Ecological Land Co-op successful in their application for homes on eco-smallholdings in Devon

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Remember this blog post about the Ecological Land Co-op’s attempt to start three eco-smallholdings in Devon? A local councillor said: “Nobody would subject themselves to that way of life. You might as well be in prison, and we asked you to let the local council know what you thought about that. Well, the good news is that since then they have been successful in their planning application, and, like Lammas in Wales, they have set a wonderful precedent in England for people wanting to live in a low-imact way on a smallholding, producing food for local markets.

Before we hand you over to Zoe, the ELC is interested in hearing from solar companies specialising in off-grid provision and based near(ish) to the site (Tiverton/Wellington). They are also interested in hearing from those with experience of laying sustainable (or at least, less harmful) trackways. The ELC will also be seeking investment for subsequent sites in 3-6 months. Go here to register your interest.

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We are absolutely overjoyed to be able to share with you the news that we have been granted planning permission to develop three affordable residential smallholdings for new entrants to ecological agriculture. Our applications—made in December 2011—were recommended for approval by Mid Devon District Council’s planning department but refused by District Councillors in June 2012.

The Inspector deciding our appeal against the Councillors’ decision did not agree with their primary reason for refusal: that there was no ‘essential need’ to live on the land.

The Council’s position at the inquiry was that we were taking a “hair shirt” approach to the management of the smallholdings, and if we employed less labour intensive methods of land management no one would need to live on-site. The Inspector wrote that the Council had failed to have regard for our “aims of addressing the need to reduce the negative impacts of conventional farming and globalised food distribution … I accept that the labour-intensive nature of such practices, necessary to ensure that a sustainable livelihood could be developed without resort to agro-chemicals and the reliance on fossil fuels, would require the worker’s presence and involvement to such an extent that the need could only be met by living on-site”.

The Inspector’s decision also indicated that she valued both the co-operative model we have developed and the research and monitoring of, amongst other things, changes in biodiversity and productivity, which will be delivered alongside the smallholdings. Concluding the decision she wrote that these “other material considerations weigh heavily in favour of granting planning permission”.

The full decision can be downloaded from the Planning Inspectorate.

This has been a hard won permission, made possible through the goodwill of our advisors, members and supporters to whom we are sincerely grateful.

For more information see our latest newsletter.

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