No. 5 – 12th December 2012

Newsletter No. 5 – 12th December 2012

It’s Been a Long Time – Again!

Sorry for another long wait for this newsletter. I’m afraid it’s also rather long, but I’m still learning how to produce effective e-mail newsletters! Eco-Hamlets UK, and the West Wales Eco-Hamlet I’m trying to create, were never intended to be one person projects. However, due to a number of setbacks, that were best resolved before getting other people involved, that’s what they currently are. It’s now time to move on, make things happen, and for enough people to be involved that we can build resilience into the project.

Eco-Hamlets UK is intended to be an organisation that helps to create lots of small sustainable neighbourhoods all over Britain, and I need help to set up a proper structure for it, and people to be involved in running it.

I believe that there are a variety of opportunities available in developing our first Eco-Hamlet, and would like to hear from anyone seriously interested in exploring them.

Eco-Hamlets UK

A survey of Eco-Hamlets UK members last year showed that turning the organisation into a social enterprise, or leaving things as they are, were equally popular. Leaving things as they are means that I do everything, and that isn’t working.

The first stage is to do some organisational and administration work, involving sitting at a desk, working with computers, researching, making phone calls, sending e-mails, and other similar tasks. Some research into legal structures, and potential sources of funding, is needed. The web site and mailing lists are working well, but I haven’t found the right system for collating and sharing information, and communicating with members, yet.

It probably makes sense for the initial work to be done by people who live in, or could easily visit, West Wales, but as a UK wide organisation I think that most of our work will need to be done online, so people from all regions can be a core part of the organisation. Some discussions have taken place to clarify the aims of the organisation, and the inputs and outputs needed to achieve them, but there’s a lot more to do.

As well as people to help set up and run Eco-Hamlets UK, it would be great for everyone to pass on news, events, potential Eco-Hamlet sites, and any other relevant information. This can be sent in by e-mail, but regular contributors can also update the web site directly. It’s very straightforward.  Regular or occasional contributions to the blog would be welcome too. Facebook users could also post in our Group. Small contributions by a number of people would make a big difference, as would spreading the word, both generally, and on social media.

So if you can help set up the organisation, help to run it, or just make small contributions, please get in touch. The intention is that we help each other to achieve things that are difficult to achieve on our own.

contact@eco-hamlets.org.uk

West Wales Eco-Hamlet

I bought this site because I could see the potential to create our first Eco-Hamlet. Having experienced the difficulties of trying to buy larger sites as part of a group, it made sense to start small. My ultimate aim is that the site will be owned in some way by all the residents, but I believed in what I am trying to achieve enough to risk my own money to get things started. My aim was just to get my money back, not to profit from it, but any profit would be used to develop further Eco-Hamlets. As it stands at the moment, I face losing money, which is rather more commitment to the project than I intended! It doesn’t help me personally, and jeopardises the bigger project.

The main reason for the delay in developing the site, and the potential loss, is an inconvenient problem that could have been resolved quite quickly, if outside forces had been co-operative, but after 18 months of banging my head against a brick wall, I was too exhausted to try all the creative and imaginative solutions I had been dreaming up. Unfortunately, this process needed to be gone through first. Since then, I’ve been trying to get the energy back to carry on, but it’s still eluding me. This was supposed to be a high profile project that everyone knew about, but I’ve had to keep a low profile, as publicity in the wrong places could cause problems with resolving this issue. I can’t even describe the problem in public, although anyone who gets involved will have it fully explained. It may be resolved quite easily, by someone with skills I don’t have.

I visualise the West Wales Eco-Hamlet being a mix of conventional and low-impact housing. Each home would have its own garden, and the remaining land and woodland may be managed jointly, or by one or more residents, for personal use, or for business. The important thing is to create a settlement that meets the needs of the residents, and is sustainable in an uncertain future. It also needs to be financially viable, so the concept can be replicated in future Eco-Hamlets.

Some potential options that I believe have potential are:

  • Renovate existing housing on site, as two, possibly three, homes or
  • Renovate and convert existing house into up to five “tiny home” flats
  • One or two new build houses
  • Several new build low-impact houses, where residents are not required to make a living from the land, but will need to meet some challenging ecological footprint requirements*
  • If creating additional housing is not possible, some sort of shared/communal living in and around the existing house.
  • Remaining land used by residents for food, fuel and materials and/or for small scale land based businesses

I am compiling several potential plans covering these options, and how they could be made to work, and am open to alternative ideas.

It is most likely that homes will be for sale, possibly leasehold, with the freehold of the whole site being owned by a trust, co-operative or similar, so potential residents will need to be able to raise the money to buy in, but rental may be an option.

Opportunities

I would like to find people to each take forward creating one of the homes listed above. They would work on their own project, and co-operate with others in the group to develop a plan for the whole site. There would be no commitment to buy in until it is clear that the project will be successful. There will be some costs incurred, as there would be with any potential site, but not the risks and pressures involved in buying a site and not being able to develop it (due to not getting planning permission, or other reasons). I’ve already taken that risk for you!

If the project is unsuccessful, either as a whole, or for an individual, a lot of valuable experience will have been gained, at relatively low cost, to apply to another site.

Anyone with time and energy who would like to help, but not live here, is also welcome to volunteer.

There is limited space available for people who want to live on site while working on their project.

If you are seriously interested in exploring any of these options, please send an e-mail to contact@eco-hamlets.org.uk.

* Non land based low-impact development close to an existing settlement, using TAN6 One Planet Development planning policy is currently being researched.

News From South West England

  • An Eco-Hamlet in the Blackdown Hills. This is our vision. Currently living in East Devon but looking for land with dwelling/s to form nucleus of community. Interested?  e-mail: BlackdownHillsHamlet@gmail.com
  • Eco Land co-op waiting for planning appeal in January 2013 (application for a cluster of 3 low-impact smallholdings was refused by planning committee despite officer’s recommendation for approval)
  • Second revised application for an agricultural business and dwelling at Plotgate refused a few days ago.
  • Future Roots project near Langport stalled due to planning/financial circumstances.

Items That Were Left Out Due to Lack of Space

Charlie 1998-2012 – Tribute to a wondeful dog, who was an inspiration for, and totally involved in, the Eco-Hamlets project.

Trelay: who, when, what, where, why – Information on the Trelay Farm eco-village.