As the numbers who cannot afford a conventional home continue to climb,there is greater interest in living off grid as a solution to the housing crisis. The problem is that property developers sit on available residential land, making it unaffordable for groups of ordinary people to get together and live somewhere pleasant. Sure its always possible to move to some god-forsaken windswept piece of moorland or desert, but living off the grid should not be so miserable. Here is a summary of the rules and how to get around them: In the UK, the rules state that if you manage to live in a caravan for 10 years or a building for four years, without being discovered, the dwelling becomes ‘lawful’ and you can apply for a ‘certificate of lawfulness’. But skulking around for four years, lying to locals about your true whereabouts is hardly good for your peace of mind. Should someone complain about your dwelling, even at the 11th hour, you can be served an enforcement notice and rendered homeless. And the strategy only works for single-households making it all the more lonely. It would be hard to conceal a community for years. Another better option avaible to small groups is to buy a 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 agricultural building (and set up your business). Your temporary accommodation can remain in place while you build for up to five years while you also develop your business. After five years you can apply for planning permission for a house. You must still prove that you need to live on-site in order to run at least part of your business, and that your overall business generates sufficient income to support you. Parts of Scotland have a long tradition of smallholding known as crofting. Although crofts for rent can be hard to find and crofts for sale are now as absurdly priced as other housing land, the Scottish Parliament recently made it possible to create new crofts. It is now possible to buy land and apply to the Crofter’s Commission to have it crofted; the main benefit being that planning permission is generally granted for one house on a working croft. Since this legislation is relatively new it’s not clear how it will work in practice, and since the Crofter’s Commission has to consult the relevant planning office it is still possible for planning permission to be refused, so plans should be discussed with the local planning office before buying land. A legal body such as a housing co-op could purchase the land and apply to create a number of new crofts.This also applies to land owned by Forestry Commission Scotland (FCS) , even if the land is not for sale. Elsewhere in Scotland a policy allows small farmers with holdings of 100 acres minimum to boost their income by creating ‘crofts’ on their land. These ‘lowland crofts’ are aimed at ‘hobby farmers.’ In Wales the development of ‘Low Impact Dwellings’ in the open countryside is legal. Adopted by Pembrokeshire National Park Authority in May 2006 and by Pembrokeshire Council in June 2006, Policy 52 ‘…provides a context for permitting development in the countryside as an exception to normal planning policy…’ This is the policy under which the Lammas group finally achieved planning permission and is developing their site. In July 2010 the Welsh Assembly Government issued planning guidelines entitled ‘Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities‘. The guidance states that ‘Low Impact Developments’ may be located within or adjacent to existing settlements or in the open countryside. Useful Websites www.crofting.org www.forestry.gov.uk www.lammas.org.uk www.planningportal.gov.uk www.scotland.gov.uk www.tlio.org.uk/chapter7 http://wales.gov.uk
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