I doubt I’m the only person who dreams of owning a piece of land (preferably with friends) on which to build affordable eco-houses and grow food and fuel. This is difficult in the UK due to the vast disparity between the price of agricultural land (4,000-10,000/acre) and land with planning permission (200,000+/acre). Whilst politicians continue to trot out the usual rhetoric: ‘sustainable development/lifestyles/communities, zero carbon housing, blah, blah, blah’, what, if anything, has actually changed on the ground to make land accessible to Permaculturists and/or Transitioners of modest means and self-sufficient dreams?
Should I Take The Risky Road?
You may have heard tales of people in the UK who have ‘succeeded’ in creating their dream communities by buying land, moving onto it without planning permission, living in teepees, benders, yurts, caravan/cabin hybrids or whatever, spending years battling with their local planning officials, and finally winning retrospective planning permission. Permission, however, often comes with less well-known conditions attached e.g. Ben Law’s planning permission for his house is a silvicultural tie, i.e. it applies to running a wood-land business and charcoal burning on the land and has a personal tie to Ben Law himself.
The Ten Year & Four Year Rules
There are rules, which apply UK wide, state that if you live in a caravan for 10 years or a building for four years, unnoticed by the powers that be, the dwelling becomes ‘lawful’ and you can apply for a ‘certificate of lawfulness’. Clearly this means you need tolerant neighbours and that you will spend four to 10 years living with insecurity. Should someone complain about your dwelling, even at the 11th hour, you can be served an enforcement notice and rendered homeless. None-the-less, there are undoubtedly people up and down the UK pursuing this strategy, hidden away in bits of wood-land; mostly, I suspect, single people or couples. It would be harder to conceal a community for years…
Safer Routes: The DIY Farm/Smallholding
Another tactic open to single house-holds is to buy a suitable piece of agricultural land and submit an ‘agricultural prior notice consent form’ to the local planning office detailing the agricultural building you intend to build on your land. This is ‘permitted development’ on agricultural land and hence doesn’t need planning permission. You should receive consent within 28 days and are then entitled to commence building.
You can then legally site a temporary mobile home on the land to live in whilst you build your barn (and set up your business). Your temporary accommodation can remain in place for five years (presumably as long as you are still building your barn) during which time you need to develop your business to generate as much income as possible.
At the end of five years you apply for planning permission to build a house. You must prove that you need to live on-site in order to run your business, e.g. caring for livestock that breed all year round, and that your business generates sufficient income to support you.