5 3TY.
  • Association for Environment Conscious Building, Nant-y-Garreg, Saron, Llandysul, Carmarthenshire, SA44 5EJ; 01559 370908.
  • British Earth Sheltering Association, (Peter Carpenter) Caer Llan Berm House, Lydart, Monmouth, Gwent, NP5 4JJ; 01600 860359.
  • Building Services Research and Information Association (BSRIA), Old Bracknell Lane West, Bracknell, Berks RG 12 7AH, 01344 426511.
  •     Centre for Alternative Technology, Machynleth, SY20 9AZ, 01654 702400.  
  • The Cornerhouse, (briefings on international environmental issues including food and farming), PO Box 3137, Station Road, Sturminster Newton, Dorset DT10 1YJ; 01258 473795.
  •     Common Ground, (work on local distinctiveness), PO Box 25309, London NW5,     0171 267 2144.  
  •     Council for the Protection of Rural England, Warwick House, 25 Buckingham     Palace Road, SW1W 0PP; 0171 976 6433.  
  • Countryside Commission (Planning for Sustainable Development Unit) John Dower House, Crescent Place, Cheltenham Glos, GL50 3RA; 01242 521381.
  •     The Ecological Design Association; The British School, Slad Road, Stroud,     Glos, GL5 1QW; 01453 765575.  
  •     The Ecologist, Unit 18, Chelsea Wharf, 15 Lots Road, London SW10 0QJ; 0171     351 3578.  
  •     Ecovillage Network UK, The Create Centre, B Bond Warehouse, Smeaton Road,     Bristol BS1 6XN, 0117 929 7283.  
  •     The Forestry Authority, Gt Eastern House, Tenison Road, Cambridge, CB12DU.  
  •     Friends of the Earth, 26-28 Underwood Street, London, N1 7JQ; 0171 490 1555.  
  •     Irish Ecovillage Information Network (Mieke and Stephan Wik) Streamstown,     Westport, Co Mayo; 098 28423.  
  • Joseph Rowntree Foundation, (reports and briefings on housing issues) The Homestead, 40 Water End, York, YO3 6LP, 01904 629241.
  • Local Government Management Board (Local Agenda 21 Project Officer) Arndale House, Arndale Centre, Luton, Beds; 01582 451166
  •     The Land Is Ours,Box E, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RQ; 01865 722016.  
  •     Low Impact News, Middlewood, Roeburndale West, Lancaster LA2 8QX; 015242     21880.  
  •     The National Trust, 33 Sheep Street, Cirencester, Glos GL7 1RQ; 01285 651818.  
  • The Planning Officers’ Society, D. Pinney (secretary), Director of Planning, Torridge DC, Riverbank House, Devon, EX39 2QG, 01237 476711
  •     The Permaculture Association, PO Box 1, Buckfastleigh, Devon, TQ11 0LH; 01654     712188.  
  •     Reforesting Scotland, 21a Coates Crescent, Edinburgh EH3 7AF; 0131 226 2496.  
  •     The Royal Town Planning Institute, 26 Portland Place, London W1N 4BE; 0171     636 9107.  
  •     Royal Society for the Protection of Birds, The Lodge, Sandy Beds SG19; 01767     680550.  
  •     The Soil Association, Bristol House, 40-56 Victoria Street, BS1 6BY; 0117     929 0661.  
  •     The Town and Country Planning Association, 17, Carlton House Terrace, London     SW1Y 5AS, 0171 930 8903.  
  •     The Wildlife Trusts, The Green, Wi tham Park, Waterside South, Lincoln, LN5     7JR; 01522 544400.  
  •     Vision 21 (Gloucester County Council local Agenda 21) 01452 425670.  
  •     Walter Segal Self-Build Trust, Unit 213,16 Baldwins Gardens, London C1N 7RJ     0171 831 5696

About the Authors

Sarah E. Dobbyn MA. (Cantab), M. Jur (Bonn) ACIArb, qualified as a barrister in 1988, and specializes in international commercial litigation and banking law. She is a founder member of the Environmental Legal and Mediation Service (ELMS), a charity providing free legal advice and representation to community groups in cases concerned with the preservation of the environment.

Simon Fairlie is a former editor of The Ecologist magazine and author of Low Impact Development: Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside, Jon Carpenter, 1996. He co-manages a smallholding and woodland in Somerset.

Mike Fisher is an organic grower who runs a box scheme supplying 120 subscribers in Hampshire.

Andrew Lainton RTPI is a senior planner at the London Borough of Brent.

Andrew Langford, MSc, DMS, Dip Perm Des. is member of the Permaculture Association. He is currently developing the Permaculture Academy of Britain network which provides for the purposes of sustainable developmen t: consultancy, research, policy development, tutoring and training, validation services, and design services to clients in the public, private and third sectors.

Eiluned Morgan, RTPI, is an independent planning consultant.  

Richard Moyse is a lifelong natural history enthusiast, who now works as a freelance botanist, ecologist and countryside manager from his base on a Kent smallholding. His background is in local government, where he worked as a countryside office; he has also worked for BTCV, and been a member of the council of the Kent Wildlife TrustJudy Say is a member of the Essex branch of The Land Is Ours.

Thanks are due to Tony Gosling, James Shorten, Stewart Tagg, Rob Hopkins, Chris Black, Jonathon Brown, Wendy Le Las, to all the organizations and individuals who responded to the consulation draft of this report, to Tiffany Pearson for her work on lay-out, and to Mary Durling for milking the goats.


Copies of this report are available for £5 (or £3 if you’re broke) from the Chapter 7 office: The Potato Store, Flax Drayton Farm , South Petherton, Somerset, TA13, U.K.

The following organizations support the broad aims of this document and urge the Government to consider some of its recommendations:

Action for Sustainable Rural Commu nities Architects and Engineers for Social Responsibility The CornerhouseThe Ecological Design Association The Ecologist The Ecovillage Network Friends of the Earth The National Trust The Permaculture AssociationReforesting ScotlandThe Soil Association The Town and Country Planning Association.

First published in 1999 by The Land Is Ours.

Copyright The Land Is Ours, 1999.

Anyone may reproduce part or all of this document in any way they like provided that it is not for profit and that The Land Is Ours is credited.

The Land Is Ours (TLIO) is a national network which campaigns peacefully for access to the land, its resources and the decision making processes affecting them, for everyone, regardless of race, age or gender. TLIO sends out a regular newsletter on its activities free of charge to over 3,000 people.

The Land is Ours Box E, 111 Magdalen Road, Oxford, OX4 1RQ. Tel: 01865 722016

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