Low Impact Development: Planning & People in a Sustainable Countryside

Dave Houghton | Tuesday, 26th January 2010
Dave Houghton explains what Simon Fairlie's updated book means for those looking to build eco developments
Author: Simon Fairlie
Publisher: Jon Carpenter Publishing
Publication year: 2009
RRP: £15.00

In this updated second edition, Simon Fairlie offers an indepth and expansive look at the planning system which is an absolute must read for anyone who is seeking to be able to live and work on their land. He gives much enligthenment as to how we can work through the clauses and criteria of Low Impact Development (LID).

Part one explores why the 1947 Town and Country Planning Act was formed and how this has been modified over the past 50 years. Its unfortunate result is the widespread exclusion of people from the countryside in favour of industrialised farming methods, leading to the land becoming degraded and characterised by urban sprawl, monocultures and shopping 'theme parks'. There are also explanations of the planning system; why stop notices are enforced, what happens when an application goes before the committee and why in a large number of cases it is only at appeal that permission is granted.

There are case histories of four Low Impact Developements (LIDs) granted permission: Hockerton, Kingshill, West Harwood and Tir Penrhos Isaf. These four very different settlements are looked at in detail to explain why they were finally given permission.

Developments in Planning

Part two explores what has happened during the 12 years since the first edition was published. Although there are a high number of people now wishing to create LIDs, many already living on their land and hundreds of examples of low impact designs, the planning system still refuses to embrace the demand for a standard policy that will allow more LIDs permisson. I understand how important it is that planning policy is there to protect the environment from widespread develop-ment, yet it is shockingly incomprehensible how so many LID applications are refused whilst plans to build vast retail parks or industrial units in the countryside are passed.

There is a useful chapter on the Planning Inspectorate, described as 'the rock of sanity in a system which otherwise is a sea of muddled ideas, conflicting advice, competing interests and impenetrable jargon'. When an application reaches appeal before the Inspectorate it is allowed a full and impartial hearing, often the first opportunity for the people involved to put their case forward without bias.

Progress for eco developments

The chapter on Wales and Pembroke-shire Policy 52 details how Wales has taken the opposite course of action by implementing a groundbreaking LID policy. Despite this, many planning decisions at appeal are still unhelpful. There is, however, more hope that things are changing with the long overdue granting of permissions for Tony Wrench and Emma Orbach's roundhouses and Tir Penrhos Isaf. (Also, after this edition of LID went to press, the Lammas Ecovillage also received permission. See PM 62 page 33)

There is much to look forward to. With each Low Impact Settlement that enters the system, and whether an application is refused point blank or not, progress to appeal is essential. The more demand we create, the more planners and politicians will have to listen and move forward themselves.

Dawn Houghton is a permaculture diploma student actively seeking land and community to implement a LID.