AN ecological group based in Brighton is pursuing plans to create residential smallholdings in Gower.

The Ecological Land Cooperative (ELC) has land at Furzehill, near Lunnon, and wants two tenant farmers to grow crops and live there.

To start with they’d live in mobile homes before eventually being able – with planning consent – to build a modestly-sized, zero-carbon home each.

The not-for-profit ELC would provide a timber-frame barn with rooftop solar panels.

It discussed its proposals at a public meeting at Barham Centre, Parkmill, last July.

The grassland site has mains water connection but it is expected that the smallholders would live off-grid, using coppiced wood for winter heating.

The’d grow fruit and veg – including in greenhouses and polytunnels – look after hedgerows and newly-created ponds, and could rear animals.

Temporary accommodation would also be provided near the barn for two volunteers.

Normally, development in the open countryside is very restricted but the ELC has applied to Swansea Council for permission under the Welsh Government’s one planet development planning guidance.

This guidance describes such schemes as low-impact development which “either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality”, and said they must have a management plan.

In a planning statement, the ELC said the chosen smallholders would lease the land but could not sub-let it.

It added that the site would be tied to ecological farming in perpetuity.

The report said: “In addition to their many ecological benefits, the ELC’s small farm developments increase access to local fresh food, benefit the local economy and help to address a lack of affordable rural housing and an ageing rural population.”

The Furzehill site in the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) is just under 18 acres, with five of those already leased to a local food and veg cooperative.

The ELC said careful consideration had been given to meet AONB requirements, such as low buildings and additional planting to screen them.

Courses and annual open days would be held, it said, with the community benefiting from an extra locally-grown produce option.

In a separate planning document, the ELC said a lot of food consumed in the UK was grown under plastic sheeting in arid areas of Morocco and Spain.

In Wales, most one planet development applications to date have been in West Wales.

Last year Pembrokeshire councillor Huw George said he was concerned these developments were not being monitored strictly enough, while farmers weren’t allowed to build cottages for their children on their land.

Cllr George told BBC Wales: “Something has to be done to tighten this policy, to make sure there’s a level playing field for those who live and work in this area.”

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