3 Oct 2008

Woodland eco-community needs support

In my email box I have just had an appeal of help from an 8 year old eco-community - Steward Community Woodland - a low impact, sustainable project based in a 32 acre woodland near Moretonhampstead. Looking at what they are doing it seems that it is exactly what we need to be encouraging - and as noted before I am keen that Stroud looks to developing policies re greater acceptance to low impact.

The community currently comprises 11 adults and 7 children (with a baby on its way) living
in dwellings they have built themselves with materials from the wood and recycled/reused materials. Most are apparently timber-frame structures, canvas covered and built on stilts to provide a flat floor on the sloping valleyside, with insulation and wood-burning stoves.
Amongst their structures are raised beds with vegetables and flowers, fruit bushes and trees, as well as renewable energy systems and large Growing Area.

They spend their time managing the woodland (tree felling and planting, coppicing etc); growing food organically; building and maintaining the low impact structures and infrastructure; home educating their children; running Forest School sessions; running
courses (such as permaculture design courses); and organising and catering for visiting volunteers.

I recently read Off Grid - see my blog on that here - yet despite the urgency of finding solutions to climate change and overwhelming local support for the project, the Dartmoor National Park Authority refused us planning permission to continue their sustainable way of life. Like others in that book they have have been forced into launching an Appeal to the Planning Inspectorate. A public inquiry has been set for 11/12th November 2008.

They now urgently need donations to help pay for the solicitors costs and witness expenses (which will add up to as much as £20,000). Can you help?

Here are some of the achievements they list:
- inspired thousands of visitors to the woods, to our website and to our stall at events, passing on skills, knowledge and information on sustainable living and permaculture (and we, in turn, have learnt from and been inspired by many of our visitors)
- demonstrated renewable energy systems, such as micro hydro power, solar and cycle power
- demonstrated organic food growing, incorporating permaculture ideas such as growing perennials and forest gardens
- demonstrated low impact building and living over several years
- sold some timber and woodland products (such as larch trees to build a barn at Proper Job in Chagford, and split larch fence posts)
- run several successful residential permaculture design courses with students from around the UK and the world
- contributed to the local community, through our involvement in various voluntary groups, running computer courses at the Library, offering computer support, organising events for Transition Town Moreton, breastfeeding peer counselling, etc.
- have carried out an independent Carbon Audit which concludes that their carbon footprint is 23% of the national average.

They are happy to share details of their planning application - they won their original 5 year planning permission on Appeal in 2002 and there are other important appeal decisions granting permission for low impact projects such as those for Tinkers Bubble in Somerset and
Landmatters in Totnes. They are also employing Battens solicitors who acted in all the above appeals.

If you wish to make a donation, our bank details are as follows:
Affinity Woodland Workers Co-operative Ltd Triodos Bank, Bristol Sort Code 16-58-10 Account No 03421700.

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