Father's plea for 'carbon neutral' couple rejected
THE father of a man whose family is fighting to live a carbon neutral lifestyle on land in Willand has been told there are no "exceptional circumstances" to allow them to do so.
Brian Mason wrote to Mid Devon District Council leader Cllr Peter Hare-Scott in support of Stig and Dinah who want to continue living a carbon neutral lifestyle at Muxbeare Orchard.
The couple, aged 34 and 35, received an injunction to leave after transforming what was a neglected four-acre plot into a smallholding boasting chickens and a 400sq m allotment.
Conservative Cllr Peter Hare-Scott, who represents the Newbrook Ward, Crediton, responded to Mr Mason and explained that councils must prove there to be exceptional reasons for them to deviate from planning law.
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He said: "Frankly, there are no exceptional circumstances in this case.
"This is just one of at least 20 such cases we receive each year in this area of people buying or renting a small area of open countryside to try to establish a new residence on the land.
"There is no justification in agricultural terms for the creation of a new residence in open countryside. This is borne by the fact that the family cannot earn a sustainable livelihood on four-acres and they need to supplement this through other work and income sources."
Stig and Dinah lost an appeal against the council's refusal to allow them to live and work the land a year ago.
They are now in the process of appealing a rejected planning application to build a "low impact" dwelling made mostly from organic materials on the site.
The couple, who live on the site in a converted horsebox, has regenerated the orchard by planting trees and they live on the fruit and vegetables grown on the site.
Produce is also sold to other residents in the community and Dinah's income from her job as a community care worker provides clothes and other necessities which they cannot grow themselves.
Mr Mason, a highway engineer, responded to the leader and asked "by sustainable livelihood, I assume you mean at a commercial level?" He said they only aim to sustain themselves.
He added: "You may not be aware that my son and his family wish to enter a legally binding contract that states they are not allowed to sell their house that they would build, so that unless they or their descendents are living within the dwelling it would have to be taken down and composted."
Mr Mason believes planning law can be favourable to gypsy travellers in similar circumstances and believes the outcome of the original planning application may have been different had it gone before a committee as opposed to being determined by a council officer.
He also says there is no provision in policy for 'green builds' or 'permaculture' lifestyles and he believes the planning system should show flexibility to individual family needs in light of the Big Society.
Mr Mason also explained the land is surrounded by homes and added: "The other point which amazes me is how the council allows such a monstrosity as the industrial estate which is a stone's throw away from many properties, including my son's."
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