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Forget the courts — I'm not leaving my eco-home

TESS DELANEY banked everything on being given permission to keep her environmentally sustainable home in Wales. Now the council has refused, she is refusing to give up

A couple of months ago the Morning Star ran my article that begged for my eco home to not be torn down. I had applied for a One Planet Development (OPD). Two refusals in, I was at the point of waiting for a planning appeal hearing.

Of course, due to Covid-19, the hearing was cancelled the day before it was due to take place. Foolishly, in hindsight, I agreed to proceed via written representations.

Then I got the email I had been dreading. I had again been refused. Not only that, but the enforcement order was to stay in place. I have nine months to take everything down, even the agricultural stuff like the polytunnel and goat house, the workshop and the caravan; everything must go, as the Manic Street Preachers once said.

Something else they once said, those lovely Welsh boys is this: if you tolerate this, then your children will be next. So 36 hours after losing my entire future, I was on track to making a few future decisions.

I could go to the High Court. However, some friends of mine who won their case at High Court are now being taken back to court by the council who are appealing their High Court win. You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Or I could apply for agricultural business planning permission and just not attempt to live here. After five winters in a field this is an attractive proposition. So I spoke to housing at the council. There are no council houses.

The waiting list is as long as my face was the day before yesterday. So the Primary Mental Health Care Team put me in touch with another body that could apparently help with housing.

Turns out, they basically act as an agent for people looking to rent. They don’t have any secret houses available. Just the same ones that are on Zoopla. Which is none.

There’s a flat in Narberth, £129 a week. Their suggestion on paying that? Universal credit of course. To pay a private landlord a state-subsidised rent that forces the taxpayer to pay for a place for me to live even though I already have a place to live, the kind of place that the taxpayer would really like to live too. What’s wrong with this picture?

I could go full anarchy. I could just say, no, I’m not going. That’s a possibility. In the spirit of Albert Dryden I’d be into that while my strength held out.

I could park my caravan in the council office car park. They have nice facilities. I could turn my place into a campsite, or gift it to the Travellers and move to Portugal. I could get lots of pigs.

In essence, I’m glad I didn’t get OPD. It’s not real freedom. The process has been the worst time of my life. Unimaginable stress and drip torture with all the waiting. It’s flawed to the point of uselessness. There are so many loopholes that if your face doesn’t fit or if you’re retrospective in any way, you won’t get it, simple as that.

It’s arbitrary and inconsistent. It’s a policy that is not fit for purpose, when a holiday home owner can object to a local trying to live a sustainable life. If I live away from my land I have to drive here every day. Logical that.

In refusing OPDs they’re forcing people back out into a system that doesn’t work. Covid -19 has demonstrated how tenuous capitalism is. Yet, here I am, being told I have to go back out there into the machine.

I’ve been beaten by the system. A flawed, useless, not fit for purpose system. Against all logic, that is what has happened. So, we have no choice now but to change the system. And until then, I’m happy to ignore the system.

My entire future, home, business, the homes for my animals, everything, has all just been taken away from me. I now have nothing at all to lose. Nothing.

I have no business to build any more, no home for my son to plan, no reason to care about any of it any more. The stress has gone. The wait is over. Now all I have is lots and lots of time, a blank canvass, nine months to decide what’s next, and raise hell while I decide.

My objectors may have won this battle, but you know what they say about wars. And despite it all, I’m still happy. They have everything, yet they will never be happy. That’s the difference between them and me. And I’d much rather be me.

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