First published on the New Era website
Shaun Chamberlin writes as a director and participant of the Eco/Ecological Land Co-operative which was set up to buy land that has been, or is at risk of being, intensively managed and to lease it to people that have the skills to manage it ecologically and would not otherwise be able to afford do so.
In 2009 community shares were sold to finance the purchase of our first land, a 22-acre site on the Devon/Somerset border which we christened Greenham Reach.
The land has been divided into three plots, to allow each of three ‘clustered’ smallholdings the independence to build their own dwelling and manage their land as they wish, while enjoying the benefits of a small community for tool-sharing, sociability, mutual support etc.
Some infrastructure will be shared between the three smallholdings – a timber barn with solar PV array and rainwater collection; improved access; a biological waste water treatment system and internal pathways linking the plots.
The smallholders would be required to sign up to a strict management plan, ensuring that the land will be managed so as to maintain and enhance habitats, species diversity and landscape quality, and to facilitate the provision of low-impact livelihoods. If they ever want to sell and move on, the land must be sold at an affordable price, so that the land is never priced out of reach. Otherwise the land will be theirs to run as they see fit.
A barn raising at Land Matters, a related Devon project, home to one of the ELC’s directors
The officers responsible for assessing the application for planning permission approved it, but the majority of the district councillors didn’t agree with their officers’ verdict, and there was no forum for challenging the ill-informed nature of their opinions (one actually opined that there may not be enough wind on the site to power our solar panels!).
We will all wish the co-operative well with their appeal, which is being prepared in partnership with an experienced pro bono environmental barrister.
Read more on ELC’s website: http://ecologicalland.coop