It’s with no small sense of irony that I find myself sitting and writing what I wanted to say instead of having the opportunity to address the council and my objectors in person today.
It was to be argued this morning that I should not be permitted to live in an isolated way and be self sufficient, as the world collapses around us, the capitalist system is teetering on a precipice and and we’re facing an enormous crisis worldwide.
However, for me, nothing has really changed. If I didn’t have Twitter and Facebook, I’d be unaware completely of what’s happening. I shop locally and the village shops have their usual stocks of items. I have a garden full of food growing as we face mass shortages. I have a spring with water from the mountain that isn’t controlled by any company or infrastructure. I have solar panels so I will have power when the cuts begin. In short, I have everything I need to hunker down and exist and live and continue with my life.
The people who are telling me that I should not be doing this are now being forced to change their entire lifestyle. They don’t have access to food in their gardens, most of my objectors will be quarantined to England and unable to visit the area, that is, if they could get the fuel. This mad time in history only serves to demonstrate that projects such as OPD and similar, are the only real option of the future.
Society as it is cannot be sustained. The economy is collapsing, assets are collapsing, infrastructure and globalism is collapsing, all in front of our very eyes, in the very same week that I’m fighting for my life, literally, it would seem.
All I have is my land. I have the opportunity to create a home and a business, for myself and eventually my sons. I am no burden to anyone. I do not have to rely on an uncertain work or job future. I don’t have to rely on benefits or social housing. I’m not using taxpayer’s money to line the pockets of a landlord. The state does not have to care for me. If I am refused planning and enforced, I become homeless, I lose my employment, I lose future business, and the locality loses an opportunity to benefit from my project.
I want to grow the much needed trees we need to restock the gaps that will be left by ash die back, which incidentally, was brought in on cheap imported trees from abroad and distributed by organisations such as the Woodland Trust as part of their free tree scheme, where you receive a few months old barely rooted sapling about five inches high, wrapped in its own plastic and delivered in its own box over many miles to the customer.
There were five tree surgeons due to attend the meeting today, Dan Badham, Leon Cousins, Steve Everett, Will Badham and Alex Kesterson. All were to give evidence that in their opinions I should be positively encouraged and supported in my plans for a tree nursery.
There is no arguing that there is a climate crisis, whether man made or natural is irrelevant. We need to stop doing what we’re doing. The last few days fundamentally demonstrates this. The sky is clear of aeroplane contrails. The waters of Venice are running clear and fish and dolphins are visible. The world is recovering really quickly. If this lockdown became the new way to do things, the planet would improve, whether natural forces are at play or not.
By consuming less and providing for ourselves, we’re at least giving ourselves a chance. The world is changing exponentially. Something has to change. This new situation that we find ourselves in will dictate the pace. Pretty soon we’ll all HAVE to do OPD, or something very much like it. We’ll have no choice.
From a personal point of view, this whole process has felt like I’m begging for my human rights. Until the meeting was cancelled I felt like I was on Death Row.
We’re a local family. My sons were born in Withybush, as was my grandaughter. Something that we will not be able to say for much longer, due to its imminent downgrading of essential services; sadly, another sign of the times.
I have planted trees that will be mature when my grandaughter’s children are adults. They’ll be able to say, “my great-gran planted this woodland”. To have to end the project now, and dismantle everything I’ve built, would probably be the end for me. I don’t know what else I can do. I’m 47. My mental health isn’t brilliant. I no longer get every job I apply for like I did twenty years ago.
Back then, it was always assumed when I got older I’d buy a farm or smallholding. My son’s dad was a dairy farmer in Trelech. Their 200 acre farm had to be sold when his father and grandfather died, and all the relatives came out for their share. If OPD had existed then, the land could have been spilt and turned into separate holdings. Instead it was sold to a dog breeder.
Of course, the rise in house prices and the 2008 crash put paid to all of those ideas. But if I had been able to buy a farm, I’d still live according to OPD principles. The eco aspect of OPD should go without saying. All housing should have to have more ecologically sound rules imposed. What they call “traditional building” is going some way towards this but it’s not enough and it’s too slow.
Projects like OPD have the potential to solve the social housing crisis. Council purchased land, with modular homes, cheap to run and live in. The welfare bill is cut as there are no rents. There are no bills as the homes are off-grid. General well-being improves, then a side effect is less strain on the NHS. Happy people are less ill than distressed people, who currently often find themselves unable to secure themselves a home past their council flat tenancy, or uncertain, private short-let, unable to grow food because social housing is no longer like that of the fifties, where it was assumed people might like some outside space, where it was taken as said that people would grow their own provisions.
Now, with the popularity of the area as an ideal place for a second home, many locals have been completely priced out of the market. I have owned houses – I paid a mortgage alone for 16 years with two children. I missed a large part of their childhood because of this.
I have no inclination to exist in a consumerist world where one virus brings everything to a halt. Nature is showing us a very hard lesson right now. All I see on social media is people suddenly becoming interested in growing their own food. Change is coming. It took a virus, but something had to give eventually, and show the system for the unsustainable mess that it is. We all have to change every process in our lives. OPD is ready and waiting to be utilised to its maximum potential. It’s a no-brainer.
It’s been the worst experience of my life, far worse than divorce, a broken back, and losing my music shop! Waiting for planning, not knowing whether or not it was worth proceeding. It’s been a very weird kind of limbo, and I really hope to be able to move on and continue what I’ve begun. I hope to able to replace my son’s birthright in some small way. I know nothing of my own history, as I’m adopted. Thus I’ve always felt rather rootless. All I’m really after is some solid roots, and a bit of room to grow.