Most significantly, the Inspector’s ruling explicitly endorsed the permaculture aspect of the project, which is a planning precedent for the UK. The planning inspector granted planning permission for a permaculture holding, integrating agriculture, forestry, education, ancillary rural enterprises and residential use subject to the 'low-impact' criteria set out in their planning application. It marks a further important benchmark for recognition of low-impact development in the countryside within UK planning policy, following the example of communities such as Kings Hill and Tinkers Bubble in Somerset and Fivepenny Farm in West Dorset. (The decision on the groundbreaking Lammas ecovillage project in Pembrokeshire is expected in October; for support, ref: http://www.lammas.org.uk/getinvolved/volunteer_letter.htm#letter).
The Inspector Alan Woolnough states: "Landmatters have already achieved low levels of energy consumption, implemented wide-ranging recycling initiatives and established an ecological footprint per household far smaller than the regional average, as established by the analysis undertaken by 4th World
Ecological Design". He concludes: "the advancement of permaculture and sustainable ways of living facilitated by this project has sufficient potential value to outweigh the limited harm to other interests".
Rooh Star who represented the group at the recent public inquiry says: "We are delighted that we have been given the opportunity to continue to develop our Permaculture holding. Preparing for the inquiry has taken a huge amount of our energy, so we are now looking forward to being able to devote our time to what we are really passionate about – working our land, living sustainably and exploring solutions to climate change and peak oil."
Alan Woolnough states in his appeal decision that "Permaculture is now an internationally recognised means of sustainable agriculture and the subject of much academic study in recent years. Moreover, the direction of travel of emerging national policy towards ever more sustainable approaches to development and the need to address the problem of climate change is readily apparent". He adds: "In such a context, I find there to be considerable ecological, educational and cultural benefits in further exploring permaculture."
Landmatters, located next to the hamlet of Allaleigh - just over 10 miles from Totnes, consists of 17 acres of semi-natural ancient woodland and 22 acres pasture, with the remainder being naturally regenerating scrub and hedgerows. Practicing land based livelihoods, they are managing the land for the benefit of bio-diversity and wildlife whilst providing for many of their own needs for community, food, water, energy, shelter, creativity, transport and waste management. Plots marked out for each member of the community where residents live in either yurts, benders or timber-framed constructions have their own vegetable patches and most have solar cells and a wind turbine to give power. The site's chief water-source comes from a borehole built in 2006.
They believe that although not directly provided for in standard planning policies, much of what they proposed sat well with government policy regarding rural regeneration, transport, renewable energy, etc. and they argued that sustainability should be a significant material consideration in such cases.
An independent Ecological Footprint Analysis, conducted by 4th WORLD ECOLOGICAL DESIGN showed that Landmatters had an average footprint approximately 46% of the Ecological footprint of that typical of a UK citizen. An average Carbon footprint for a UK citizen is 3.6 tonnes compared to the UK average of 10.92 tonnes. This well exceeds the Stern reports recommended target for 2020 of a 30% CO2 emissions cut. It in fact means that they have already achieved the 60% target cut in emissions recommended by the Report for 2050. Landmatters scored best in the section for shelter: by using locally sourced, sustainably harvested and/or recycled building materials with low embodied energy, and because their heating fuel is sustainably harvested on-site, the dwellings have a 94% lower ecological footprint than an average conventional house.
The landmark decision received by Landmatters this week shows that there is a need for local policies relating to such "low impact developments" as already adopted by other forward thinking councils. Landmatters has contributed to the recent public consultation on the new Local Development Framework policies, which will form the basis for all future planning decisions in the area until at least 2016. The consultation on the Development Control Core Policies and Affordable Housing policies closed on 24 th August, but there is still time to comment on the policies relating to rural areas. Landmatters urges people to get involved because, as Rooh Star points out "this is possibly the last opportunity before 2016 to support our call for a policy to allow sustainable, land-based developments in the countryside while ensuring that they remain low impact."
Rooh Star concludes: "We couldn't have achieved what we have done without the help of our many supporters to whom we would like to say a huge thank you!" People who are interested to find out more are invited to look at the website www.landmatters.org.uk for information on upcoming events such as
the Community Supported Farming (CSF) volunteer days on every second Saturday of the month, a rocket stove course from the 21-24 September and a tree seed gathering day on 25th October.
At the beginning of 2006 Landmatters applied for a 5 year temporary planning permission for change of use of land from purely agricultural to a permaculture holding integrating agriculture, forestry, education and ancillary rural enterprises, with a sustainable community housed in temporary low-impact structures.
The detailed application was turned down at the end of April by South Hams District Council, after which, an enforcement notice, requiring them to cease residential use of the land and to remove all associated structures was also served. They appealed against these decisions with the Planning Inspectorate, and the public inquiry regarding the appeal took place from the 17th-19th July in Cornworthy.
Contact Landmatters on 07867 851382 for more information. For site visits please phone up in advance!
The full footprint analysis is available on request.
Landmatters website: www.landmatters.org.uk