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Father's plea for 'carbon neutral' couple rejected

By Mid Devon Gazette  |  Posted: August 02, 2011

  • Dinah and Stig Mason will be evicted from their own land EXMT20110614F-001_C

  • Dinah and Stig Mason with sons Yosse, 8, and Dahli, 9, and Moo the dog at their lorry home MARCUS THOMPSON EXMT20110614F-003_C

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THE father of a man whose family is fighting to live a carbon neutral lifestyle on land in Willand has been told there are no "exceptional circumstances" to allow them to do so.

Brian Mason wrote to Mid Devon District Council leader Cllr Peter Hare-Scott in support of Stig and Dinah who want to continue living a carbon neutral lifestyle at Muxbeare Orchard.

The couple, aged 34 and 35, received an injunction to leave after transforming what was a neglected four-acre plot into a smallholding boasting chickens and a 400sq m allotment.

Conservative Cllr Peter Hare-Scott, who represents the Newbrook Ward, Crediton, responded to Mr Mason and explained that councils must prove there to be exceptional reasons for them to deviate from planning law.

He said: "Frankly, there are no exceptional circumstances in this case.

"This is just one of at least 20 such cases we receive each year in this area of people buying or renting a small area of open countryside to try to establish a new residence on the land.

"There is no justification in agricultural terms for the creation of a new residence in open countryside. This is borne by the fact that the family cannot earn a sustainable livelihood on four-acres and they need to supplement this through other work and income sources."

Stig and Dinah lost an appeal against the council's refusal to allow them to live and work the land a year ago.

They are now in the process of appealing a rejected planning application to build a "low impact" dwelling made mostly from organic materials on the site.

The couple, who live on the site in a converted horsebox, has regenerated the orchard by planting trees and they live on the fruit and vegetables grown on the site.

Produce is also sold to other residents in the community and Dinah's income from her job as a community care worker provides clothes and other necessities which they cannot grow themselves.

Mr Mason, a highway engineer, responded to the leader and asked "by sustainable livelihood, I assume you mean at a commercial level?" He said they only aim to sustain themselves.

He added: "You may not be aware that my son and his family wish to enter a legally binding contract that states they are not allowed to sell their house that they would build, so that unless they or their descendents are living within the dwelling it would have to be taken down and composted."

Mr Mason believes planning law can be favourable to gypsy travellers in similar circumstances and believes the outcome of the original planning application may have been different had it gone before a committee as opposed to being determined by a council officer.

He also says there is no provision in policy for 'green builds' or 'permaculture' lifestyles and he believes the planning system should show flexibility to individual family needs in light of the Big Society.

Mr Mason also explained the land is surrounded by homes and added: "The other point which amazes me is how the council allows such a monstrosity as the industrial estate which is a stone's throw away from many properties, including my son's."

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  • alexstru  |  September 13 2011, 6:55PM

    Plenty of tree huggers here...wait to these green belt thieves move to the bottom of your garden.....

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  • LEPRACHAUN7  |  August 04 2011, 3:55PM

    My £750,000 comment was a sarcastic joke (like only millionairs can afford to be peasants these days........). If the couple have not already done so, they should get in touch with the alternative planning service, Chapter 7, who may be able to offer advice on the appeal they will almost certainly be making. Chapter 7 have sucessfully advised people in similar positions - if they are 100% genuine. go to http://tinyurl.com/3cntm2q Theo Hopkins (aka Leprechaun 7).

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  • NMaLarkin  |  August 04 2011, 9:51AM

    I think that comment by Leprachaun7 is purely here to be inflammatory.. Some people show their envy or jealousy ( or ignorance) by saying things to anger or upset those who are passionate about a simple and ethical way of life. They 'get off' on getting a reaction.. Ignore it. Even more 'Simples'

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  • calistashayle  |  August 03 2011, 11:03AM

    I agree with all of mushheadWard's and MightySlug's comments. The council's comment in the original exchange- that their policies are sensitive to the environment- are very short sighted. You only need to look into life cycle assessments and how ecosystems work to see the problems current planning and building regulations contribute to-this is now fortunately taught in key stage 3 science and beyond- bringing awareness to future generations. 'Planning law can be favourable to gypsy travellers in similar circumstances'- we all know this goes on but it is an infringement on the civil liberties of other ethnic groups not to have this equal right.It is time for some forward thinking .As MightySlug so rightly said,'if you have awareness of that deep need to be with the spirit of the land why should you be forced to live a life in a conventional conditioned "home" which is experienced as a prison.' "There is no justification in agricultural terms for the creation of a new residence in open countryside. This is borne by the fact that the family cannot earn a sustainable livelihood on four-acres and they need to supplement this through other work and income sources."- If given the opportunity to stay on the land and expand their range of produce, the family are,according to the vision statement on their website, looking at expansion; which will ' comprise of organic bees, chickens, sheep, and large kitchen garden, medicinal and culinary herbs – selling the latter and any surplus in the local community – and with the intention of making organic cider and organic nature apple juice.' This level of expansion would allow the potential to earn a sustainable livelihood which they haven't yet had the opportunity to do- all on their adequately sized 4 acres. This would also benefit the local community and economy.

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  • MightySlug  |  August 03 2011, 1:13AM

    Simples if you are a millionnaire and that is not what this couple's ethics are about. They want to live close to nature on their own land which I understand they bought and paid for. Many people are so removed from their nature and their spirtuality that they would be content to live in a concrete housing block devoid of any connection to the land. This connection is one of human spirit with the environment and if you have awareness of that deep need to be with the spirit of the land why should you be forced to live a lie in a conventional conditioned "home" which is experienced as a prison - cutting off your main spiritual belonging where your soul can be free. Anyone who supports freedom and rights of the human being needs to support these people - they are trailblazers and if we cannot have nature, if we must be separated from it, then we become robots, automatically filling our day with artificial duties in an artifical environment. If that's your idea of life then good luck to you but it's not mine and its not this couple's either.

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  • mushheadWard  |  August 03 2011, 1:03AM

    Are you two for real? How can you say that these are "a pair of chancers" or that they should have to spend £750,000? They purchased their land outright, they have regenerated the orchard they are living in, they've been a boon to the local community and are living a low impact lifestyle which benefits the earth. Why should they have to go and line the pockets of someone else for the right to live on the land of this country? They are doing no harm to anyone and are in fact helping those around them. Neither of them is claiming benefits from the government and they're both willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their children. I couldn't hope for better friends or neighbours.

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  • mushheadWard  |  August 03 2011, 1:01AM

    Are you two for real? How can you say that these are "a pair of chancers" or that they should have to spend £750,000? They purchased their land outright, they have regenerated the orchard they are living in, they've been a boon to the local community and are living a low impact lifestyle which benefits the earth. Why should they have to go and line the pockets of someone else for the right to live on the land of this country? They are doing no harm to anyone and are in fact helping those around them. Neither of them is claiming benefits from the government and they're both willing to do whatever it takes to provide for their children. I couldn't hope for better friends or neighbours.

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  • LEPRACHAUN7  |  August 02 2011, 9:59AM

    Nahhh. If they want to do smallholding, then they should buy a property. A few months back I saw a house for sale in an estate agent in Launceston. It had four acres. The advert said "suitable for smallholding". The price was £750,000. Simples. :)

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