Friday, March 4, 2016

Urgent! Our off-grid woodland community is facing eviction after 16 years of low-impact existence...

Please help if you can.  Help save This low-impact woodland community from eviction

We at Steward Community Woodland (known locally as Steward Wood) are a group of families who live and work together off-grid using permaculture design, low-impact building and pioneering community dynamics on 32 acres of woodland on the edge of Dartmoor that we have owned and lived on since 2000. Since our inception, thousands of visitors and volunteers have come to learn from us and to see how we go about preserving our environment and living in a low-impact way whilst also playing an active part in our local rural community.

But, we now face eviction from our homes unless we can raise enough funds for our legal appeal against the latest decision to deny us permanent planning permission.

We need to raise a massive £38,000 to cover the costs of mounting an effective legal challenge to the planning decision. Your help is the only thing that's going to give us a chance of putting our case.

We literally face the loss of our homes and our community if we can't mount an effective appeal against the planning decision. Please help us have a chance.

Find out more about us here and on our campaign page here

We really cannot do this alone...

Why support us?

There are so many projects and charities and urgent problems in the world - we know that now, more than ever, times are hard for most of us. Why should you give us your hard-earned money?

Here are a few reasons why we think that our community is worth saving. Perhaps you can think of others!

To support a sustainable living and working woodland project, of which there are so few

Through our restoration and conservation work, we're actually increasing the biodiversity of this land

We are experimenting with:

        permaculture food growing and land use
        community dynamics
        renewable energy and appropriate technology
        building our own dwellings using low-impact materials
        small-scale woodland management
        experiential and home education

If the project continues we can keep inspiring others who learn from what we are doing.

Steward Community Woodland provides vital access to woodland, which is increasingly recognised as fundamentally important, especially for children.

We have built affordable, sustainable housing - it would be a huge shame, and a waste, to tear this down when we don't have any harmful impact.

We provide a holistic, educational environment available to all as well as providing courses for adults and children.

People travel from all over the world to visit Steward Community Woodland, which is a great benefit to our local community. We have more than 1000 visitors each year,

Scientists around the world are calling for urgent action to create a sustainable future (IPCC Report 2014). Steward Community Woodland is one example of many of how we can move forward in these challenging times.

Our project - a community that works and a beacon to others

We own the land we live on - children have been born and raised here, and we're now twelve adults and nine children. This is a small village, a community that works...

Our low impact living community and project meets the criteria of Dartmoor National Park Agency (DNPA) policies, in particular DMD30 (entitled 'Low impact residential development in the open countryside'), along with the National Planning Policy Framework. We have also proposed various conditions to guarantee the low impact nature of the settlement.

Living on-site is essential for the continued viability of our project. Living in conventional housing in nearby towns and commuting to the site could only be supported by having full-time (and well-paid) jobs elsewhere, leaving us with little or no time to carry out the project. Living in the woods enables us to dedicate our time to the project and be fully committed to it. Living in the woods also enables us to bring up our children in a safe and nourishing environment, while learning important skills in sustainable living, being in harmony with nature, caretaking the land and its creatures. We reside in low impact, ecological dwellings and utilise renewable sources of energy while reducing our fossil fuel and vehicle use.

Our activities both on and off site contribute enormously to the social and economic well-being of this area, and we are able to do so while living with a much-reduced ecological footprint than average (as affirmed by an independent report) and having a positive effect on the local biodiversity (recently affirmed by an officer of the Devon Wildlife Trust).

Through our courses, open days, volunteer weeks and educational visits, more than a thousand people visit each year to learn about and participate in sustainable living, permaculture, and nature connection. This is making a vital educational contribution in these challenging times.

Our community has a significant positive effect on the local community through the many activities and groups we are involved within Moretonhampstead and the local area, such as the Moreton Development Trust, the primary school, community projects and events.

In short, Steward Community Woodland is a success story and an asset to the local area. Our project is meeting its Aims and is fulfilling DNPA policies as well as the National Planning Policy Framework. We know that we are demonstrating much needed solutions to the huge environmental challenges we face, because we live those solutions every single day...

The Perks!

We want to say thank you for supporting us - even though you don't need to claim one to make a contribution, do take a look at the array of perks we have on offer! We've even got a few more up our sleeves for when these ones have all been used up - everyone in the community has pulled together to provide you with these amazing goodies and experiences and rewards. During the campaign, we'll be posting more about them on the blog at so make sure you're signed up there to receive updates...

Why we need £38,000

It's a lot of money, to us and no doubt to you too. Here's how it breaks down:

£23,000 - lawyer's fees - we'll tell you more about our amazing legal team of David Stephens and Laila Jhaveri in a blog post during the campaign, but they've agreed to represent us at a much-reduced fee and have a fantastic track-record, having worked with Tinker's Bubble in Somerset and Landmatters in Devon in the past. We're delighted and proud to have them working for us

£1,000 approximately - legal expenses - these are expenses the lawyers pay on our behalf then bill us for later

£10,000 approximately - fees and expenses of our expert witnesses (four witnesses giving evidence on the legal issues, permaculture, woodland management, and local support)

£6,000 - crowdfunding expenses (including getting our film made, leaflets printed, perks, organising the crowdfunder, PayPal fees and so on)

Some of these amounts may be less than we anticipate when it comes to the crunch, but we need to have ourselves covered.

What happens if we don't get the full £38,000?

If we fail to get the full funding we hope for from the project, we'll at least be in a better position to put our case than we would be without it. We're so hoping that we can get the full amount, but if we don't, we'll still go ahead with the appeal, although we won't be able to present such a strong case and so our chances of winning are that much lower - we will do our utmost to get to our target, however much work that proves to be...

What happens if we get more than £38,000?

If we do better than we dream of, there are two main areas in which we need funds:

    If we succeed in our bid to stay, we'd love to get on with other parts of this
    project - for example, we have plans for a turf-roofed Roundhouse
    Interpretation Centre, a disabled accessible Composting Toilet, and a
    Polytunnel. If we can stay, there's so much we could do!

If we fail (and while we're trying not to think about it, we have to) then we're going to need funds to take whatever the next steps are - it's far too early to say what the next steps would be, but we'll need funds for those.

Other ways you can help

We know that not all our supporters have funds that they can spare, no matter how strongly they believe in us - luckily, there are other ways you can also help:

Spread the word - this crowdfunder is going to be running for 40 days. We'll need you to keep sharing it on facebook and twitter and tumblr and instagram and so on and on and on (and on...)

Send us your enthusiasm - this thing doesn't run on clicks alone: email us at with encouragement.

A crowdfunder is a long haul at the best of times and our homes are at stake: we need all the encouragement you can spare...

The long and short of it

With your help, we stand a chance of keeping our homes and our community. We have no guarantee of success, but what is 100% guaranteed is that without good representation at our appeal, we stand a much smaller chance of winning. Your support is what will make the difference. Please help us if you can - for all our futures...

Thank you in advance for your generous support.

Fern, Sharif, Daniel, Ollie, Lorna, Seth, Mel, Sonny, John, Merlin, Rebecca, Jamie and all the kids in the woods...

via IndieGoGo

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