Necessity Still Breeds Ingenuity - Archive of SQUALL MAGAZINE 1992-2006
Low Impact Development Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside

Book Reviews

‘Low Impact Development Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside’

by Simon Fairlie
pub 1996 Jon Carpenter,
The Spendlove Centre, Charlbury, Oxfordshire, OX7 3PG
ISBN 1 897766 25 4
Price £10

Squall 14, Autumn 1996, pg. 66.

You know Simon Fairlie’s on your side from the very first sentence in his book. “Planning is boring”.

There are few people who would relish getting their heads round British planning law and it is perhaps for this very reason why planning has until now been an exclusive preserve. Fairlie comes to the rescue with a book that is so accessible and so fluid, you could read it just for the read.

I actually read half the book whilst stuck on a bus in a traffic jam during a tube strike. I looked up to see all around me fuming at the delays and realised that I’d been sat on the top of the No. 15 for two hours.

For a start Fairlie’s interest in planning arose from necessity. Having previously lived in a van, making his living as a stonemason and co-editor of the magazine The Ecologist, he threw in his lot with the bender settlement at Tinkers Bubble in Somerset. Thus his investigations into British planning law comes delivered to your doorstep by a layman admirably fulfilling a mission to learn and explain.

And without a doubt the mission is a needed one. For all the trouble that travelling people have received over the last ten years, settlement on a piece of land in a bender, tipi, tent, caravan or yurt has become the sought-after prospect for many. It is also a preferred way of living for those wishing to explore permaculture and small scale organic agriculture.

The trouble of course is that even if you own a piece of land, you are not allowed to live on it for more than 28 days without obtaining planning permission. Whilst acknowledging that such planning laws prevent the over-development of the countryside, Fairlie points out that the situation is biased against those on low income, who would relish the opportunity to live close to and respectfully on a piece of land.

Thus Fairlie dives into the planning mire, and comes out the other side with advice on what it all means and how to go about getting it. In the process, he describes examples of modern day settlements like Kingshill, Tir Penrhos Isaf, Hockerton, Tipi Valley, West Harwood, Holtsfield and of course Tinkers Bubble, exploring the practicalities of relations with the locality and taking care of land. Never in the field of explanatory conflict has a book so accessible been written about a subject so potentially boring.

Jim Carey