Parents bidding to live sustainably with child off land near Llandeilo have application shot down
Richard Youle, local democracy reporter
A family who wanted to cultivate 70 crops on land they own, and live on it with minimal environmental impact, have had their application shot down by councillors against officer advice.
Stephen Morris submitted an application for a 1.2-hectare site north of Llandeilo to Carmarthenshire Council under the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development policy.
The scheme was recommended for approval by council officers but a majority of the council’s planning committee voted against it.
Objecting councillors said they didn’t think the applicant, his partner, and child needed to live on site, especially as no livestock were going to be kept there, only ducks and hens.
They were worried about how the project, if approved, would be monitored – and they strongly questioned the independence of an appraisal of the scheme which was commissioned by the council.
Council officers refuted the independence suggestion with one saying the planning department had told the authors of the appraisal to seek further information before producing a second final report.
A legal officer said the appraisal concluded that the scheme would comply with One Planet Development policies and that if the committee turned the application down the appraisal document “will be trotted out” at appeal should the applicant take that course of action.
Cllr Kevin Madge, who voted in favour of the application, said it would be “awful” if the council had costs awarded against it at appeal and that he was “appalled” at the refusal decision and the reasons to justify it.
Council committee chairman, Cllr Alun Lenny, said: “I regret to say I agree with you, Cllr Madge.”
The application set out how the land would be divided into zones covering horticultural and re-wilding areas, a forest garden, beehives, and willow and wildflower meadow. A timber-clad three-bedroom property with a turfed roof was also proposed plus outbuildings.
The report before the committee said the site was estimated to produce 44% of the food needs of the three-strong household. A further 21% would be bought from income derived from activities on the land such as music therapy sessions and vegetable boxes for sale locally. This combined figure of 65% would meet a policy requirement about basic food needs.
There were 43 letters of support for Mr Morris’ application and nine objections, including from Manordeilo and Salem Community Council.
Ward county councillor Joseph Davies, who is also on the planning committee, said he had worked on the land in question years ago and that on occasions it had been too wet to cultivate silage.
It was not, he said, “easily workable”.
He added: “I would question that an area this size would satisfy a family of three.”
Cllr Davies’s proposal to vote against the scheme was seconded by Cllr Gareth Thomas who said it would be more environmentally friendly if the applicants lived in an existing house nearby rather than building a dwelling on site.
“I don’t think what’s before us is in the spirit of OPD (One Planet Development policy),” he said. “To me this does not stack up.”
Cllr Madge said the applicants deserved a shot at making a success of the proposal.
“These people want to have a go at this, we can see the enthusiasm they have,” he said. “I only feel we should be giving them the opportunity.”