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[This document was initially prepared as part of the process of renewing our temporary planning permission in November 1994]
DRAFT CRITERIA FOR ASSESSING THE VIABILITY OF PERMACULTURE (SUSTAINABLE) HOLDINGS.
A Permaculture Design for the site
Applicants should provide a Permaculture design appropriate to the specific qualities of the site, the occupant(s) and the locality. This design will embody the stated ethics and principles of Permaculture Design. The Permaculture Design is also the key component in measuring the progress and success (ie. sustainability) of the system.
The design, in the form of (for example) text, maps, plans, illustrations, photographs, video etc. would outline the applicant’s strategy in the short, medium and long terms. This may be in the form of a five year plan, twenty five year plan etc. It would also include strategies for the continued or alternative use of the site should the original applicant relinquish occupancy.
It is important to recognise that the Permaculture Design is not just about how the site will look but equally as importantly, how it will be implemented or achieved. This involves setting targets, establishing priorities, developing the equivalent of cashflows, planning investment and monitoring progress.
The design would set realistic targets for achieving sustainability.
The design should be seen as a strategy which offers varieties of options. It is thus flexible and will adapt to take advantage of unforeseen effects such as changes in markets, public opinion or legislature.
A design would be specific to a particular occupant, site and locality and would draw upon the unique resources of all three. All designs will therefore be different in some respects while adhering to the stated ethics and principles of Permaculture. Changes in occupants may necessitate the re-design of the holding.
The Permaculture Design would address all the draft criteria outlined in this document.
The occupants should have a theoretical and practical understanding of sustainable systems (Permaculture) and how to design systems that are appropriate to the specific qualities of the site, themselves and their locality.
At present there are limited educational opportunities related to sustainable systems. The Permaculture Intensive Design Course represents one of the most accessible entry points to understanding and implementing sustainable systems.
Education in Permaculture Design is supervised by the Permaculture Academy, over-seen by the Permaculture Association (Britain), which is a registered charity. The Academy monitors standards and co-ordinates the development of the syllabus. The syllabus covers the major aspects of sustainable development in both theory and practice.
The occupants would need to demonstrate integration within the existing community. This integration would deepen as the system developed. It would reflect the occupants commitment to the local community.
Integration could be demonstrated by actions such as;
Involvement in and support for living community activities and traditions (such as the Welsh language).
Use of goods and services from within the local community.
The provision of goods and services for that local community, generated from the holding (for example, organic food products or useful material items or employment).
The use of exchange systems, (such as bartering or LETS).
The occupant should be able to generate from the holding a level of income which is sufficient for their personal needs and for the continued implementation of the design.
The income would generally be a poly-income, generated from several related business activities, (up to a maximum of say four or five), which would be derived from the unique qualities of the occupant, site and locality. One or more of the poly-incomes may be generated from off-site work within the local community; this would also demonstrate community integration.
Income would not be measured in sterling alone. Placing emphasis on income in sterling alone (such as the minimum agricultural wage) is in fact counter-productive in the development of sustainable systems, leading to a reduction of community interaction and over-dependence on off-site work and support payments.
Income substitution, in the form of exchanges, barter, LETS or the sharing of equipment and resources (for example) would be totally acceptable and would also demonstrate community integration and support for living traditional activities.
As the development of the holding progresses, the occupants would be expected to meet more of their needs from the holding itself. Consequently the need for a high sterling income could be expected to lessen. This would be indicated in the original design and would provide a measure of progress.
Surpluses would be re-invested in sustainable projects locally or abroad, rather than accumulated at an individual level.
The site and the environment
The following criteria relate to sustainable landuse and are applicable irrespective of the details of any particular design; they all still apply. Strategies for achieving these criteria would be covered in the design for the site.
If these criteria are not fulfilled, the site cannot be considered sustainable.
Water would leave the site cleaner than when it entered.
The water holding capacity of the site would increase with time. This increase would be due to increased water holding capacity of the soils (through for example soil conditioning and chosen plant systems) as well as physical structures such as ponds or dams.
The soils on the site would increase over time, both in quantity (through soil building) and quality (fertility).
Fertility would be restored by appropriate techniques; for example, initial mechanical soil conditioning, the use of specific plant species such as trees on steep slopes, grazing regimes on pasture etc. These techniques would be clearly defined in the design. Bare soil cultivation would tend to be minimal or avoided generally but would certainly not occur on slopes.
The overall biomass of the site would increase over time.
The initial bio-diversity of the holding would be maintained.
Appropriate species would be employed to increase the diversity of the system. Where possible this will be through the use of native plants from local seed; this will be first choice every time and provides niche space for local plant nurseries.
Certain exotics can be usefully employed both in the process of establishing productive native plant communities and as high value cash crops. It is expected that local liaisons will be required with competent ecologists regarding tenacious species to avoid (possibly rhododendron, western hemlock, Japanese knotweed for example).
All materials used in the construction of dwellings and other structures, fences, access roads etc. would be mainly of local origin. This will help re-generate local economies and demonstrate community integration.
It should be accepted that at present this may not be easy but it represents a challenge which must be faced up to.
The Design for the site would demonstrate how the occupant intended to reduce their reliance on non-renewable energy resources over time and replace them with renewable resources generated on site or obtained within the locality. This would include transport.
The site would in time produce more energy/resources than it consumed.
Re-cycling of products and bi-products within the system would be taken into account.
The limited use of non-renewable forms of energy will usually be necessary initially in order to establish the site. The design should demonstrate how this use would reduce over time.
To a certain extent when looking at sustainable holdings the occupants cannot be separated out from the site nor the site from the locality. Assessing whether the holding is "successful" (ie. sustainable or moving towards sustainability) is not only a question of looking at what has been done on the ground but also how the occupant and site fit into and enliven the local community.
By local and locality, the following is intended; if goods (for example plant material or seeds) or services are required that cannot be produced on site, they are searched for first within the very local community; for example, Llanfachreth. If not obtainable here then the search moves out to neighbouring communities, in this example, Ganllwyd, Hermon or Rhydymain. Next would be the wider community of the Dolgellau area and only if unobtainable at this level would the buying in from other areas be considered. It is the action of searching that will generate the work locally which in turn keeps money and investment circulating at a local level; this is a crucial aspect of sustainable development.
It takes time; sustainability cannot be achieved over night. It requires the re-generation of patterns of living and working within the community that have suffered serious erosion over the past fifty years. The Permaculture Design will take these challenges into account and provide realistic targets with timescales (deadlines) within which these targets can be achieved. Failure to achieve targets should trigger further support rather than punishment.
Assessment of progress against these criteria would take place at various levels by a variety of individuals or groups. For example, environmental criteria could be assessed by any competent ecologist, initially at three years and at subsequent intervals of perhaps 10 or 25 years. The Community Councils are probably best placed to monitor community integration, although local groups could be used to generate supporting evidence. Planning officers who are also trained as Permaculture Designers could assess against the other criteria and provide support during the preparation and initial application stages.
This draft October 2000 © Chris Dixon
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