book The Earth Care Manual1,
Patrick Whitefield writes:
The key to implementing permaculture in the countryside is repopulation.
This includes the breaking up of the present large, mechanised farms
into small farms, smallholdings, and new hamlets, where energy-intensive
production can be replaced with design-intensive and human-attention-intensive
production. As well as farming and gardening there can be small
scale manufacturing in the countryside, mainly for local needs and/or
using local resources, and people teleworking from home. Many people
will have polycultural incomes, usually including some food production.
The present cold landscape of wide open, deserted fields and
infilled dormitory villages would develop into an intricate landscape,
full of diversity, full of people and full of wildlife.
The BBC programme "A Farm for the Future" that
many people have seen, and can often be found on the internet,
covered some of the problems with modern farming practices,
and showed some of the solutions that permaculture has to
a small part of this new countryside is one of the objectives
of this organisation. A place where people can live with like
minded neighbours, make a living in a sustainable way, be
cared for when old or sick, and have a great life. It wouldn't
be an isolated, self sufficient settlement, but would develop
strong links with local people and communities, be involved
in local Transition
Initiatives, and become an accepted part of local life.
The idea isn't limited to land based rural settlements. Many
of the ideas can also be applied to urban areas, and do not
need to be land based even in a rural setting. The idea is
to create settlements in small niches that can be purchased
and developed fairly quickly, rather than big projects that
can take years to come to fruition. By creating a network
of small settlements we may achieve more in less time than
by working individually on a few large projects.
On this scale, it's not possible to create optimum sized
settlements, with a full and diverse mix of ages and skills,
so outside links will be very important. We are facing an
uncertain future, with potential climate change, energy, food
and water supply problems, as well as the current financial
instability, and the possibility of a breakdown in law and
order. If this happens, being able to support each other,
and being a respected part of the local community, should
provide better security and protection. Hopefully, things
will not get that bad, and it will be a place to have fun
and a great life.
and housing is very expensive, and the planning regulations
make it very difficult, or impossible, to create new residential
sites. Even in local authority districts with a low impact
planning policy, it is difficult, time consuming and expensive
to get planning permission for sites that conform to the policy.
in Pembrokeshire is a good example. Many permaculture smallholders
spend many years fighting the system to obtain planning permission,
and have many obstacles put in their way to prevent or delay
them achieving their aims.
We are now facing urgent food and energy problems, and need to
transform our way of life quickly, and the obstacles put in the
way by the system are preventing this happening fast enough. Government
and big business are trying to maintain business as usual, so it's
up to us ordinary individuals to take responsibility for our own
lives and the future.
We need to find imaginative ways to start creating the kind of
countryside outlined above by Patrick Whitefield. One way is to
find opportunities to achieve it by working largely inside the system.
There are farms for sale with enough houses with residential planning
permission to create a small community (see Trelay Farm on the History
page), and farmyards with planning permission to convert redundant
buildings to homes. Although possibly not an ideal solution, it
is something that could be created quite quickly, and without the
years of battling with the planning system that many people have
potential exists to create a small hamlet based on the Co-housing
idea, where residents have their own home, but with shared facilities
so each home can be smaller. This allows more people to live there,
each home to be cheaper, and the cost of living and environmental
impact to be lower than in conventional housing.
Some residents would make a living from the land, running smallholdings,
market gardens and other land based enterprises. As with housing,
some land would be held by an individual person or business, while
other land would be shared. There could be shared facilities, such
as machinery, packing sheds and delivery vehicles. It would not
be a place for pony paddocks or "amenity land", but a
working environment providing food, fuel and materials for the settlement
and for sale locally. In a permaculture environment however, there
should always be a place for nature and beauty, so the land would
also be a place for recreation and enjoyment by all residents.
It may be possible to provide land for local people living outside
the settlement to run smallholdings and other land based businesses,
or provide allotments. This would help to strengthen ties with other
local communities. If there isn't enough accommodation on site it
could be a way to allow people living outside to become a part of
Not everyone would work on the land. Some people would make a living,
or part of their living, from local work outside the settlement,
or from office based businesses, while others would be retired or
to the cost of land and housing, a settlement of this type could
not be created without a number of older people who have considerable
savings, and capital from the sale of houses, but it should be a
place where younger people with more energy, but little or no money,
also feel at home. There is potential for conflict between people
making a subsistence living from hard land based work, and those
who could earn far more money in less time from an office based
job, but this is one of the many interesting challenges to be met.
In time, hopefully, similar settlements would be created nearby
as farms and land came up for sale, or existing owners see the potential
in the new ways of thinking. Having demonstrated the success to
local politicians and planners, more support may also be forthcoming
to make the process easier. And just maybe, the vision Patrick describes
will start to take hold. If this doesn't happen, the settlement
we create should still be a great place to live.
Page 144 of The Earth Care Manual by Patrick Whitefield, Permanent
Publications 1994, ISBN 1 85623 021 X
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