Letter to Cath Milner, Development Management Officer

Hi Cath.
We thank you for your good wishes. This is still a stressful situation for us, and Jane has contributed to this letter.

I am writing to you to attempt a summary of where we stand in relation to your recent email in which you said that the May report to committee will be further delayed owing to your assistant Vicki's illness and to further issues being raised by our reply with more information for Celia your ecology adviser.

As I understand it, our application is now at the point where you feel able to report to the committee that all the requirements of the Low Impact Development policy are satisfied except one. This is after several major concessions on our part since our meeting with Vicki and the two ecologists. Points about the look of the roundhouse, the materials and siting of the workshop and the greenhouse have been dealt with by major compromises on our part (in particular, dropping the workshop out of the application altogether). There remained one objection - that Celia could not acknowledge that this proposal will make an 'environmental contribution' that would offset the deemed harm caused by our creation of two new habitats, the reed bed and the garden. We therefore prepared a Woodland Management Plan to take account of Celia's points, and are happy to do so as we fully support her aims for the biodiversity of this patch of the natural world in this region, and appreciate all she has done over the years to safeguard the biodiversity of much of the woodland in this area. I have also done my best to answer her last-minute extra requests on the total standing timber estimates, expected annual increase rates pa etc, although it it hard to see how any estimate could carry any accuracy of less than plus or minus 30% or so. Who can weigh five hundred trees in a bog? We have, as you know, lived here now for ten years, and have succeeded in maintaining a healthy natural balance around us.

If there are still more issues to be raised on this same subject, therefore, I feel it is necessary to take a step back so that we do not fail to see the wood for the trees, quite literally. I have commitments dating back to last year to be away working for the whole month of June. Jane has decided to take the bold step of doing the Camino de Santiago walk at the same time, and we have house sitters in for that month. Unless you make a quick decision there is no way we can add to the overall balance of knowledge about this until July, so we will miss all committees through the summer. If you do not accept that this set up here makes a positive environmental contribution, you might as well tell your committee that right now, and if they turn us down for that reason, I hope you will be good hearted enough to accept that this is now the sticking point. We shall then go to appeal on this point only, and seek the professional opinions of ecologists from far and wide, not just to dispute what Celia says in its tiny detail, but to give the wider picture of our eco-footprint as compared to the average in Wales, and the effect of our stewardship on the surrounding countryside as compared with, say, a local farmer such as your very own chairman, Steve Watkins, who runs the noisiest, smelliest, most light-polluting and visually intrusive farm for miles. The same arguments Celia is wielding will no doubt apply in Emma Orbach's case as well.

There is also a principle involved for your authority to consider, which is : does this policy only apply where applicants are fortunate enough to have acquired a site that is already, from your ecologists' point of view, totally degraded? No mention of this is made in the policy, but your approach so far indicates that it is implicit. While we acknowledge that restoring biodiversity to waste land is part of the mission of permaculture, what we have been doing here is to show how humans can live in balance with nature, as part of nature. It also might be relevant to point out that there are no rules to stop us, as farmers, simply ploughing up the whole field outside our window, or overgrazing it to death, even if we could not stay to watch it plunge down the biodiversity ratings. We owe it to the thousands of people who want to live sustainably in nature to make and hold to these points.

In other words, I urge you to revisit and acknowledge our long-held arguments that environmental contribution goes beyond the amount of detail as to how we are to enable an improved bat drive, important though that is, given that we are approaching planetary overshoot in greenhouse emissions and that big changes are necessary for all of us. What we have been saying for years is now on the mainstream agenda.
Yours sincerely,
Tony Wrench

For info. on the Lammas low impact settlement project, please visit www.lammas.org.uk

p.s. For reasonably up to date news from me please check out www.thatroundhouse.info . Thanks