In the same part of the world as the MBC barn is the Lammas ecovillage. As a venture into sustainable living on a far grander scale than our own meagre and partial attempt, it is a endeavour of both ideological and political personal interest. I applaud the vision of this initiative, the scale seems right (a cluster of homes around a central hall has an iron age resonance), Pembrokeshire CC has opened the door with its Low Impact Development Making a Positive Contribution policy (albeit only by a chink and they’ve kept the safety chain on) and the passion the founders feel is apparent in all that they do. However, the inevitable but must be raised as there are a number of aspects of the project that cause me unease.
The main difficulty I have in supporting this project is in the ‘composition’ of the community and the global approach that is being taken to what I perceive as a local initiative.
In-comers & Out-siders
The impression I get and I may be very wrong is that the ecovillage will be made up of bright-eyed out-siders with good intentions. Now this is an emotive subject and terminology (trust me I know, I & my family were fresh-faced out-siders some 25 years ago & will always remain so to some degree) and not one that I wish to labour on but it is important. If you view the video linked to below I think you’ll begin to see what I mean – the two sides of Offa’s dike meet in West Wales, I think the Normans did a similar thing 1,000 years ago. A more local flavour to the project would leave a sweeter taste…
The Global Perspective
For me, aside from regulations, codes and standards, planning is a local issue, of concern to local people and authorities and frankly not the business of those who live further afield – I can waffle on all I like about my opposition or support of approaches to renovation of crofts in the highlands or second homes in Cornwall, but at the end of the day my opinion doesn’t count and so, unless I’m adding some great or useful insight I wouldn’t really expect to have any influence. So when I find pleas for and evidence of international support (News page – halfway down) this global aspect does not add to the projects validity rather it reminds me of many of the aspects of human nature that I’m sure the project team abhor – bullying, colonialism and globalisation (& I suspect many of the projects opponents would agree with me). It speaks to me as:
“There’s lots of us and not many of you, we know best so do as you’re told. Perhaps not on my doorstep, but certainly on yours.”
As I’ve said before, I don’t think the same thing would happen in the Cotswolds.
A share of democracy
One other thing I never really ‘got’ was the concept of buying shares that give me voting rights … (If anyone wants to buy shares in MBC that carry no rights or privileges then let me know.) The shares mean I’m ‘investing in the future‘ and my money will be used to ‘further the wider aims of the project‘ … not sure what any of that means.
Planner & Customers are always right
If I’ve learnt one thing from dealing with planning it’s that there no point apportioning blame. Assess the situation, consider your plans, ensure they conform to all legislation with bearing, submit and then reassess where necessary to progress… In light of this I find the finger pointing and blaming that seems to have occurred subsequent to the latest application both unnecessary and counter productive. Let’s see how the appeal to the Welsh Assembly Government goes…
Having said all this and in conclusion, (I feel a little guilty after that tirade – I obviously had a few things to get off my chest) I broadly support the project and certainly condone its objectives.
(Of course as I’ve already said, my opinion doesn’t really count…)