Tell Government about true sustainable development by Feb 28th!

Tony Gosling tony at
Mon Feb 14 22:28:53 GMT 2011

Time running out to tell Government about true sustainable development
Simon Fairlie | Monday, 14th February 2011

Help tell the Government that we need the 
conditions for true sustainable development in the countryside...
Truly sustainable rural living has not been easy...
The Government is consulting on a new national 
planning framework for England until 28th 
February. All the planning policy statements, 
such as PPS7 on the Countryside and PPS1a on 
Climate Change are likely to be replaced by one 
document. The Government is allegedly looking to 
reduce several hundred pages of guidance into ten or twenty pages.
This is really important for people involved in 
low impact development, permaculture projects, 
ecovillages etc. It is potentially a threat as 
policies that have enabled projects to get 
planning permission in the past may be removed. 
However, it is also an important opportunity to 
get supportive policies added at the national level.

Land reform campaign group Chapter 7 ( ) has been 
working with the Permaculture Association to 
identify planning policies that we'd like to see 
retained or added. Here in bullet point form are 
the main points we have identified:
A definition of "Sustainable Development" in the 
framework that is robust and stringent, and 
emphasises ecologically sustainable development, 
not just sustainable economic development.
Retention of a policy to allow agricultural, 
forestry and other rural workers to build homes 
in the open countryside. This is currently 
contained in Annex A of PPS7 (Planning Policy Statement 7).
Introduction of a national policy for Low Impact 
Development, similar to the "One Planet 
Development" policy contained in TAN6 (Technical Advice Note 6) in Wales.
Introduction of policies that are supportive of 
self-builders, particularly where homes are 
ecologically sustainable and/or affordable.
We would like to see the encouragement of local 
food production and forestry enterprises on green belt land.
Introduction of policies that provide for people 
who wish to have part-time access to agricultural 
land on the edge of existing settlements.
Introduction of policies that make it easier for 
those who choose to live in a mobile home, cabin 
or other low impact dwelling to do so — whether 
or not they are classed as gypsies or travellers.

We need to demonstrate to the Government that 
there is a demand for these kinds of development. 
If you agree with some or all of these points 
please write a submission by the 28th February - 
in your own words - and send it to:

planningframework at


Alan Scott
National Planning Policy Framework
Department for Communities and Local Government
Zone 1/H6
Eland House
London SW1E 5DU

Below is Chapter 7's draft submission which 
fleshes out some of these points in greater detail.

Sustainable Development

We welcome the proposal in the Green Paper Open 
Source Planning to "establish a presumption in 
favour of sustainable development". This will 
require national planning guidance to provide a 
robust definition of what "sustainable 
development" constitutes. We submit that any 
definition should include the following areas:

minimization of resource use (as defined for 
example by 'ecological footprints')
climate change and carbon emissions
minimization of energy use, especially fossil fuels
minimization of transport demand and car use 'minimization of waste
enhancement of biodiversity
conservation and enhancement of natural resources 
such as water, soil quality, woodland etc.
adequate access to land, resources and facilities 
for all households within a given community.

Sustainable Rural Development

Rural development has been hampered in recent 
years by restrictive locational policies that 
have tended to equate sustainability with 
location on the edge of settlements and required 
development in the open countryside to be 
"strictly controlled". While Chapter 7 agrees 
that development in the open countryside needs 
strict control, too often this has been 
interpreted to mean "no development at all". 
There are often obvious transport advantages in 
siting developments on the edge of settlements, 
but sometimes, particularly in the case of 
land-based enterprises, these can be outweighed 
by other sustainable advantages, such as more 
effective land management, the opportunity to use 
natural sources of energy, restoration of 
moribund rural economies and agro-ecologies, the 
avoidance of "reverse commuting" from town residence to rural employment etc.

We would therefore support a presumption in 
favour of sustainable development in the open 
countryside, provided that the definition of 
sustainability is stringent, and that its 
application is strictly controlled. We believe 
there is a case for expanding the "country house" 
policy, currently found in paragraph 11 of PPS 7 
to include, not merely buildings exhibiting "the 
highest standards of contemporary architecture" 
(which anyway is highly subjective) but those 
embodying the highest standards of rural 
sustainabi!ity, as defined in national policy guidance.

We also suggest that framers of the new policy 
guidance should look at the Welsh "One Planet 
Development" policy in section 4.15 of Technical 
Advice Note 6 (the Welsh equivalent of PPS7). 
Whilst we would not advocate that this should be 
copied word for word, and accept that it is too 
detailed for the kind of policies envisaged in 
the new national planning guidance, we submit 
that something along these lines should be 
introduced into English policy guidance.
Agricultural Tied Dwellings

We are concerned that the provision for 
agricultural tied dwellings should not be swept 
aside in the new reforms. Current agricultural 
prices on the one hand, and rural house prices on 
the other are respectively so low and so high 
that farmers and horticulturalists cannot 
possibly pay off the cost of a rural dwelling in 
the open market through a normal agricultural enterprise.

It is therefore vital that some sort of 
exceptions policy should remain so that farmers, 
and particularly new entrants into farming, can 
live close to their enterprise. However the 
agricultural tied dwelling system has been open 
to abuse, from people posing as agriculturalists 
and then abandoning the enterprise that justified 
the dwelling and getting the agricultural tie 
removed. This in turn has meant that planning 
officers are understandably resistant to 
applications for agricultural dwellings, and bona 
fide farmers often find it extraordinarily difficult to obtain permission.

The main reason for this is the weakness of the 
standard agricultural tie, which does not tie the 
dwelling to the enterprise, even though it is the 
proposed enterprise which has to justify the 
dwelling. The moment permanent planning 
permission is acquired, the applicant can, and 
sometimes does, sell the dwelling off separate 
from the land which justified the permission.

This problem could be rectified by encouraging 
local authorities to impose conditions that tie 
the dwelling to the land or the enterprise which 
justified it. We also suggest that England adopt 
the occupancy condition now used in Wales, 
whereby any tied dwelling which is no longer 
suitable for agricultural or another rural 
industry, should not be released onto the open 
market, but should becoe prioritized for affordable housing (T AN6 4.13)

Self Built Homes

Chapter 7 was very heartened to see support for 
self-built homes in Open Source Planning, and we 
hope to find this reflected in policy guidance. 
Self build provides the opportunity for some low 
income people to house themselves at little or no 
expense to the taxpayer and it is shameful that 
it has been given so little support in planning 
guidance over the last fifteen years. It is 
particularly helpful for young people in villages 
and rural situations who face very high house 
prices, but often have good access to land and 
neighbours with the necessary machinery and manual skills.

However the problem has been finding land with 
permission at an affordable price. Even when land 
is potentially available the rural exception 
policy is of no use to an individual because it 
does not accommodate one-off developments 
(although the former South Shropshire District 
Council found a way of allowing one-off dwellings 
under the rural exceptions site policy). We therefore advocate:

(a) that local authorities should be encouraged 
to provide mechanisms enabling one-off 
self-builders to construct affordable housing, 
with legal agreements ensuring that it remains 
affordable over subsequent changes of ownership and occupation;
and (b) that potential 
owner/occupier/self-builders requiring one-off 
affordable housing should be deemed to constitute 
a "need" irrespective of whether any local housing survey has been carried out.

We would also support a shift away from the 
allocation of a restricted number of sites for 
housing in and around villages (which causes land 
scarcity and hence inflated land values) and 
towards criteria-based policies which allow for 
highly sustainable affordable housing on any site 
within a prescribed wider area (for example, contiguous with the settlement).
Affordable Housing

The definition of affordable housing in PPS3 at 
the moment restricts the use of the term solely 
to housing for local people. This discriminates 
against people who happen to have no historical 
allegiance to any particular location. It is 
right that local people should have priority over 
incomers as regards access to a limited supply of 
affordable housing. But people who have not been 
resident in one location for the required amount 
of time still have need of housing, and if they 
are on a low income they will need affordable 
housing, and should not be defined out of eligibility.
Rural Housing

Since its founding in 1999 Chapter 7 has 
experienced rising demand for houses in rural 
locations from people who want to "downsize" and 
establish a closer connection with the natural 
and agricultural world, without necessarily 
undertaking a full time profession in agriculture 
(the boom in allotments and local food growing is part of the same trend).

To date the needs of these people have not been 
catered for by the planning system, and some have 
opted to buy bareland in the open countryside and 
try and find a way around the planning system 
(for example by pretending to be full time 
agriculturalists, or by trying to obtain a 
certificate of lawful use through the four year 
or ten year rule). This has undermined the 
credibility of the planning syste, and made 
planning authorities unduly suspicious of bona 
fide farmers and horticulturalists.

We believe it is the function of the planning 
system to meet people's needs in a way that does 
not damage, and preferably enhances, the local 
and wider environment. We therefore urge that 
there should be provision for these needs, which, 
with the application of sensible policies, can be 
accommodated sustainably on the edge of villages.

We view that Community Land Trusts offer an 
appropriate vehicle for providing such housing. 
We also consider that where access to land is 
required, this is better achieved by providing 
collective access to a co-operatively owned area 
of agricultural land, rather than providing 
houses with large individual plots or paddocks. 
Individual plots could easily revert to domestic 
use, or they might become neglected, and they 
would lead to very low density development that 
would be unhelpful on the edge of an existing 
settlement, and unsustainable on a wider scale.
Green Belt

We are pleased that Open Source Planning, states 
that Green Belts will continue to be protected. 
These areas, close to conurbations are ideal for 
providers of local foods, and woodland products, 
and such enterprises would be invaluable fir 
keeping urban schoolchildren in contact with the 
source of their sustenance. Unfortunately 
greenbelt land is mostly inaccessible to growers 
and foresters, because the hope value makes it 
prohibitively expensive. We advocate that green 
belt policies should be adjusted to facilitate 
the establishment of farms and forestry 
enterprises providing goods for local consumption 
- for example by allowing the development of 
agricultural dwellings tied to productive 
holdings, farm shops, training centres in land based activities etc.
Caravans, Cabins and Low Impact Dwellings

Caravans, mobile homes, wooden cabins, yurts and 
other forms of temporary accommodation can be 
highly sustainable as they are usually compact, 
easy to heat, have low embodied energy, and have 
a relatively low impact on the surrounding 
natural landscape. We would like to see it made 
easier for those people who prefer to live in 
caravans, mobile homes, cabins, yurts or low 
impact dwellings to do so — whether or not they 
be classed as gypsies or travellers (and we agree 
that the settled population and travellers should 
be treated equally). Mechanisms such as rural 
exception sites should be open to mobile homes 
and low impact dwellings as well as bricks and 
mortar. The government would do well to 
commission research into sustainable and 
architecturally satisfying mobile home sites, 
with a view to providing advice on best practice.
+44 (0)7786 952037
"Capitalism is institutionalised bribery."

"The maintenance of secrets acts like a psychic 
poison which alienates the possessor from the community" Carl Jung
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