Hope for Self-Sufficiency! Could Permaculture Influence Future Sustainable Development Policy?

Emily Ingham
Thursday, 1st November 2012

Wales leads planning revolution as new Practice Guidance document is released to simplify the process of gaining planning permission on 'open countryside'.

A new advisory document has been released which will aid people in making planning applications for sustainable development on open countryside in Wales, but which could potentially also lead to change in the uk and abroad.

These developments, referred to as One Planet Developments must:

  • commit to provide for the income, food and energy needs of all the inhabitants, and manage their own waste 
  • have either a positive or neutral effect on the environment, demonstrated through a footprint calculation each year, known as the Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) 

Lammas in Pembrokeshire was one of the first One Planet Developments, where construction began in 2009. It is hoped that such examples, along with the new guidance, will help demystify the difficult process of gaining planning permission on undeveloped land in the countryside.

What the New Guidance Covers

It is usually almost impossible to gain planning permission for undeveloped land. Building your own One Planet Development offers a viable and satisfying way to live on open countryside, in harmony with the environment. This doesn't mean that you won't still be very closely monitored by planning officials, and there are some very important criteria that you must meet. The new advisory document explains in plain terms how to get started, laying out:

  • the practical requirements to complete a successful planning application for a One Planet Development
  • how to prepare a Management Plan (explained in more detail below)
  • the requirements of the Ecological Footprint Analysis (EFA) which is used to monitor the success of the development

A Place for Permaculture Design

Importantly, the advisory document specifically names permaculture as a sound option for achieving the objectives of One Planet Development – "as permaculture is intrinsically site-based and focused on low environmental impacts, it is so often linked to One Planet Development... Permaculture has a long association with development likely to meet the necessary requirements due to its intrinsically holistic nature."

Using permaculture principles to achieve the objectives of One Planet Development

The Management Plan

One Planet Developments must provide for the minimum needs of the inhabitants in terms of income, food, energy and waste assimilation. The strategy for this must be laid out in the Management should be used as the basis of a legal agreement between you and the planning authorities if planning permission is granted.

The Management Plan must outline design and strategy for the following:

  1. Land Based Activities – a One Planet Development should be able to provide at least 65% of its inhabitants' food needs from working the land. If this is not possible, up to 35% of food needs can be met by selling or bartering with the produce in order to meet food needs not otherwise met. At lease 30% must be met through consumption of produce from the site
  2. Land Management – the land should be worked in a way that protects and improves its current state
  3. Energy & Water – these should be provided off-grid, on the site itself, unless it can be proved that alternatives are more environmentally sound
  4. Waste – the site must be able to assimilate all waste produced in environmentally sustainable ways, except for very small amounts of unavoidable non-biodegradable or hazardous waste types
  5. Zero Carbon Buildings – construction of new buildings on the site must be done so in line with the up to date Welsh definition of zero carbon, and must be easy to remove
  6. Community Impact Assessment
  7. Transport assessment and travel plan

The release of this new advisory document proves transparency in Wales' pledge towards sustainable development. It clearly lays out the requirements for acquiring planning permission on open countryside. It is very exciting to see permaculture named as a way of achieving the aims of sustainable development, and it will be interesting to see how this new guidance, encouraging sustainable development in Wales, will inform future planning policy in the UK and abroad.

For related information on Planning Permission, please visit How to Get Plannimg Permission on Non-Development Land 

One Planet Developments are part of the Welsh government's One Wales: One Planet initiative, which requires all organisations in Wales to actively commit to sustainable development. The new Practice Guidance, described here, was released by the Welsh Assembly Government to accompany Technical Advice Note 6 (Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities), which has been in place since July 2010.

Emily Ingham is a former environmental consultant, and now writes for Permaculture magazine on issues relating to environmental legislation and policy.