The Ecological Land Cooperative has purchased a 7.5-hectare field in the village of Arlington, in the village of Arlington, East Sussex. We are seeking permission to establish three affordable residential smallholdings for new entrants to ecological agriculture.
Specifically, we are seeking a 5-year consent for: three temporary agricultural worker dwellings; a single timber-framed barn with a roof-mounted PV array and two adjoining rainwater storage tanks; hardstanding; and changes to the access.
Our application for planning permission was validated by Wealden Council in April 2017. A public consultation period followed during which the council received letters of support and objection.
The planning application documentation is available both on our website page Arlington Planning Application and via Wealden Council’s Planning and Building Control Register (search for application no. WD/2017/0340/F)
We have produced a series of webpages and downloads with more information:
In November 2017, The Ecological Land Cooperative lodged an appeal against Wealden District Council’s failure to determine a planning application for the formation of three linked small holdings and ancillary accommodation at Arlington in East Sussex.
The Council have prevaricated over three issues: first, the functional need for on-site accommodation; second, the financial viability of the small holdings; and third, the potential impact of the proposal on the Ashdown Forest in combination with other developments. With no resolution in sight the ELC felt it had little option, but to exercise its right of appeal.
Brett Spiller of Chapman Lily Planning prepared the Statement of Case which forms the backbone of the appeal. Brett commented: ‘The ELC team submitted a comprehensive planning application and a robust set of arguments. I believe that the proposal would contribute to the realisation of the Council’s spatial objectives, as set out in their Local Plan, so it is regrettable that an appeal has proven necessary’.
Brett emphasised that: Planning policy encourages innovation and seeks to promote thriving rural communities – the ELC model facilitates new entrants to ecological farming and in so doing supports a living, working countryside which is sensitive to both landscape and biodiversity. Whilst new homes in the countryside are generally discouraged, planning policy does make exception for new homes that fulfil an essential need for a rural worker to live permanently at or near their place of work. Overtime this has led to rigorous functional and financial tests being devised. However these tests were not designed with the ELC model in mind, let alone the management and legal safeguards that come with it. The appeal presents a forum within which to grapple and hopefully reconcile such issues’.
The original planning application drew upon case studies and good practice. Prior to the submission of the appeal it was augmented by bespoke evidence, notably site specific sample business plans prepared by Iain Tolhurst of Tolhurst Organic Partnership and Mark Measures of Mark Measures Associates. The evidence demonstrates that each of the three holdings is capable of sustaining a financially viable ecological farming business.
The Ashdown Forest comprises sensitive habitats of European nature conservation importance that host a variety of protected species. The Council are investigating the potential impact of additional vehicular traffic, associated with new development, upon the integrity of the habitats within the Ashdown Forest; In particular the cumulative impact of nitrogen deposition from exhaust emissions upon sensitive heathland. Until such time as this is better understood and mitigation put in place, the Council has imposed a district wide moratorium on all new development in the District that could give rise to a net increase in vehicle movements through the Forest. The ELC understand the need to adopt a precautionary approach, but with respect to the proposal believe this to be disproportionate taking account of the fact that:
- the site lies some considerable distance from the Ashdown Forest – c.28km by road;
- the proposed smallholdings would reduce commuting;
- the proposed smallholdings would help to reduce food miles.
An independent Planning Inspector will be appointed in due course to consider the evidence put forward by both the ELC and the Council. Representations from third parties will also be invited, so you might wish to write to the Planning Inspectorate at the appropriate time to ensure your views are heard.
The Planning Inspectorate has confirmed that the appeal will be determined by the Public Inquiry procedure – which is a more formal process involving legal advocates, with evidence presented by expert witnesses in chief and under cross-examination.
The following may also be of interest:
I have worked for over five years with the Ecological Land Cooperative, supporting their initial project and collaborating with them on various working groups, initiatives and events to encourage low impact, agro-ecological farming, opportunities for new entrants to farming and access to land and rural housing issues. They are an innovative and proactive organisation that is pioneering new ways of addressing some of the most challenging issues facing the development of better food and farming in the UK.
Rachel Harries, Soil Association