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Here are some answers to our frequently asked questions. If you have one that is not covered here, do get in touch, read the book, or come on a course. Click on the question to get the answer!

What is an ecological footprint?
The ecological footprint is a measure of whether we are living within the Earth’s biocapacity, in other words how much of its resources we are using relative to what it can provide.

We only have a finite planet, so we have to live within what this planet can provide – not just for for us, but for all living things – for the ‘biosphere’, as it is known, upon which we all depend.

What the planet can provide is called its ‘biocapacity’.

If you divide the biocapacity of the earth by the total human population of the planet you find out what would be the equal share for everyone. This is called the ecological footprint.

The ecological footprint includes not just the carbon footprint, which makes up these days about half of it, but also: fishing, agriculture, building upon land, mining and quarrying, deforestation, and pollution from chemicals, plastic and so on, in the air, the water and on the land.

It is measured in planet Earths, or in global hectares per person.

A hectare is about the size of a rugby pitch.

A global hectare is an averagely productive hectare. (Since the Earth’s surface varies from deserts to highly productive forests, we average this productivity.)

Right now, if everyone lived like we do on average in the United Kingdom we would need almost three planet Earths.

Another way of looking at it is that the ecological footprint of Wales is five times its actual surface area.

What is the 'one planet' life?
The average ecological footprint of everyone on the planet is 2.5 global hectares per person, but it can only sustain 1.6 global hectares per person. That’s a 0.7 global hectares difference. It transates to needing another 0.6 Planet Earths.

This is why we have the nature and climate emergencies – we are using more planet than it can replace.

Attaining 1.6 global hectares per person or below is therefore the definition of ‘one planet’ living.

Most people in the UK have an ecological footprint of at least three global hectares per person.

Everyone needs to do their bit to move towards this goal of 1.6 global hectares per person.

The One Planet Centre can help you understand what you need to do with tools, resources and training.

What is The One Planet Standard?

The One Planet Standard is a series of guidelines that encourage change in the way organisations conduct their business to help them to respect Planet Earth’s natural boundaries. It is independently assessed.

The One Planet Centre can help organisations understand what they need to do with tools, resources and training.

For more information click here.

How do I find out my ecological footprint?
You can find out your ecological footprint by using the spreadsheet on the Welsh government website.
What is One Planet Development (OPD)?

It is the most sustainable way of life in the UK, and we know this because it is measured.

One Planet Development is a planning law in Wales that allows people to build a house in the open countryside – something not normally allowed – provided that they can achieve the following targets within five years of being given planning permission.

It includes reducing their ecological footprint to ‘one planet’.

The planning application has to show how they will meet these targets, and subsequent monitoring by the planning department establishes whether they do.

These criteria guarantee a ‘one planet life’, as being verifiably the most sustainable life possible. We think these criteria should apply in some form or another for all human activities if we are to save ourselves and the planet:

  • An ecological footprint of below 1.88 global hectares per person
  • Zero carbon homes
  • Biodiversity and landscape improvement – practising organic, regenerative land-use
  • 100% renewable energy
  • Integration with the local community
  • Minimising the carbon impact of travel
  • Sustainable water supply
  • Zero waste (including recycling of sewage nutrients to improve the soil)
  • Providing 65% of the minimum needs of the inhabitants from land-based business, directly or indirectly.

One Planet Development FAQs

Where does OPD apply and not apply?
One Planet Development applies to agricultural land in Wales with no dwelling on it.
How much money will I need for OPD?
  • Land c.£7k – £10k an acre
  • Planning permission £1.5k to £4k
  • Specialist advice £1-2k
  • Earthworks £3k – £5k (depends on access)
  • Dwellings £5k- £50k
  • Infrastructure costs depending on your plans (polytunnels, barns, ponds, etc.)
  • Energy: c.£3-10k
  • Water: £1-3k for tanks, gutters, pipes and flters
  • Transport
  • Tools
  • Marketing/business/packaging
How much land do I need?
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2 acres upwards. It depends on the products – e.g. mushrooms require less land; adding value to products could mean you need less land. For example if you sell carrot cake instead of carrots, you can receive a higher price per carrot. If you need woodfuel you need more land, so it’s worth going for a very well insulated home that doesn’t need much or any woodfuel.

Minimum: 2.4 acres (someone is doing 1 acre)

Allow c.1 acre per person.

More than 6 acres is not needed unless you’re rewilding.

How do I find land?
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  • Word of mouth
  • Local press
  • Estate agents
  • Auctioneers.
How do I get a loan?
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Normal building societies are unlikely to be interested. The Ecology Building Society and Triodos Bank are sympathetic. Crowdfunding is another option.

What type of land-based business is permitted and not permitted?
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Anything that uses stuff from the ground: food products, medicinal, cosmetic and herbal products, art and crafts.

E.g. vegetables, eggs, meat, cheese, herbs, salad bags, preserves, woolly jumpers, timber-crafts, honey, fruit juice, cut flowers, natural remedies, etc.

These must be produced directly on the OPD site.

Events and training workshops around a growing and processing such products.

The primary land-based businesses will be the productive ones. Secondly land-based businesses Will be the events and training.

Examples of things which are not allowed include glamping, massage, etc. As these do not make use of the productivity of the land.

It is advisable not to choose businesses which require much travel to the site by customers; your travel plan should minimise the carbon impact of trips, including those of your clients.

What is the planning process?
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You should get to know the planning officer who specialises in planning permission on agricultural land. This will increase your chances of a successful application. They will answer any questions you have. This will help you to understand what they are looking for, and help them to understand what you are trying to achieve.

You can then expect to go through the following process:

OPD planning process

What are 'minimum needs'?

Minimum Income Needs are defined to include clothing, council tax, telecommunications/IT (phone bill, internet, computers, etc), travel (fuel costs, train tickets, etc), and any additional food. Generally £2000-£3000 per person.

How long does it take?

It’s generally takes six months to one year to write the management plan.

Once submitted planning authorities must reply within eight weeks.

The entire planning process can take anything from three months to a year depending on whether there are objections or required alterations to your plan, and whether you have to appeal.

Will I get turned down?

You can appeal by addressing the reasons for the application being turned down. Do not take it personally: many planning applications of whatever kind are refused the first time, and go to appeal sometimes several times before succeeding.

Can anyone apply, regardless of age and ability?

Yes.

What happens when I get old or infirm?

No one has yet been asked to leave because they cannot meet the requirements any longer even though it is technically possible for this to happen.

The longer you are there, the more your trees and plants have grown and the less labour is required to meet the ongoing criteria; satisfying 65% of your minimum needs therefore becomes very easy once your system has matured.

As long as you keep meeting this you will not be asked to leave.

We believe that anyone, no matter their level of ability: should be able to leave the one planet life. It should be possible to have people on site to help you should that be necessary. Their ecological footprint would be included in the ongoing calculations; there would be subject to the same conditions as you.

Should anyone be asked to leave solely because they are old or infirm, then adverse publicity, particularly in the future when the world is warming even more, would be very bad for that local authority.

What happens if I want to leave?

You can get someone else to take it over or you can sell it. Your successor would have to reapply with their own management plan, minimum needs asssessment and ecological footprint calculation for permission to live there. They would have a significant advantage in that all of the trees, plants and infrastructure are already there, and its success is already proven.

What sort of monitoring is required?

In your management plan you will have said what monitoring information you will supply. Download this OPD Management Plan Guidance.

Do I have to be completely self-sufficient?

No, you have to produce at least 30% (by value) of your own food on your land and cover a further 35% of your food budget either through producing it on your land or through earning money from a land based business. If you produce 65% of your food or more on your land then there is no need to cover any food costs using land based income.

Do some local authorities favour OPD more than others?

No. Some authorities have just received many more applications than others. This may have affected their workload. These areas have received more publicity.

As long as you meet the requirements of the planning guidance you will be successful in your application.

What kind of experience is required?

Ideally you will have some experience of the land-based businesses which you say you are going to practice. You may have done much vegetable/fruit growing, or kept animals.

Practical skills are a great help: carpentry, building, electrical, etc. So are business and marketing skills.

How can I get more experience?

By volunteering on other OPDs and WWOOFing (working weekends on organic farms), and by growing and processing your own food or keeping animals now. You might also go on one of the many relevant permaculture and low impact building courses.

What about doing it in communities?

Many people are trying to set up low impact communities together this. Contact us for more details and we may be able to put you in touch with one or point you towards sources of assistance.

What if I don't meet the 5 year requirements?

In the event of continued failure without a clear plan for rectifying the problems, the Exit Strategy laid out in the Management Plan would be triggered, and the dwelling would have to be removed.

What do I need to say in my planning application?
Please download this OPD Management Plan Guidance.