Hippie 'hunter-gatherers' face eviction from Steward Woodland commune

Tony Gosling tony at cultureshop.org.uk
Thu Mar 3 13:22:44 GMT 2016

Hippie 'hunter-gatherers' face eviction from 
woodland commune where they've lived for 16 years 
because they didn't get planning permission for the timber structures


    * The Steward Woodland Community was 
established near Moretonhampstead, Devon, in 2000, by a group of foragers
    * The 21 self-sufficient residents - which 
includes children - use solar-powered electricity and alternative medicines
    * Group was given temporary permission for 
timber homes but Dartmoor National Park refused permanent request
    * Residents are now trying to raise £38,000 
to fight the authority's decision and are 'focusing on a positive outcome'
March 2016 | UPDATED: 16:54, 2 March 2016

A group of hunter-gatherers who have been living 
in a commune in the woods for 16 years are facing 
eviction after being refused planning permission for their makeshift homes.
The Steward Woodland Community, which has 21 
residents, including nine children, live in homes 
in rural Dartmoor, Devon, which they built 
themselves using timber and recycled materials.
Their alternative self-sufficient lifestyle 
includes foraging for food, using solar powered 
electricity and alternative medicines.
Hippie 'hunter-gatherers' face eviction from woodland commune


The Steward Woodland Community, which is made up 
of 21 people, including nine children and 
teenagers, live in homes they built themselves in 
rural Dartmoor, Devon. Resident Mel Davis is 
pictured with her 13-year-old son Ash
But despite living there since 2000, the Dartmoor 
National Park Authority has refused permanent 
planning permission for their homes and ordered them group to leave.
The commune houses are built using recycled 
materials and timber from the 32-acre former conifer plantation
'It's hard for people to understand unless you 
have lived closely together with community and family like we do.
'But we are an intrinsic support system - there 
are loads of little things that we all do that 
support each other and I just can't even imagine 
what it would be be like not to have that.'
She added: 'I wouldn't feel alive if I wasn't living here with these people.'
The community purchased Steward Wood, near 
Moretonhampstead, Devon, at the turn of the 
millennium. The Woodlanders try to live 
sustainable lives by using renewable energy - 
including solar panels - and growing their own fruit and veg.
Most of the children are also home-educated but 
are friends with people from the surrounding villages. They use running water.
They have twice secured temporary five-year 
planning permission. But their request to stay permanently has been rejected.
A crowdfunding campaign has now been launched to 
raise the £38,000 needed to launch a legal 
challenge against the planning decision. They 
have already managed to raise £22,808 and have received 406 letters of support.
Dr Tom Greeves, chairman of the Dartmoor Society, 
a group that aims to promote the wellbeing of the 
area, is among those backing their cause.
He said: 'We admire the tenacity and dedication 
over 15 years of this small group of men, women 
and children who have opted for a very different 
lifestyle to that enjoyed by most of us.
'Particularly striking is their commitment to 
genuine sustainability in use of resources 
whenever possible, and their involvement with the local community.'
But, ahead of the application decision, there 
were 19 letters of objection sent to the 
authority, with one of their neighbours, Karen 
Thwaite, saying their lifestyle is not 'valuable'.
In a letter, she wrote: 'In my opinion, they have 
a simple desire to live in a woodland. This does 
not benefit the animals that inhabit the 
woodland, the national park or the cause of sustainable living.'
The community purchased Steward Wood, near 
Moretonhampstead, Devon, at the turn of the millennium
But, despite the opposition, the group remain 
hopeful. Melanie Davis, 36, a teaching assistant 
at the local school who has lived in the 
community for 10 years added: 'It's [leaving the 
woodland] is not something I have put my energy into thinking about.
'We are focusing so much on a positive outcome. We are really hopeful.'
The development management committee of the 
Dartmoor National Park Authority said the 
application had been refused because of the 
'harmful effect' that the camp has on the 
'character and appearance of the National Park'.
They added: 'Another area of concern was the lack 
of consideration for European Protected Species, 
three of which are present either on the site or 
within the area, namely Otters, Hazel Dormice and 
woodland Bats, particularly the Greater Horseshoe Bat.
'I can see no real justification for any 
residential property on site, regardless of 
whatever form of land management one might favour or woodland enterprise.'
The statement added that the Steward Woodland 
community was 'experimental' and any development 
in the countryside needs to be essential and 
'sustainable over the longer term'.
A planning inspector is due to hear the case next month.
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