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Getting started in the UK

 
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Hello permies,

I looking at getting started in the UK and owning some land. The ownership part is mainly due to the idea that permaculture is "giving a gift to your future self" and I would like to be around to benefit from the efforts made.
I'm also millennial; I have a decent freelance job (so mobile) but it means I don't have that much capital and it is expensive for me to get a mortgage. I am also really not comfortable with borrowing that much money and it seems to defeat the aim if i have to work full time to pay off the mortgage.
I looked at buying raw land which is cheap, however it looks like its really difficult to build on it. Maybe this is a way to do it by living in a village and buying agricultural land somewhere else but it seems to me that will make managing the land a lot more difficult.
I have looked at a few communities on sites like https://www.diggersanddreamers.org.uk/ but places that you can buy into require between 200k-350k GBP which still seems like a lot to me and i still don't fully understand the risks of buying into a community like that.
I was wondering if anyone has stories of how they got started (UK specific) or had some lateral thinking powers to get around the issue of needing a nest egg.
 
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Apparently planning permission for offgrid homes using low-impact & sustainable techniques is easier to obtain in Wales, but I've never looked into that in detail.

You may want to look at woodlands.co.uk for finding land.

I've also heard you can put a caravan on a woodland and live there for up to 6 months of the year without any legal issues (I am not a lawyer, so do your own research).
 
mark best
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so i found some information out. There is a book called the Rural planning handbook that can be found here.

http://www.thelandmagazine.org.uk/shop
the search for "Rural Planning Handbook for Low Impact Developers"

I have ordered it but haven't read it but it in short its a set of information of people who have developed raw land in the UK and how they managed to traverse the planning guidelines.
In case any one else is trying to do this it might also be worth your time.
 
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Location: Scotland
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Hi Mark,

I don't want to rain on your dreams here.. but in the UK, it is DIFFICULT.. and very very EXPENSIVE!! Matt was right in the sense that Wales is your best bet.. in many ways it is your only real bet, they have done some amazing things for off-grid living and planning/permission laws. Lammas community is a good place to start for information and general lay-of-the-land stuff *bud-da-dump-bump* And a place called Low Impact Living - I think it's lowimpact.org

Land in general is exceptionally high priced here (we're only a tiny island after all) and if you buy a woodland you CANNOT do anything on it, not even camp in a tent for too long. I'm not too sure on what you could actually cut or plant there even. It may be frustrating, but they have all these laws to save the green spaces that are left. The woodland site (linked in Matt's post?) will give you the restriction details I'm talking about in much greater detail.

Also, buying agricultural land is pretty much also impossible to get planning permission for - it looks better in theory b/c of prices, but you won't be able to change it from agriculture to residential or etc.

BUT, say you DO sort all of that, then you will come up against all of the off-grid laws.. i.e. you must have a house that looks like the neighbours, must have grid electricity, must have mains plumbing, etc. etc. etc. You get the drift.

There is a lady in England who teaches Cob house building (Edwards & Eve Cob?) and she's had some luck (in England) with working around planning issues to build some cob projects - but it's no easy path either!

In the end: the problem is the solution.. I DON'T want to put you off at all.. But just know that in the UK it will be an uphill adventure!!
 
mark best
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Thanks for the reply, I am not easily deterred.
My understanding so far is that you cannot change the use of agricultural land but that you can live on it if you can show you are using it for agricultural use that requires people living there (see ben law). This is basically what i am trying to find out by reading the rural planning hand book.
I had not thought about all the issues with the building regs but this could make things expensive if I am expected to put all the utilities in.
I am also wondering what it would be like to live close by to an area of agricultural land and to work it that way. Given that zoning is central to permaculture, having everything in zone 5 doesn't make that much sense to me.
 
Bj Allen
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Location: Scotland
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mark best wrote:Thanks for the reply, I am not easily deterred.
My understanding so far is that you cannot change the use of agricultural land but that you can live on it if you can show you are using it for agricultural use that requires people living there (see ben law). This is basically what i am trying to find out by reading the rural planning hand book.
I had not thought about all the issues with the building regs but this could make things expensive if I am expected to put all the utilities in.
I am also wondering what it would be like to live close by to an area of agricultural land and to work it that way. Given that zoning is central to permaculture, having everything in zone 5 doesn't make that much sense to me.



Ben Law has done some awesome stuff.. but even he had to concede to some biggies.. my understanding is he has a life-lease and when he dies, the house is left to rot back into the forest.. his kids and etc won't be able to stay on or anything. He also had to fight fight fight to do what he did.. and then, when he fell in love and started a family, there was another round of issues just to get them in.. BUT he DID do it!! There's a really good BBC(?) documentary out there somewhere that has the story.

Aye, the utilities are expensive in their own right.. but what reallllllllllly eats up the cash is all the planning permissions/issues/paperwork/fighting/explaining.. etc etc etc. You'll notice everything you read or hear about land use in the UK, folk are obsessed with planning issues here.. and there's a reason for that unfortunately!

You (can) attempt a proper sneak attack (there's some literature out there about it).. it kind of piggie-backs off the 'you can have an ag shed on your land for tools only' allowance.. i.e. folk try to live in the 'ag shed' incognito.. BUT you have to go UN-NOTICED from everywhere and everything (including from the air) AND prove you've been there for over 5 years undetected before you can even start that fight/defense.. blah blah blah.

I'm interested in that wee book from The Land Mag tho.. that might have some good plain-speak hints and tricks in there.. And there's always the tiny hope that new (LOVELY!) regs have squeezed in there somehow!!

Something more akin to Graham Bell's site is probably your easiest start/option over here.. and then who knows!

It's a weird mix.. b/c the uk DOES lean greener/less footprint in general, but man-oh-man they love some regs and restrictions! *hand over eyes*

But then again.. all it takes is 'lunatic' or 2 to fight-the-fight and prove it can all be done before it's easier for everyone.. *postivity*
 
Bj Allen
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Location: Scotland
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Random Idea -

It's not really your 'preferred' situation I know.. but if you are diplomatic you can always try approaching your local Council for some neglected/un-used land.. if you can get permission just to work it (present it to them as 'beautify it' ) then it opens up all sorts of doors!

Not to mention.. that later on, those same people (who have watched what you've done with that wee piece of land) are the ones who might stamp off on your crazy out-of-the-system approach to things!

 
mark best
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I didn't know about the concessions Ben had to make especially the one about not being able to have his kids take it over.

I do know that the planning regulations have changed relatively recently and they were simplified to about 50 pages from over a 1000. The 3 main parts they want to see in the plan are economy, community and ecology. This has made me more hopeful but its really tough to get information since there have been so few people that have or want to live like this. I don't know what the UKs long term plan is about affordable housing since from what i can see getting about 3-4 acres with a house on it is around £300-£350k.

Once i have read the rural planning handbook, i will post a little bit about it and say how useful it is.
Your other suggestion about talking to someone in the council is a good one.

The other consideration would be, even if you had the bottle to fight the planning authorities for 5-10 years doesn't mean its a good use of time. I will also consider wales and if that time/money would actually be better spent doing something productive. Also I spoke with some people in Kent and they said one thing that is missing about the area is a lack of people with a common outlook. At least in wales the community is likely more sympathetic to the cause.
 
Bj Allen
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Location: Scotland
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Hi Mark,

Apologies, I was a wee bit *doom-and-gloom* on this yesterday.. (I've been thru all this myself!) But don't let me 'dampen your sunshine' perse.. And in absolute open-hands fairness, it's been 2 years since I saw that.. & Ben is very active and outspoken about the needed planning changes here, with his own case/experience actually being one of the 'lunatics paving the way' ..with loads of positive action.. so maybe things have changed a wee bit since!

Aye, the community is definitely a factor.. & that's one of the reasons Wales does so well! There's also more & more people getting involved (or at least asking about!) this in general.. & people power really speaks.. Especially local folk to local Councils!! (aka The Powers That Be)

You're absolutely right tho about the fight-or-no-fight dilemma.. which is another reason why networking/talking/brainstorming with those already paving the way is so important! And in my experience most folk are more than happy to give you pointers and help.. Any victory gained, no matter how wee, squidges the door open just that tiny bit more! *positivity*

You've inspired me to have another run at it this.. Or at least a wee peek.. before giving up & starting in Europe instead! *the fight dilemma*

I'm going to order that wee book as well.. so I'll join in on your next planning debates!

 
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