Application for Planning Permission in July 2000

Below is a copy of the letter we sent to the National Park Authority with our application form for planning permission (our first planning application). The letter forms part of the application and explains our plans for the woodland and how the proposals fit within planning policy.

7th July 2000

Dear Friends

Re: Application for Planning Permission relating to Steward Community Woodland

This letter accompanies our planning application and forms part of it. Because our application does not fit neatly into existing planning guidelines, we ask for your patience in dealing with this rather lengthy document.

We would like to explain in more detail than the application form allows our plans for the proposed development, the reasons for and circumstances surrounding it (see Appendix I).

Nature of application

We are applying for planning permission for change of use so that the land will have a mixed use of agriculture/forestry with a residential and educational element. This will allow a low impact settlement consisting solely of structures not constituting operational development (eg. tents). We are not applying for planning permission for any operational developments within our first year whilst we undertake extensive surveys for our permaculture design (see Appendix II).

After this time, we will have a better idea of what structures are required (if any) and where they will be best located. We will then make any further appropriate planning applications for structures which fall outside of the General Permitted Development Order.

Consistency with the Local Plan

We recognise the need for development control within the National Park and we understand the importance of the Local Plan. We believe that our project will enhance the character and appearance of the National Park and that the proposed development fits into the policies and guidelines contained within the Local Plan in the following respects:

? The project will be of benefit to the local economy, creating local jobs and aiding diversification.

? We are engaged in the forward looking conservation of this woodland.

? We are seeking to ensure the long-term renewal of broad-leaved woodland, and the re-establishment of this type of woodland on this valley ancient woodland site now mostly bearing conifer plantation.

? We are re-introducing traditional woodland management practices, particularly coppicing and natural regeneration.

? We are undertaking measures to promote the best possible integration of any remaining conifers into the landscape.

? The proposed development within this area of woodland of conservation importance is necessary for the proper management and long-term renewal of the forest estate, and is intended to improve recreational opportunities, conserve wildlife, improve wildlife habitat, and possibly to protect items of historical interest (such as the former field boundary walls and the remains of Steward House).

We feel that these considerations (together with all the relevant points set out in this document) are sufficiently great to outweigh any objections that may arise concerning inconsistency with land settlement policies in the Local Plan. For some of the specific policies that may be considered relevant to our application, along with brief explanations of how our plans fit into those polices please refer to Appendix III.

We are aware that there may be some concern that granting a change in the land use classification might allow inappropriate high impact development in through the 'back door' at some point in the future. We are as keen as the National Park Authority to avoid this happening, and therefore would be happy to creatively explore the possibility of attaching appropriate conditions to any planning permission granted (possibly in the form of a Section 106 agreement) to ensure that only environmentally benign low impact development could take place on the land.

Other examples of low impact development

Even though there are currently no specific policies relating to this type of development in the Local Plan, we would like to refer you to other examples of low impact, sustainable developments which have been given planning permission, namely:

(i) Brickhurst Farm, Pembury, Kent - granted in January 1995. Appeal Reference No. T/APP/M2270/A/94/241023/P2

(ii) Tinkers Bubble, Little Norton, Stoke-sub-Hamdon, Somerset TA14 (South Somerset District Council)

(iii) Plants For A Future, Ashwater, Beaworthy, Devon EX21 5DF - granted in June 2000. Appeal Reference No. T/APP/W1145/A/99/1034645/P2

(iv) Tir Penrhos Isaf, Snowdonia National Park - granted in 1991, renewed in 1994. We would be happy to supply details of these projects and the planning permissions granted, if you so wish.

Documents and Publications

We would like to refer you to the following documents and publications which we enclose with this letter and the planning application:

(a) "Low Impact Development - planning and people in a sustainable countryside" by Simon Fairlie (published by Jon Carpenter; 1996/7) ISBN 1-897766-25-4

(b) "Defining Rural Sustainability - Fifteen Criteria for Sustainable Developments in the Countryside together with Three Model Policies for Local Plans" - a report produced by The Rural Planning Group of The Land Is Ours (1999) to which we ascribe.

(c) "Planning for Sustainable Woodlands - A submission to the Forestry Forum regarding reform of the Town and Country Planning system to implement 'A New Focus for England's Woodlands', the England Forestry Strategy" (January 2000) together with the aforementioned document.

We will be happy to provide further information or clarification in relation to our planning application and the matters set out within this document.

We will be happy to discuss our application with you and to attend a meeting, either on site or at your offices.

We look forward to hearing from you in due course.

 

 

APPENDIX I

Steward Community Woodland
Further information about the project

Our Vision

We are a community of people (currently 12 adults and 2 children) who wish to live sustainably with our natural surroundings. We would rather live in low impact, affordable accommodation than increase the demand for high impact housing in the area.

The major theme of the Steward Community Woodland project is to demonstrate how small, dedicated, ecologically minded communities can deeply enrich the social and natural environment of an area, and be financially viable.

Our vision is to combine conservation woodland management techniques (such as coppicing and natural regeneration) with organic growing, traditional skills and crafts (green woodworking, charcoal production, etc), and low impact sustainable living.

Our aim is to create a sustainable working woodland and conservation project which is fully integrated into, and is an asset of the local economy and community. We are utilising permaculture design principles and renewable energy (such as solar, wind and water power).

We are keen to encourage local involvement and input. We wish the woodland to be a place where school children and other members of the public can visit, can experience the flora and fauna, and can take part in activities and learn skills (from composting to green woodworking to organic growing). Thus, the project will benefit the environment while also providing an educational resource, local jobs, sustainable products and a place for quiet enjoyment and recreation.

The Steward Community Woodland project not only demonstrates the current state of low impact living and technology, but also intends to be an experiment to research into new and better ways to live in harmony with our natural surroundings. We do not expect people to take to the woods and live as we do, but we hope to enable and empower visitors (and those who come to hear of the project) to take up whatever sustainable practices they feel able to incorporate into their lives.

Agenda 21 and European Convention on Human Rights

The environmental problems we face in the 21st century are causing increasing and widespread concern. We believe that the best and only way forward for many of us to address the issues is on a local, grassroots level. This accords with the views and policies of many governments and inter-governmental agreements, such as Agenda 21 of the international Rio Declaration.

We are also aware of our rights under the European Convention on Human Rights, particularly Articles 8 and 9.

We intend the project to be a working and living example of sustainability, conservation, and environmental improvements. We also would simply like the woodland to be a place where people can come and enjoy themselves amongst the trees, plants, wildflowers, birds and animals. We are a member of Devon 21 (the Local Agenda 21 network) and recently attended their AGM.

Surveying

Our plans for Steward Wood are at present in an embryonic, conceptual phase and will be subject to change as more information and opportunities present themselves. The first year of our stay at Steward Wood is being spent surveying the land, gathering information about the local area and researching how we can best provide for local needs. We are in the process of recording rainfall, water flow, quantity and quality, sunlight, wind speed and direction, soil quality and erosion risk, plant and animal life and habitat. This land surveying process has brought in and will continue to bring in experts in the relevant fields to give us the most useful information possible in forming our overall plan for the land.

We have gone to great lengths to research the history of the land at Steward Wood. This has involved talking with our neighbours and the residents of Moreton, looking at old maps and delving into books in the local library. Our research into local needs has so far been in the form of meeting with our immediate neighbours, delivering a questionnaire to the residents of Moretonhampstead, and attending Parish Council meetings. This commitment to integrating both socially and financially into the wider local community will be a continuing process.

The reason we are going to such lengths to gather information on the land and surrounding area for the first year is to allow us to create an overall plan for the land which efficiently utilises its qualities in harmony with each of the four seasons. This principle of observing carefully the character of the land will allow us to work with, rather than against, the rhythms and patterns in nature, thus ensuring a low input, high output strategy which is sustainable.

Structures and Land Uses

Our publicity leaflet has outlined a number of proposals for the different structures and land uses that might be found at Steward Community Woodland. These are listed and elaborated upon below:

? New public access and woodland walks

As well as working with Devon County Council and Sustrans to assist in the establishment of a cycle track and walkway from Moreton to Bovey Tracey via the old railway track at Steward Community Woodland, Affinity Woodland Workers Co-operative are currently in the process of planning a woodland walk through the wood itself. We have spoken with Rupert Lane, Head of Trees & Woodland at the National Park, about linking this new public access with the adjoining woods owned by the National Park. It is planned that the woodland walk would incorporate discrete information plaques (in character with the wood) to give visitors greater insight into the nature of the wood, its flora, fauna and history. We are applying to the Forestry Commission for a Woodland Improvement grant to help finance this development.

? Demonstration Permaculture Gardens

Our main public display area is planned to be a demonstration permaculture garden, incorporating a 'forest garden'. This will give visitors an inspiring vision into how organic food, medicine, shelter, heating and even clothing products can be produced in a sustainable fashion with minimal input and with high yields from plants growing in a diverse and beautiful environment. Our initial thoughts are that this garden would be sited in the unplanted area of land just above the disused railway. These gardens would be an integral part of the educational aspect of the project and would provide a backdrop for running courses and workshops on, for example, permaculture design and organic growing.

? Low Impact Dwellings

For at least the first year, the woodland workers will be staying in temporary low impact dwellings. These structures will be without foundations and made primarily of coppiced wood and re-used canvas. The dwellings will be heated by wood burning stoves and will generally take the form of 'benders', 'yurts', 'geodesic domes', or other tent-like structures, designed and placed to fit in harmoniously with the surrounding landscape. After the first year, planning permission may be applied for in order to build more energy efficient low impact dwellings such as straw bale dwellings.

? Craft workshops

Steward Community Woodland will be running a number of courses and workshops to preserve traditional rural skills and crafts and to generate a small income. It is envisaged that the project might eventually incorporate a number of ecologically designed workshop spaces for local craftspeople and artisans, although their structure and location will not be decided upon for at least the first year.

? Visitors Centre

When the project is more established, it is envisaged that a small, appropriately designed Visitors Centre would enhance the enjoyment and functionality of the project. Again, its structure and location would be decided upon after the first year.

? Tree Nursery

An essential part of the project will be to raise trees from seed and seedlings, not only to re-forest the existing wood with predominantly broad-leaved species, but also to sell on young trees to the wider community. This aspect of the project will be restoring one of Steward Wood's historical functions. As little as forty years ago, one of the Dartington Hall Trust nurseries was still in operation at Steward Wood. These nurseries were responsible for the coniferous forestation of Dartmoor at that time.

? Compost Toilets

To create a 'closed loop' of nutrients, the fertile waste from those living in the community will be recycled by using tree bogs and compost toilets. These are two well tried and tested methods for safely turning what is usually considered a waste material or even pollutant into high quality compost for use around fruit trees or into wood in the form of willow for basket or hurdle making. Compost toilets have been approved and used by a wide range of groups and bodies such as the National Trust and the Slapton Ley Field Studies Centre in Devon.

? Picnic and Play Area

As part of the woodland walk and walkway/cycle track, it is planned that a picnic and play area would be created for public enjoyment. Our initial thoughts are that this might be best positioned at the north western end of the disused railway track close to the pond which until recently has been used as a dump. This pond will be cleaned up and turned into a beautiful wildlife habitat. Grant funding is being applied for to help finance this development.

? Community Composting

We are planning to have facilities for composting garden waste from the local community. The compost created will be used over the demonstration gardens and by members of the Moretonhampstead Community Composting Association. In the future if the law is changed, the compost may be sold to generate income. For every tonne of waste diverted from landfill sites, the project will receive landfill tax recycling credits from Teignbridge District Council. This aspect of the project will help the local authority to implement its mandate to reduce waste going to landfill and, at the same time, will both raise awareness of environmental issues and give Steward Community Woodland another interface with the wider local community. We are part of the Devon Community Composting Network which is helping to implement the "Devon Recycling" Initiative of the Devon Authorities Waste Reduction & Recycling Committee.

? Forest Garden & Orchard

Part of the demonstration permaculture garden would be an extended forest garden and orchard which would provide many of the resources needed by the community, along with a surplus to supply the growing local market for fresh organic produce.

? Low Intervention Wildlife Zone

A large area within Steward Community Woodland will be set aside for minimum intervention by humans. This area will also be re-forested with native broadleaf species, and will be designed and maintained for maximum indigenous species diversity. This is in accordance with the aims of the Devon Biodiversity Action Plan on upland oak woodland (produced by Devon County Council).

? Renewable Energy Examples

The community at Steward Wood is utilising small scale renewable energy systems such as solar and micro-hydro power to supply a 12v system for essential services. The production and use of electricity through these systems will be monitored for research and educational purposes and information on them and how to reduce energy consumption would be displayed in the Visitors Centre.

Outreach, local input and involvement

We moved into the woods on 22nd April 2000 and in the days immediately following we delivered copies of a colour leaflet about our project together with a questionnaire to all households in Moretonhampstead and environs. Copies of the leaflet and questionnaire have also been available since then in the Moreton Visitors' Information Centre and by the library. We enclose a copy of the leaflet and questionnaire to accompany the planning application.

The leaflet and questionnaire delivery accomplished its aim of understanding local needs, informing local people about the project and providing opportunities for people to get involved in Steward Community Woodland.

We have had much positive feedback since April 22nd, we have talked to many local people, had many visitors to the woods, and established many links with the local community. The results of the questionnaire are enabling us to assess local needs and adapt our plans accordingly. Three members of our group attended the Moretonhampstead Parish Council meeting on 2nd May, introducing ourselves and our project to the councillors and members of the public present. We have met representatives of the Moretonhampstead Pathways Trust, the Moreton play group, and local crafts people.

Articles about the project have been printed in the Newton Abbot & Mid-Devon Advertiser, Western Morning News, Herald Express, and Moreton News (the parish newsletter). Several journalists are keen to follow the project and print articles as it progresses and there has been interest from Carlton TV.

Many local people have expressed their happiness with our decision to allow a cycle and walking track (in conjunction with Devon County Council and Sustrans) to be built along the disused railway track at the bottom of the woods. Overwhelming support for this scheme was evidenced by the results of the recent Parish Appraisal. (Devon County Council will be submitting a separate planning application in relation to this.)

Management Plan

Affinity Woodland Workers Co-operative are currently in the process of formulating a Woodland Management & Bio-diversity Action Plan in consultation with the Head of Trees and Woodlands of the National Park Authority, the Forestry Commission and other experts. The Management Plan will be a work in progress document for the first year while the land and its flora and fauna are observed in each of the four seasons.

The Woodland Management & Bio-diversity Action Plan will include detailed information on how each of the areas in the wood will be managed and include strategies for the conservation of species of particular importance. An interim work in progress document can be forwarded to the National Park Authority planning department if requested. However, this document is subject to constant change throughout the first year.

Business Plan and finance

The Business Plan being developed for Steward Community Woodland will be largely dependant upon the outcome of the various surveys and investigations which are being undertaken in the first year. These will give us a better idea as to what is possible from the land. A work in progress document may be obtained upon request, but will obviously be subject to change as the first year develops.

It is planned that the project at Steward Wood will eventually provide all the food, shelter, fuel and power needs of the residents, and will also be financially viable. Although the creation of a detailed business plan is still underway, we list in the Appendix some of the methods by which Steward Community Woodland will raise finances to develop the educational, recreational and trading aspects of the project. This will employ the workers and thus make the whole project financially sustainable, and will help to diversify the local rural economy. Steward Community Woodland is currently investigating obtaining charitable status to enable tax free giving by our supporters and to widen our potential funding base. Fundraising &

Income Opportunities:

Grants from: Trusts Forestry Commission MAFF Supportive individuals European bodies Lottery funding

Sale of products: Timber; Unprocessed trees, Sawn timber, Coppice wood (eg. willow wands), Firewood & Kindling. Crafts, Hurdles, Fences Tools Furniture Baskets Bowls Ornaments Herbs (plants, teas & medicinal) Organic Produce Salads Vegetables Fruits Nuts Seeds Compost and Liquid Feed Cuttings, seedlings and saplings

Services: Tree surgery Advice Permaculture design Guided Walks

Workshops & Courses: Permaculture Woodland Management Coppicing and green woodworking Herbalism & Plant lore Organic gardening Conservation Eco-building Low Impact technology

Other Income: Landfill Tax Recycling Credits

 

APPENDIX II

Definition of Permaculture

What is Permaculture? Permaculture is not a dogma or a religion but and ecological design system. Writer, Emma Chapman, defines it as:

"Permaculture, originally 'Permanent Agriculture' , is often viewed as a set of gardening techniques, but it has in fact developed into a whole design philosophy, and for some people a philosophy for life. Its central theme is the creation of human systems which provide for human needs, but using many natural elements and drawing inspiration from natural ecosystems. Its goals and priorities coincide with what many people see as the core requirements for sustainability."

Permaculture tackles how to grow food, build houses and create communities and minimise environmental impact at the same time. Its principles are being constantly developed and refined by people throughout the world in very different climates and cultural circumstances.

 

APPENDIX III

Planning Policies & Guidance Notes
relating to our planning application

We believe that our proposals can and do fit within the local plan and wider planning guidance. Below we have outlined some of the polices that may be considered relevant to our application along with brief explanations of how our plans comply with the spirit of those policies. Planning control is intended to protect the landscape from inappropriate and harmful development, while ensuring that the needs of local communities are met. The justification for such control is that the impact of a new development is usually negative and long term, although obviously this is arguable in the case of a low impact project such as ours.

  • Sustainabilty Issues

Agenda 21 Principle 1 states that, 'Human Beings are at the center of concerns for sustainable development. They are entitled to a healthy and productive life in harmony with nature'. Guidance issued by the Countryside Agency is that National Park Management Plans should; adopt sustainability as the underlying principle; co-ordinate and influence the activity of others; promote opportunities for the development of innovative conservation and management techniques. The DNPA Management Plan refers to the Authority as having 'a strong tradition of pioneering conservation management measures within inhabited landscapes which provide models for sustainable development'.

Devon Structure Plan Policy C1 - '... Local Planning Authorities should give priority to the aims of sustainability, ensuring that the global environment is not adversely affected, that the natural and historic environment is conserved and the local environment enhanced. ...'

Our proposal certainly does comply with Agenda 21 commitments and the concept of sustainable development and land use which is now meant to be the cornerstone of development control and planning. It is now recognised that environmental sustainability is urgently required on a local, national and international level - however the government seems to pay this need little more than lip service. The core objectives of our group indicate our commitment to sustainability. Clause 3a of the Memorandum Of Association of Affinity Woodland Workers Co-operative Ltd states that our objective are: (i) To manage land in a sustainable manner using the principles of permaculture and forest gardening for the benefit of people, wildlife and the planet. (ii) To help create and promote self sustaining communities which live in harmony with nature, without causing exploitation or oppression of people, animals or the earth. (iii)To promote and explore more sustainable ways of living, and to discourage unsustainable practices.

Issue regarding energy and resource use

Sustainability must be the cornerstone of any policy attempting to minimise pollution, reduce energy requirements, minimise travel needs or reduce the use of non-renewable resources.

Devon Structure Plan Policy C22 - 'The direct and indirect energy consumption of new development should be minimised by requiring the incorporation of energy saving features into its design and layout.'

DNPA Local Plan Policy GP2 - 'Planning permission will be granted for developments which by minimising pollution, reducing energy requirements, minimising travel needs or reducing the use of non-renewable resources either : (I) offer long term benefit to the National Park environment; or (ii) provide benefits to the global environment ...'

DNPA Local Plan Policy UT6 - 'Small scale renewable energy schemes designed to serve the needs of individual properties or small groups of properties will be permitted where: (i) the proposal and any associated infrastructure will not have an unacceptable adverse effect on the locality in terms of its impact on landscape, natural habitats and wildlife, archaeological features, local noise levels and the amenities of neighbouring residents; (ii) the cumulative effect of the development, where similar development exists in the locality, will not have an unacceptable impact on any of the interests set out in (i) above.'

Our project will minimise pollution by promoting and practicing a way of life that reduces unsustainable consumption, its associated wastes and throw-away attitude. We will reduce, re-use, repair, and recycle - and encourage others do to the same. Living and working on the land we will reduce our need to travel and by sharing vehicles used for necessary journeys we will further reduce the use of non-renewable energy. Such action will provide long term benefits to both the National Park and the global environment.

The small scale renewable energy systems used by the project will be designed and located so as not have an unacceptable adverse effect on the locality.

Conservation Issues

Within the National Park the preservation of the landscape is normally the most important consideration with regard to planning. Development will not normally be allowed unless it is required to meet local needs or will improve the character of the area.

Devon Structure Plan Policy C13 - 'The biodiversity and earth science resources of Devon's natural environment should be maintained and enhanced. ...'

Devon Structure Plan Policy C16 - 'Features of the landscape of major importance for wild flora and fauna should be defined within Local Plans, their continuity and integrity safeguarded in providing for development, and appropriate measures taken to promote their beneficial management.'

DNPA Local Plan Policy NC3 - 'Planning permission will not be granted for development which would damage, either directly or indirectly, the nature conservation interest of sites of particular ecological significance (ie. woodlands of conservation importance), unless conditions can be imposed that would acceptably mitigate those impacts.'

DNPA Local Plan Policy NC5 - 'Planning permission will not be granted for development which would adversely affect rare, endangered or other animal or plant species of acknowledged conservation importance, unless conditions can be imposed that would acceptably mitigate those impacts.'

DNPA Local Plan Policy GP1 - 'Planning permission will be granted for developments which: (I) protect, maintain, enhance or restore the scenic beauty, natural systems and landforms, and the wildlife and cultural heritage of the National Park; or (ii) promote the quiet enjoyment and understanding of the National Park ... ;or (iii) are necessary in the interests of the social and economic well-being of the communities within the National Park ...'

DNPA Local Plan Policy WL1 - 'Development will not be permitted within the areas of woodland of conservation importance, as shown on the Proposals Map, unless it is necessary for the proper management of the woodland estate, would improve recreational provision, or would preserve features of archaeological or nature conservation significance.'

Our project will protect and enhance the wildlife on the land by reserving a large part of the woodland as low intervention wildlife zone where human activity will be discouraged and forestry activity reduced to a minimum. Habitat will be improved to enhance bio-diversity and restore a characteristic community of plants and animals. Our cultural heritage will also be preserved by the project promoting traditional skills and crafts such as coppicing and hurdle making.

The woodland will be maintained with sympathetic conservation management which will work with natural systems to enhance the scenic beauty and landforms by encouraging natural regeneration of native broadleaf species typical to Devon's upland oak woodland and by removing invasive species such as sycamore. We will also gradually remove the plantation conifers and restock with predominately broad-leaved native species which will eventually result in the disappearance of the hard lines and distinctive lush green of the plantation area.

The recreational and educational aspects of the project will promote the quiet enjoyment and understanding of the woodland, its wildlife and its management. The woodland has been in private ownership and no public rights of way or permissive access has until now been available. The project is providing new public access and enhancing the amenity value of the woodland by providing picnic areas and seating and by improving and maintaining pathways and sign-posting. There will be nature trails with accompanying information about the flora and fauna. A visitors' centre will provide information about traditional woodland management, sustainable products etc. Courses and workshops will be available for those wanting to learn the traditional crafts and skills that were once central to rural life. The project is necessary in the interests of the social and economic well-being of people within the national park and beyond.

The 'right to roam' has long been a major concern of those without access to land - the project is providing new public access to woodland which people were formerly prevented from enjoying. People are increasingly distanced from nature - by utilising the woodland as an educational resource we will be promoting the understanding of natural systems, encouraging sustainability and awareness of environmental issues. The project will enhance the local economy by providing sustainably produced products for local needs.

Visitors to the woodland will provide business for the local bed & breakfast establishments and also to the local shops in town. Community composting facilities will reduce the volume of waste going to landfill sites while providing a valuable resource and reducing the costs incurred by the local community for the disposal of those 'wastes'. Issues regarding change of use to include residential elements While our proposal is located outside of the approved residential development zones, planning policy does not preclude all development outside of existing settlements or development zones.

Devon Structure Plan Policy H4 - 'Residential development in the countryside will not be provided for except where: (I) there is a proven agricultural, forestry or horticultural need, ..'

DNPA Local Plan Policy HS2 - 'Outside towns and villages new dwellings will be permitted where: (ii) they are essential in order to meet a proven agricultural or forestry need... permission will be subject to conditions requiring the occupancy to be restricted to housing for agricultural or forestry workers.'

There is a proven need for sustainable land use and development (see Rio Declaration and Agenda 21). Permaculture and forest gardening are examples of sustainable land use, they are low input and high output in terms of energy and resources but are highly intensive in terms of people power.

On site workers are essential and much of the advantage of this type of agriculture is only obtained because the produce is picked fresh and consumed quickly in the locality without the need to transport it long distances, store it for long periods or process it for market. The polytunnels and/or greenhouses will require frequent attention from residential workers as will charcoal burning kilns, sap taps etc. The educational and recreational aspects of the project are also best served by onsite workers who are an integral part of the educational research and demonstration of low impact living. Onsite workers also provide security for the facilities, tools and other equipment. In addition to the functional reasons for living at the woods, it is an essential part of our philosophy to be living close to nature, observing the land throughout the year and in all weather conditions. Furthermore, affordable rural accommodation is in very short supply.

Devon Structure Plan Policy H6 - ... 'Local Plans should ensure that adequate provision is made for affordable housing, based on an assessment of need.'

DNPA Local Plan Policy HS3 - Exceptionally, "planning permission will be granted where permission would not normally be given" for "The provision of affordable housing to meet local needs". "Permission will only be granted if the development can be demonstrated to be on a scale, and of a type, which would meet proven current housing needs originating from within the locality from those unable to afford accommodation on the open market".

Measures to protect the countryside from urban-style development have created a scarcity of building land which has resulted in a severe lack of affordable accommodation for those pursuing low-paid rural occupations. Many rural dwellings and farm buildings have been bought up by commuters, weekenders and retired people whose superior buying power derives from their urban incomes. This has resulted in an increased dependence upon the motor car and a decline of rural facilities such as shops, schools, markets and public transport.

The hemorrhage of farm buildings into the "counter-urban" economy has also meant that the acquisition of land with buildings attached can be prohibitively expensive for many prospective farmers and smallholders, who can often only afford bare land plots. We are unable to afford accommodation on the open market in the area but the project provides us with affordable environmentally friendly housing, as well as sustainable livelihoods with no need to commute. Further more the project may help the Authority in satisfying some of its duties regarding the provision of affordable housing opportunities.

Road safetly, Traffic, Access and Parking Issues

The Government's Planning Policy Guidance Note on transport (PPG13), states that in order 'to influence travel demand ... planning authorities should seek to juxtapose employment and residential uses where feasible ... to make it easier for people to live near their work'. Were we not resident on the land, the number of vehicle journeys would increase as we would have to 'commute' in order to be able to work the land.

The government provides planning authorities with the power to require 'Green Transport Plans' in relation to new developments in order to reduce unnecessary private vehicle use and promote more sustainable alternatives. Our project is already committed to doing just that. Use of sustainable modes of transport is encouraged while the ownership of private vehicles is discouraged. A communal vehicle is used where necessary, and a record kept of mileage and journey type to ensure the most efficient vehicle use.

DNPA Local Plan Policy TF1 - 'Planning permission will not be granted for new development ... resulting in an increase in the level or a change in the type of traffic, which would: (I) be unsuitable to the location on the network; or (iii) conflict with the standard, nature, capacity and use of the local roads; or (iii) conflict with the function of the road serving the development; unless there is an overriding need for the development because it is required for the economic and social well being of the locality, or because it will provide conservation benefits. '

DNPA Local Plan Policy TF2 - 'Planning permission will not be granted for new development ... resulting in an increase in the level or a change in the type of traffic... which would thereby prejudice road safety.'

Steward Community Woodland is on the disused railway track that once served Moretonhampstead. At the point where the track crossed the A382 there now exists a highly visible entrance providing safe access to and from the road. This access has long been used by the residents of the neighbouring cottages who use the track for parking. There is ample parking on the track for the limited number of vehicles that will used by the project. Furthermore, the creation of a cycle path and walkway along the route of the disused railway track will provide additional opportunities for reducing vehicle use and traffic while also improving road safety.

Issues relating to 'Sewage' and other 'wastes'

Our project is intended to operate 'off the grid' and is providing its own water and treatment facilities.

DNPA Local Plan Policy GP3 - 'Planning permission will be granted where development: (iii) can provide or be provided with satisfactory infrastructure; '

DNPA Local Plan Policy UT1 - 'Planning permission will not be granted for development if it will have an adverse impact on the quality of surface and/or groundwaters. When effective mitigating measures are possible and the applicant agrees to assist with their implementation, proposals will be permitted where: (i) the amenities of neighbours will not be harmed; and (ii) archaeological and nature conservation interests will not be adversely affected. A planning obligation will be sought to secure any mitigating measures.'

Devon Structure Plan Policy C18 - 'Waste disposal / management facilities should be established in accordance with the principles of sustainable waste management and the hierarchy of waste reduction, re-use, recovery (including recycling, composting, and energy), and finally disposal in order to increase the proportion of waste managed by option towards the top of the hierarchy.'

We see 'sewage' as a resource to be valued and not simply disposed of. Grey water, urine and faeces will all be treated and reused. Compost toilets will safely return valuable nutrients and organic mater to the soil. Wetland Ecosystem Treatment (or reed beds) will integrate waste water purification with bio-mass production. These techniques are well recognised, for example, North Devon District Council have recently given planning consent for compost toilets.

Additionally our project will reduce waste by promoting and practicing a way of life that minimises unsustainable consumption. We will practice waste reduction and re-use, as well as composting and recycling.

DNPA Local Plan Policy W2 - 'Planning permission will be granted for proposals for recycling facilities in readily accessible locations where no harm will be caused to conservation interests and such development does not reasonably detract from the amenities of neighbours.'

Community composting and recycling facilities will only be initiated after consultation with the neighbours and other interested agencies to ensure that they would not detract from the amenity of neighbours or cause no harm to conservation interests. Issues of design and appearance Planning concerns itself with how a development fits into the surrounding landscape and whether the design and the materials used are in keeping with the local character.

DNPA Local Plan Policy GP3 - 'Planning permission will be granted where development: (I) is sympathetic in scale, design and layout to the character of the site and its landscape setting; (ii) uses external materials appropriate to the local environment; '

DNPA Local Plan Policy TM6 - 'Planning permission for tent and motor caravan sites will be granted where; (i) existing facilities in the area are inadequate; (ii) the site is small and screened; (iii) the site is well related to a settlement or is associated with an existing farming operation; and (iv) there is adequate road access to the site.'

The area proposed for the settlement is small in terms of the scale of the woodland and it's layout is designed to keep the structures screened and unobtrusive to local residents or visitors to the woodland. The low impact dwellings are temporary in nature and designed to integrate into the woodland landscape in a way that is sympathetic to the character of the woodland. The materials used are predominately timber and coppice poles provided by the woodland or local suppliers. Where canvas is used it is generally green or camouflaged. Canvas is a sustainable material and has long been used in the construction of 'benders' the traditional dwellings used by travelling or seasonal workers in this country.

Issues relating to neighbours

We have developed a good relationship with our neighbours and have received no complaints. However we are aware that some people may have concerns about how the project may effect other local residents.

DNPA Local Plan Policy GP3 - 'Planning permission will be granted where development: (iv) does not unreasonably detract from the amenities of neighbours by reason of noise, overlooking, smell or other disturbances.'

The project will enhance the amenity value of the area for local residents and provide permissive public access to the site which they did not previously enjoy. While the agricultural and forestry operations within the woodland (which are not of concern to planning) will unavoidably create some occasional noise, the residential aspect of the project will create very little noise beyond that normally associated with people enjoying the recreational use of a woodland.

There are no privacy issues raised by the location of the settlement which does not overlook neighbouring properties and likewise cannot been seen from those properties. It is possible that there may be a concern over smells from compost heaps but such activity is agricultural in nature and therefore not directly relevant to the planning application. However, correctly managed composting facilities need not create excessive or unpleasant smells, certainly no more than the agricultural activities of the livestock farmers in the area.

Tourism attraction issues

We do not consider our project to be a tourism development at all but rather an educational resource. Our objective is to provide a demonstration of environmentally sustainable systems and to raise awareness of environmental issues that effect us all. It is not our aim to create some kind of theme park; however some people might argue that at least some parts of the proposal (such

Last updated: 2009-04-20

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