' the Woodlouse: Planning issues - Part 2


Friday, 14 May 2010

Planning issues - Part 2

What is our scheme, and why would we need to build outside the DDB (Defined Development Boundary – see last blog, Planning issues – part 1)?

We want to build ourselves a home and place to work.  We want it to be built using as sustainable materials as possible, and to have as little impact as possible both on the actual site and on the environment in general.  Practically this means building with straw-bales, sustainably grown timber, little or no concrete.  We’ll be aiming for as high a rating as possible according to the Code for Sustainable Homes which details high specifications for energy efficiency, insulation, energy use and ventilation (I’m likely to write more about this in later blogs, along with more about building and materials, as I find out more).

It’ll be a single story, green-roofed home, with a separate building for workshop and a massage (and other) treatment room on site.  The wood-fired pottery kiln would also be on site.  I want to try and grow most (if not all) of the wood for firing it on site as coppice.  BTCV (British Trust for Conservation Volunteers) website indicates that 5 acres of coppice should produce up to 6 tonnes of mixed hardwood a year (once mature), which is equivalent to 2 firings a year of a large kiln (provided I get the design right, the wood is well seasoned, and the kiln works well!). 

Having everything in one place immediately cuts down on travel, making life easier for us, and causing less pollution.  I generally cycled to my London workshop, but needed the diesel van to move pots, supplies and equipment around.  The van was also the most convenient way to reach my kiln, 30 miles away from my home and was essential when collecting wood for the kiln.  Having my own wood supply on site will also make for a more reliable fuel source, for both the house and the kiln.  I won’t keep having my firing plans stymied by unreliable supply from sawmills, and won’t be so dependant on industrial-scale forestry.  Coppice is a brilliant way to grow fuel, utterly renewable as the tree is always growing.  It avoids the temporary decimation of an area that goes with clear felling areas.  This helps maintain a more stable ecology for whatever else decides to set up home in the coppice! 

All of that involves quite a lot of space (ideally at least five-and-a-bit acres).  This, clearly, is hard to come by in town.  Although the kiln won’t be fired that often (possibly two to three times a year) it naturally is quite smokey at times so not the best thing to put in the middle of dense housing.  Built on the edge of town, shielded from any other buildings by our own home and/or some pretty broadleaf coppice, it’s not such an issue. 

More of an issue (for us at least) is that the DDB exactly hugs the line of existing development.  It appears that it’s redrawn to include existing development when the Local Plan (soon to be become something slightly different but essentially performing the same function, with a different name I forget except that it involves the word ‘framework’,) is revised.  I’m not sure how this works.  There are some newish developments right on the edge of town that the DDB boundary does neat little loops around on the Local Plan map, perfectly matching the boundary of the new developments.  So presumably these were built outside the DDB.  Possibly grounds for optimism there but I don’t think so: probably the need for housing outweighed objections, with any development providing lots of housing being looked on favorably.  But surely individual self-builders providing their own low-impact homes (so also freeing up their existing home if they have one) is just as important? 

There’s quite a lot more I want to write about this, so I think this is becoming a three-parter… Part 3 coming soon.


  1. I like our planning laws as they provide quite a lot of protection - you can't do stuff willy nilly. But sometimes, they just seem a bit (quite a bit) of an ass too. What you're doing would put more back I think than it takes.

    I like the wood idea a lot - as someone who struggles to find wood for firings, I would love to do something similar. In fact, I've even considered giving up wood firing, as it's such a stress. Would be interested to know where you buy timber from now? Is it sawmill off cuts or do you buy hardwood in stick form. That's what I'd like to do - I can store wood but couldn't grow enough of it (I have about a quarter of an acre) but finding a merchant to sell me wood isn't coming naturally (and the FSC don't reply to emails! useless.)

    Good luck anyway - looking forward to part 3, and then seeing progress.

  2. Thanks. I agree - it's good that you can't just build anywhere. I just wish there was more in the system to differentiate destructive from constructive development!

    I have been using slabwood from sawmills but it's getting harder to get as they use the wood more efficiently. This is again, good but frustrating!