In April we ran an experimental “OPD Jam”. Twelve adults, two children and a dog set about trying to write an OPD application in a weekend. Of course, this was a little over ambitious, really, the goal was to get a feel for the practical aspects of writing an OPD application.
For those of you new to the term “OPD” it stands for “One Planet Development”, the name given to a planning policy framework in Wales to allow for low-impact development in the open countryside. It requires the occupants to identify their basic needs and show how they will meet these needs through land-based subsistence and business activities.
Here at Coed Talylan, a 70 acre woodland on the western edge of the Brecon Beacons, we are in the process of submitting an application for a “co-sufficient” farm with multi dwellings (two) under the OPD framework. James and Sara led he workshop drawing from the current draft application and their working knowledge and experience of following the OPD planning guidance. We took one of the proposed plots as our blank canvas and worked our way through the sections of the OPD framework.
Since the workshop we have asked for feedback from those who attended. We wanted to know what worked well, what could be improved and what questions they came away with.
So, firstly, most participants benefited from being given a space to meet and get to know like minded people who are in a similar situation with similar aspirations. The setting, in the woodland during spring, made for a pleasing and relaxing atmosphere to explore the often daunting challenge of thinking through the many aspects of designing a low-impact land based livelihood.
Breaking up the application into sizeable parts and working on them one bit at a time was very useful and made the whole thing seem a lot more manageable. Also, the emphasis on practical tasks was engaging and help to think more deeply about the subject.
Some suggestion about how the workshop could be improved included having some handouts with some basic info about quantities of usage and specifications, etc. which would’ve been helpful for fulfilling the group exercises rather than referring to key texts on hand. There was also a suggestion to follow-up how everyone is getting on after the workshop and to share future experience.
The main question participants were left with was how to access to land and finding funding. This of course is one of the main reasons we have created the ALT and are promoting strategy of co-housing and co-sufficiency rather self-sufficiency as a way of seeking co-operative solutions to these problems but it is just one tactic among others.
There was another question, and one that we have heard a number of times now, about retirement, and illness. What if you get sick and miss targets, or there is a death, or some other misfortune and you are just out of action for a while, are there allowances for this?
Well, unfortunately we don’t have the answers and there is no test case because the OPD framework is so new. Over the coming years here are many ways in which it will be tested but at the moment is does offer a radical alternative for those wish to actively tackle the economic and ecological difficulties we face toady and may indeed increase as time goes on. We just have to carry on optimistically and engage in the dialogue with the planning authorities in a positive way as we all come to terms with the encroaching crisis we seem to heading into.
It seems that most participants came away with the feeling that it is of central importance to spend time developing a viable business in and around the location where you’d like to live to increase the chances of success. We feel that this is a good outcome, as, in the long run the economic test of One Planet Developments will be the determining factor for judging their viability. However, we do believe this must go hand in hand with more support and understanding for those choosing to take this path.
This desire to work together in tackling some of these challenges we’ve mentioned was the motivating factor for experimenting with this “sustainability jam” format. We feel there is a place for this kind collaboration design process to help prospective land workers find there way through the financial and bureaucratic obstacles that so often deter aspiring growers, farmers, and foresters before the even get started. We therefore hope to run another OPD Jam in the future but this time bringing in those with the skills and experiences, ideally successful one planet applicants, to help a new applicant, with a site, already on the way to submitting an application. Of course, people are busy, there are time constraints, there will be difficulties but one of the other radical aspects of the OPD framework is that it can be used by applicants without recourse to mediating professionals. You can do it yourself. You don’t need to go through consultants or pay someone to decipher the planning guidelines, which again is another layer of bureaucracy and expense that can be so disabling for those, usually practically minded people, that are inspired to live a more low-impact, sustainable, healthy life in closer connection to the land.
Until then however, there is still a lot of work to do promoting OPD , and a growing a demand for more information about the framework and the process involved in following this path.
With this in mind we are pleased to announce that are running an introductory course on “How to Create a One Planet Life” with David Thorpe, Author of “One Planet Life”, a landmark text in the story of One Planet Development so far.
For more information on the course being held in October at Coed Talylan visit our course page here: