Low impact dwelling supports biodynamic holding

The construction of a timber low impact dwelling at a biodynamic farm in Herefordshire was permitted with an inspector accepting that the unusual needs of the holding justified a person living on site.

The holding extended to approximately 10ha and comprised mainly pasture and woodland. The appellant kept a small herd of cattle and a flock of sheep and had farmed the area for 24 years according to biodynamic principles. She sought to manage the soils, crops and animals in such a way that the enterprises strengthened and supported each other and followed many organic farming principles, embracing spiritual, ethical and ecological approaches.

Solar panels and wood fuel provided the sources of power and the appellant accepted that the holding did not meet the traditional functional need test for an on-site presence. But it did involve a complex method of processing and application of manure which was very labour intensive and required her to be ‘in tune’ with the natural rhythms of the land, animals and wider environment. This necessitated a slow and calm approach to farming involving very flexible hours.

The inspector accepted that the method of farming was a very important material consideration which supported the appellant’s position and he rejected the council’s claim that it was tantamount to hobby farming. In his view, the appellant was managing a serious, substantial and government-certified farm.

There were no dwellings in the immediate vicinity which the appellant could afford to buy and while the holding did not appear to be financially viable, he judged that it was right to make an allowance for the inherent limitations of the subsistence approach to farming the land which was unlikely to generate a significant income stream. On balance he therefore concluded that the functional and financial tests had been met albeit his decision was finely balanced. A condition was imposed allowing occupation of the dwelling by the appellant and provided that the holding was farmed on biodynamic principles.

Inspector Nicholas Taylor; Hearing

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