Eco, low impact, sustainable, off grid, communities – whatever label you attach to them, it certainly feels like the movement of ‘alternative’ communities is gathering pace, and at the same time, starting to attract people that even a few years ago wouldn’t have given the lifestyle a thought. Certainly many of the factors that drive people to seek a different way of living arise as a result of those people having access to information, but it takes an enquiring mind to go looking for it.
Within the broad range of those who are involved in (and its rather a broad lazy term) the eco movement, the majority of people I talk to are very well informed, articulate, and motivated. Although their motivations are many, their outlook is broadly similar.
There are two basic ways to approach a different way of living – within the system, and outside the system. There are many people who regard ‘the system’ – all state governed entities, as inherently unnatural and usually corrupt, and reject their mandate entirely. For them the prospect of buying land, obtaining planning permission and wading through the procedures set down by government, is out of the question. In consenting to abide by the rules, you don’t merely endorse them, you reinforce them, and strengthen the grip of increasingly powerful levels of visible and invisible control over you.
Working outside the system has its advantages – from barter based economies, to regulation free building and a transfer of power back into the hands of the individual.
Of course the disadvantages are that ‘the system’ doesn’t  look especially kindly on free thinkers, and would really rather one played by the rules, or risk penalties ranging from fines to inprisonment. Along the way you might face a dose of constant harassment, violence and intimidation, from everyone ranging from court bailiffs to angry local residents, to the police and security services.
Until recently the only way to live in a low impact, sustainable, off grid way was to be outside the system, and there are large numbers still living in this way.
Working within the system takes a number of things. Firstly a willingness to abide by the rules (at least to a certain extent – they can be bent). Secondly (but not exclusively) – money. The system likes money. Permission costs money, and you need a lot of permission. You will also find that land costs money, and quite a lot of it too.
New planning laws (and I refer to Wales’ One Planet Development) have opened up the possibility of making agricultural land available to build on, providing you play by the very comprehensive rules, but even then, land is still not cheap.
If you want to feed your family, then you’ll need about 5 acres, which coincidentally is roughly what area would be available if the earth was divided evenly amongst us (although not for long, as populations grow).
That’ll be £20- £30,000 please.
Add in a self built home, made from recycled materials that complies with the necessary regulations, and you’re going to be looking at another £5-10,000 depending on how inventive you are, and how grand your self build aspirations are.
So if we assume that you are very inventive, and you also manage to set up your land based business for next to nothing, we are talking about at least £35,000, and most probably a good bit more. As an example, all the plans submitted by Lammas residents are in the order of £60k+, and those for Tir Teg / Lammas 2, are similar.