Permaculture Plot Gets Stay of Execution from Planners

Permaculture magazine
Thursday, 24th July 2014

Jules Smith and Matthew Lepley have been given a stay of execution, meaning they have 3 years to prove their permaculture plot in Devon is a viable agricultural business. If not, their low impact, eco home will be demolished.

A couple in Beaworthy, Devon have been given three years to prove their 20 acre permaculture plot is viable or their eco house must be demolished.

Jules Smith and Matthew Lepley have spent the last five years, living in tents and off the land whilst building their one bedroom, low impact home that cost just £20,000. They use permaculture principles to grow and sell fruit and vegetables and also rear ducks for eggs and sheep for wool.

The couple built their home without planning permission but at the time had the support of the neighbours. They aimed at receiving retrospective planning after four years, but when they explained their plans to turn the site into a conservation business, providing workshops in green engineering and permaculture, a neighbour complained to the council.

The council investigated in the fear of it being an "uncontrolled development in the middle of the countryside" and had demanded that they demolish their home. The couple appealed and have been given a temporary stay of execution.

The three roomed eco house is built from recycled materials. The foundations are old tractor tyres filled with gravel and the walls are pallets and railway sleepers - all created without power tools. The site has no running water so water is extracted through a bore hole, they have no electricity and they use an outdoor compost toilet - recycling the waste after.

Jules and Matthew moved to Beaworthy from London, leaving their 'pent up' tower block home in Wood Green. Speaking to the Western Daily Press, Matthew explained: "We wanted to build a home that would let us truly live as one with nature. We used recycled materials, an axe to break up the wood and hand tools to piece the structure together. The process was a lot slower but it was extremely satisfying. We wanted to reduce carbon emissions as much as possible.

"The plans for the house have changed over the years in accordance with our needs and nature. The heat comes from a woodburner which heats the water for the bathroom. We don't have electricity but we get with paraffin lamps and candles. This life is not for everyone but we love it - it enables us to live a therapeutic lifestyle and be self-sufficient. We took the decision to build without planning permission because the council's procedure is not environmentally friendly enough and it goes against our personal principles."

The couple now have three years to prove they can make a living from the land. If they can they will be allowed to stay.

Further resources

Update: Demolition of Pembrokeshire roundhouse

How to build a beautiful, energy efficient round home in the woods

Building a Low Impact Roundhouse

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