Unveiling our evidence


After a break for Easter, today’s a bit special. After a mighty effort, our evidence for the planning appeal is going online. Here, Daniel, who has worked day and night on this, gives a brief overview, with links to the full document. This is important stuff – our whole case hinges on it.

We are publishing our evidence for the Planning Appeal today. You can see the full evidence here.

My witness statement (called a ‘Proof of Evidence’) runs to 49 pages with 31 appendices running to hundreds of pages. Our lawyers and experts have done a fabulous job of guiding and supporting us to ensure that this is the best that it can be. I’m really proud of what we have produced to show in great detail the positive effect we are having on the woodland, our visitors, our local area, and the planet generally by living here.

My Proof lays out the foundation of our case with supporting documents such as our Management Plan for the land, and our Needs Analysis which calculates that we meet 81.5% of our basic needs by living at Steward Wood.

Our world is in severe crisis. Those of us around on the planet at the moment, as a result of what we are learning from science and from our own experience, are charged with beginning to turn this around. This means adopting more sustainable lifestyles. It means coming into alignment with Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share – the three founding ethics of permaculture. This can happen and is happening in many ways. Low impact living is one of those ways.”

Steward Community Woodland is a success story and an asset to the Dartmoor National Park. The project is meeting its Aims in full and is fulfilling National Park policies as well as the [government’s Planning Framework]. It is demonstrating much needed solutions to the huge environmental challenges we face. We urge both the Dartmoor National Park and the Planning Inspectorate to actively support this project by allowing its continuation with permanent planning permission.”

In addition to my Proof, we have the witness statements of:

Sonia & Marly Parsons (two other community members) setting out how we educate our children and the benefits of that (given how prevalent ‘Nature Deficit Disorder’ is in our modern world).

It may be hard for others to understand, quantify and prove the benefits of living in harmony with our human, animal and plant relations in a world where separation, disconnection and greed are the norm. But having lived this way for the last 12 years, for us and our children this way of life is the only way of life. It allows for the development of skills that enable provision of shelter, fuel, food and water for families without the call for huge financial input. In addition, it creates a deep sense of connection to each other and the natural world, encouraging responsibility and care without the huge and harmful impact that comes with conventional living.”

Working towards a more sustainable future is a major part of our lives here, so it is for our children. This is evident in their enthusiasm and involvement with community tasks including growing food and medicinal plants, cooking and eating communally, picking produce with friends and showing visitors around their woodland home. There are few places in this world that offer such a wide variety of learning opportunities in a setting which allows for first hand experience! As parents, home educators and community members, we have witnessed that these factors make for some of the deepest learning experiences available to man, woman and child. Leaving the woodland, our homes and this unique and wonderful way of life would have a detrimental effect on us all but most devastatingly on the children as it is all most of them have ever known and would include separating them from what is in effect their beloved family, friends and support network, and the woods they love.”

Peter Cow, our permaculture expert. He was one of the founders of the project and lived here until 2007. He has been teaching permaculture internationally since then.

The nature of the complex, interwoven lifestyle of a self reliant permaculturalist is one of many small and large daily and seasonal tasks, undertaken in intimate relationship with the land and the social landscape around them. These daily and seasonal tasks need to be undertaken at the optimal timing and location, which is best assessed by personal observation. Only by living on site, in close relationship with the surroundings gives this possibility to the members.”

Alison Heine, our legal expert. She specialises in gypsy cases but has moved over to low impact development for this case. Her evidence shows how the project is meeting the policies of the Dartmoor National Park.

Given the support locally and nationally for this Project, I perceive a need for the Dartmoor National Park Authority to work more closely with Steward Wood to make a success of this low impact sustainable living experiment as it is clear many agree it has much to offer. …. Similar projects have succeeded elsewhere and it would be a shame, if after 16 years dedicated work, and adoption of a policy [by the National Park for low impact development], this Project was not supported, made permanent and given the full support of the National Park.”

Jim White, our woodland management expert.

If the woodland management approach was one for commercial gain through conventional thinning, clearfell and replanting of the timber crop then, it could be argued that no residential on-site presence is required. However this is not the management approach that is in train for this site. It is a community woodland with public access, ongoing forest gardening work and continuous cover forestry management in process – no less ‘proper management’ than a more commercial approach and arguably with far greater public benefit and interest. The ccf monitoring demonstrates clearly the transformation that is underway from coniferous woodland to self-regenerating broadleaved woodland is at the rate it is partially as a result of project workers living on site and applying day to day management. They provide the eyes and ears for the management of the site and can apply operations on a highly responsive basis, this would not nearly be so possible if the site was uninhabited. …. I gained a distinct impression from my site visit that the residents of SCW have observed and maintained a light-footprint, sustainable approach to their occupancy of the site, in a way that is congruent with their stated principles and aims. I would suggest that currently little or no long-term irreversible harm is being done by their habitation of the site and given the benefits that this in fact has provided for the wood’s vitality and ongoing management it could be tolerated at the agreed carrying capacity.”

and last but not least

Jane Willis, a local resident and Chair of the Moretonhampstead Parish Council. She is giving evidence in a personal capacity on our involvement in the wider community and the support we have locally.

Many of us are concerned about climate change and finding a good way of living a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. It is the inventiveness, resourcefulness and commitment Steward Community Woodland bring to being a living example of this concern, that has earned it such a lot of support and admiration from the local community and from further afield.”

Emerson and Thoreau, the founding fathers of the world wide National Parks movement would have understood and supported the aims of Steward Community Woodland. I ask you allow this community to continue this exemplar of low carbon living in harmony with the natural environment.”

Read all about it here.

Remember, you can watch our film and read all about our project and the current situation over here at the crowdfunder page. For more about this part of the campaign to save our community and homes, read this blog post.

Thank you for your continuing interest and support – together, we can make an amazing breakthrough for low-impact living in the UK!

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