The Case of the Mason Family of Willand Illustrates the Need for an NPPF of Real Worth

A couple who have purchased their own land, lived and worked it so it supplemented their needs have been ordered off their property with a threat of imprisonment – Injunction to Move By the End of The Month

No other story clearly illustrates the misuse of existing guidelines and regulations. No other story highlights the huge chasm that needs to be bridged between Nimbyism within local government and realising a path towards true sustainability. No other story illustrates the need for an NPPF of real worth.

There are several hundred hectares of now ‘dormant’ land in rural Devon alone. The flow of those seeking a more sustainable lifestyle often falls flat following the realisation that the input required is huge. Do these predominantly ex professional new landowners get threatened with eviction because they cannot realise the aspirations of their land registered for agricultural purposes – No. Their houses remain separate to the needs of managing the land as it should be to maintain it as an important element of the English rural landscape and the issue of good land management is quietly forgotten to the detriment of the landscape and its biodiversity.

Sustainable development (SD) goes hand in hand with sustainable land management in a rural setting. Had the orchard been purchased by a development company with several new homes proposed incorporating SD into construction, easily done due to the fairly lax definitions in existence for SD, then would planning permission have been given?

This is the Kevin McCloud branded affordable housing estate – Kevin Mcclouds housing to be rolled out. Without commentating on the architectural design, there is one glaringly obvious omission – greenery. Gabion cages replace what could be a living hedge, a carpet of impermeable surfacing seals the soil and no trees have been planted to break up the inevitable visual monotony of terraced housing. It may be ‘good design’ but does this excuse a lack of landscaping or the chance to landscape by those who need to live in celebrity branded housing? The assumption that our lives gain more benefit from a celebrity stamp of approval over those gained from trees and green space is a frightening precedent to set.

Sustainable land management includes the fourth dimension of sustainable development; the cultural angle. Our cultural heritage is defined by a resourcefulness of our forebears in discovering methods of living within the confines of available land.

Mid Devon Council’s decision based on landscape character and rules with regards agricultural land use may well be justifiable. Dangerously for Mid Devon Council one can easily wonder that if the Mason’s had chosen to spent money shopping for their clothes at the local farmers cooperative at the same time they purchased the materials necessary for their smallholding whether this case would have ever reached the stage it has. This is because there are many, many similar cases in Devon alone which are dealt with in a very different manner.

This case highlights a need for new guidance and highlights a flaw in the system where such a case should be allowed to be challenged using common law, enabling a precedent to be created which could further sustainable land management, help in creating guidelines for new landowners and halt the increasing quantity of rural land that is lacking any management and thus reducing its benefits to us as humans and diminishing the biodiversity that is so reliant on it.

With regards the UK triple bottom line of sustainability Mid Devon Council fail: In economic terms, the decision by Mid Devon collapses; on social terms, the decision by Mid Devon collapses; on ecological terms the decision by Mid Devon collapses and culturally, bearing in mind the heritage of the rural landscape in this locality the decision by Mid Devon collapses.

This decision makes Mid Devon Council look like they are manipulating the image of not only their landscape, the way it is managed, but even those who live in it. This is hinting towards landscape management which not only ignores the European Landscape Convention completely but is more in line with the mindset of those who shaped land policy at the time of the Enclosure Acts.

Are we to just accept that Sustainable Development is limited to mass affordable housing, which can be sold to masses by a TV name. A furthering of a two tier system, where any attempt to break the mould will be smashed using the guise of agricultural and landscape guidelines which are little used as they should be.

I would suggest that Mid Devon Council need to really look at this decision and their comments in regards to it, because at present it displays them in a very bad light indeed.


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