Friday, 12 April 2013


I am busy working on my next 90% post about ‘Stuff’, but having heard some good news, I couldn’t resist having a good rant about land issues in the UK first.

Land is pretty much at a premium in the UK. It’s not that it is in such short supply, I mean there are vast swathes of land surrounding the towns and cities, but historically the commoner has been herded off the land and into cities. Property with land in the countryside is now unaffordable to the vast majority. Despite the recognition that there is an acute lack of affordable housing in many rural areas, planning permission for new affordable housing is rarely given. Still nothing is being done to stop existing properties being bought as second homes, pricing the locals out with devastating effects for local communities. (Simon Fairlie’s book ‘Low ImpactDevelopment: Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside’ is very good at explaining the history that has led us to the current situation. If you are interested in these issues you could also try subscribing to ‘The Land’ magazine.)

There is a fake view of the countryside that has permeated in the UK. This is the view that the countryside was always large open fields with barely a building in sight. This is not true, as can be seen from many old paintings. Farms from necessity were much smaller in scale and labour-intensive, before the advent of cheap oil. Labourers needed to live close to where they worked. People were part of the countryside, small villages were communities that served the farms around them.

There is never going to be even a small influx of people moving back to the countryside to work on the land, with the current Planning structure in place. This doesn’t help us become more resilient. As the price of oil increases, with increasing demand from a growing global population and higher standards of living, not to mention the decreasing availability of oil now that the peak in production has passed, the cost of growing food in an energy-intensive manner will also increase and become less viable.

The Ecological Land Cooperative have been working to help small scale farming and smallholders to get started. They put together a proposal for 3 affordable smallholdings complete with 3 low impact dwellings, communal barn and PV array, at Greenham Reach in Devon. The work and effort that has been put in, to make it a sustainable and ecologically sound proposal, as well as working to meet the planning requirements, is amazing. Unfortunately the local District Councillors still turned down the planning application, but the project has now been granted planning permission through appeal. Hurrah!

One of the District Council’s objections was that it would set a precedent for future applications. I sincerely hope that this is the case and that genuinely ecologically sound, sustainable, low impact projects like this one get given a chance. Well done ELC and may your good work continue J


  1. The Ecological Land Cooperative sound wonderful, do you have a link to them. I don't understand why many councils are scared of people who want to grow their own and how so many people in the UK seemed to be scared of the idea of rural living and land. When ever we go to the city I wonder how people can live with no connection to green space, or the passage of time in nature and the seasons.

  2. Hi Andrew,
    Yes try They have put all the details about Greenham Reach online, including all the planning issues. Their 'Small is Successful' report is also worth a read.

    1. Thanks Judy, and big hello from Pig Row.

  3. Great blog, will add it to my must-read list. You wrote: " but historically the commoner has been herded off the land and into cities." So true, and it is still going on, all over the world. Here is North America we had a brief interlude of easy access, courtesy of the genocide of the original inhabitants. But now the same thing is happening. Lack of employment is a big factor.

    1. Thanks for your comment Ien. It is always good to hear similar points of view from other parts of the World, and always amazes me how similar our problems are.

      People don't need much to be happy, but having some work to do to give us purpose and food to eat are pretty important. A small patch of land could provide jobless people with both, without having to be totally dependent on welfare, which is a harsh way to live and is very demoralising for most. You have given me a good idea. Thanks Ien :)