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[The following extracts are taken from Farm Diversification and the Planning System, a report commissioned by the Welsh Assembly. The Assembly has made very strong committments to sustainable development in Wales yet at present, as the case studies in the report demonstrate, there is little or no real understanding or support at the level of planning authorities and in some instances the system can become obstructive.
I have included some comments of my own which are enclosed in square brackets.]
What is Low Impact Development?
7.2 The term ‘Low Impact Development’ was coined by Simon Fairlie in 1996 in his book of the same name: Low Impact Development: Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside. He defined Low Impact Development as follows:
"A low impact development is one that, through its low negative environmental impact, either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality" (p. xiii)
and goes on to define nine criteria for such development. That it:
Thus he was seeking to define a type of development which is sustainable by virtue of its light touch on its local environment.
[Simon Fairlie is a former editor of The Ecologist and a founder and resident of the low impact settlement Tinker’s Bubble in Somerset. Simon visited us at Penrhos in 1994 (?) and the site is used as one of the examples of Low Impact Development in his excellent book. Simon has gone on to do some excellent work collating information regarding planning applications and appeals relating to this field.
See the Chapter 7 web site and The Land Is Ours]
Tir Penrhos Isaf
7.13 Tir Penrhos Isaf is a three hectare holding in Snowdonia which has been worked since 1986 by a family of three, according to Permaculture principles. These have brought about a great increase in biodiversity and productivity of the land. An agricultural worker’s dwelling was applied for in 1986 and refused. In 1991 temporary consent for a caravan on the site was allowed. This permission was renewed in 1995 and again in 1998. This third temporary consent has now expired and applications have been received for a further extension of one year and for a low impact dwelling.
7.14 Throughout this case Snowdonia National Park Authority has viewed the applications to live on the site as applications for agricultural workers’ dwellings. The Authority’s Agricultural Liaison Officer has not been convinced of the functional or financial justification for such a dwelling or of the appropriateness of Permaculture to the landscape of Snowdonia. Nevertheless, the agricultural, ecological and environmental benefits of the development are recognised. The current planning applications are likely to be determined in January 2001.
7.17 Views of planning officers: In all three case studies the LPA officers concerned were interviewed as well as the residents of the site. The view of all of the officers was that, although the policies for an agricultural worker’s dwelling are often the only policy test they have readily available for Low Impact Development, this may not be the right test recognising the subsistence nature of these developments.
[The above point refers to the three examples of low impact developments used as case studies in the report; they were Tir Penrhos Isaf (our place), Brithdir Mawr (Tony Wrench and others) and Tinker's Bubble (Simon Fairlie and others). The reference to the subsistence nature of these developments is misleading in that Penrhos has been designed to generate an increasing income which we believe is already well above subsistance levels (however you measure that).]
(the following from the appendices)
SCOTTISH NATIONAL POLICY
Extract from NPPG15: Rural Development
Low density, low impact housing
29. Low density housing, sometimes referred to as "lowland crofting", is one approach that has been adopted in the commuter area of West Lothian and could be emulated in other appropriate rural areas characterised by low grade agricultural land and degraded land. The policy promotes the restructuring of farms, with at least one third of the total area planted as native or amenity woodland, one third (the better farmland) retained in agricultural use (tenanted) and the remainder providing the land for about a dozen holdings of 1-10 hectares each. Occupants are encouraged to run businesses from them but there are restrictions on the type of businesses e.g. no heavy goods vehicles are allowed. The tree planting, public access and other planning objectives are usually secured by Section 75 agreements. The Central Scotland Countryside Trust, the body responsible for promoting the Central Scotland Forest (CSF), in conjunction with other bodies, has completed a review of the lowland crofting initiative.
30. Other smaller scale development with a low impact on the countryside environment, including for example craft homes and workshops, can provide both economic and environmental benefits. The regulation of innovative low impact uses through the planning system is best achieved by a plan-led approach to determine their scale and contribution to wider strategic objectives, followed by implementation by means of conditions and Section 75 agreements. in areas where the quality of agricultural land is low and the landscape is degraded, councils should actively consider promoting in their development plans, innovative forms of sustainable low density, low impact housing (along the lines of the West Lothian model) and small-scale economic developments.
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