No. 7 – 15th March 2013

Eco-Hamlets UK Newsletter No. 7 – 15th March 2013

Eco-Hamlets UK Social Enterprise

I’ve made some good progress with moving things forward over the last few weeks, and now need feedback on what I’ve done so far, and people to get involved in the next stage.

I recently had a meeting with an organisation who may be able to help with funding to get a social enterprise started, and since then I’ve been working on a proposed way to progress. Now I need people to read it and make comments and suggestions, or even suggest a different approach. It’s online at http://www.eco-hamlets.org.uk/enterprise_wiki. It would be a big help if you added your comments at the bottom of each page, but you’re also welcome to e-mail them to contact@eco-hamlets.org.uk. I think this is the best opportunity to really get going that we’ve ever had, so we need to keep up the momentum.

Once the proposal is more refined, we will need people to help make it happen. For practical reasons, it may be best to get started with a few people who are based in West Wales, as it’s easier to meet face to face while we are setting things up. As a UK wide organisation, we will eventually need people from all over Britain, and as most of our work will be done online this should not cause any difficulties. So if you are interested, please get in touch ASAP, wherever you live.

We need:

  • People to decide strategy and make decisions (probably as directors of the Social Enterprise), who have a range of useful skills and experience, but may not be able to devote much time, other than a few meetings a year. How this works will depend on the legal form the Social Enterprise takes.
  • People to do the day to day work of running Eco-Hamlets UK. Ideally much of this will be done by paid employees, with the support of some volunteers, but unless we can find funding to employ someone until we can start generating income to pay them, all work may need to be done by volunteers to start with. The work will probably be mostly computer based, and could be done from home, although there should also be events to organise and other acivities away from a desk.
  • People to start up associated businesses (ideally as Social Enterprises) to help create each Eco-Hamlet. These will include low-impact and sustainable construction and building renovation, architects, planning experts, and all sorts of other activities. Eco-Hamlets UK will work best as a UK wide organisation, but the associated businesses may generally be best as small, local ones. Please read the proposal for more details.
  • It may be useful to set up a “task and finish” group to begin the work, or maybe this will be done by the future decision makers and regular workers.

Please read the proposal, add your comments and suggestions, and get involved if you can. There’s a lot to do, but I hope it won’t be long before we can finally start actually creating places where we want to live.

Eco-Hamlet News

Nothing much to report at the moment, as all my effort is going into starting the Social Enterprise, although I have had a useful meeting with an architect about the West Wales Eco-Hamlet. I also have some imaginative (or maybe crazy!!) ideas for some future projects, that need some research.

Watch this space!

Low-Impact Development In Wales

Some readers will have registered to receive a One Planet Development Newsletter, but there has not been time to start producing this yet. Some relevant news will appear in the main newsletter for now.

Although the main focus of Eco-Hamlets UK is intended to be doing imaginative things with “conventional” housing, there is great potential for low-impact development too, as it could create low cost homes for people who struggle to afford high house prices and rents. Wales is the only part of the UK that has a planning policy that allows low-impact development, although it will need much work and campaigning to make it ideal for our needs. It is, however, a good start, but the people who are currently applying for planning permission are struggling to get their applications approved, as theĀ  visionary thinking that created the policy has yet to inspire the people who implement it.

What appears to be the best prepared planning application so far has just been rejected by the planning inspector, and is being seen as a setback for the policy. This is an application for a single smallholding, and not an Eco-Hamlet, but is an important early step that I believe we should support. Here are some relevant documents that you may like to read (these are all links to Eco-Hamlets UK’s web site):

  • TAN6 One Planet Development Planning Policy
  • Guidance Notes to TAN6
  • Tom O’Kane Planning Application (very big file)
  • Tom O’Kane Appeal Rejection

There has just been a reshuffle in the Welsh Government, and there is a new Planning Minister, so it is probably a good time to show support for low-impact development anyway. If you would like to send a message of support, you can e-mail:

Carl Sargeant AM, Minister for Housing and Regeneration
Correspondence.Carl.Sargeant@Wales.gsi.gov.uk

It may also be worth contacting the Plaid Cymru Shadow Minister responsible for Housing:
Rhodri Glyn Thomas AM
rhodri.thomas@wales.gov.uk

and your local Assembly Member if you live in Wales.