Low-impact development (UK)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Jump to: navigation, search
This article is about the UK meaning of LID. For the Canadian/US usage, see Low-impact development (Canada/US).
Tony Wrench and Jane Faith standing in front of That Roundhouse, a LID in Pembrokeshire

Low impact development (LID) has been defined as "development which through its low negative environmental impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality".[1][2][3]

The interplay between would-be developers and the UK planning authorities since the 1980s has led to a diversity of unique, locally adapted developments, often making use of natural, local and reclaimed materials in delivering highly affordable, low or zero carbon housing. These LIDs often strive to be self-sufficient in terms of waste management, energy, water and other needs.[4]



English LID examples include the Hockerton Housing Project (Nottinghamshire), Michael Buck's cob house in Oxfordshire,[5] Landmatters (Devon)[6] and Tinker's Bubble (Somerset).[7][8]

Transition Homes, currently under development in Transition Town Totnes, Devon, is an attempt to scale-up and mainstream LID by providing around 25 low cost, low carbon homes designed along permaculture principles.[9][10][11] Residents will be allocated from the local housing needs register.[10] Similarly, LILAC built in 2013 a 'Low Impact Living Affordable Community' of 20 homes and a common house in Bramley, Leeds,[12][13][14] which was visited by Kevin McCloud and Mark Prisk, Minister of State for Housing and Local Government.[15]

BedZED (London) is another example of a larger scale LID, which was built in 2000–2002 and has 82 homes, however it is not as affordable as many of the above examples as it was partly designed to attract urban professionals.


Findhorn Ecovillage in (Scotland) has won a number of international awards. Steve James's Straw House, Dumfries was built for £4,000.[16]


High-profile LID sites in Wales include That Roundhouse (Newport, Pembrokeshire), Pwll Broga roundhouse at Glandwr, Crymych, Pembrokeshire,[17] Simon Dale's so-called 'hobbit house',[18] and Lammas Ecovillage (Pembrokeshire).[19]

Benefits of Low Impact Development[edit]

Substantial research has concluded that LID represents some of the most innovative and sustainable development in the UK.[20][21][22]

LIDs have innovated and demonstrated sustainable solutions including low/zero carbon housing design, rainwater harvesting, renewable energy generation, waste minimisation and innovative forms of land management, including No/low-till farming, permaculture and agroforestry.

LID has also shown a capacity to enhance local biodiversity and public access to local space, and to produce traffic movements far below the national average. This has been attributed to lift-sharing, to residents' greater use of public transport, walking and cycling and to the integration of local land based employment with other household activities.[23] As the Welsh Assembly Government has noted, such "...Development therefore is not just describing a physical development. It is describing a way of living differently where there is a symbiotic relationship between people and land, making a reduction in environmental impacts possible".[24]

UK policy on Low Impact Development[edit]

The extensive research interest in LID, backed up by the practical examples of the existing LIDs, has led to a growing number of planning policies in the UK designed to allow for LIDs.[25] These include the Dartmoor National Park Authority's emerging plan on low impact dwellings in the countryside,[26] the Pembrokeshire Low Impact Development Policy (Policy 52)[27] and the Welsh Assembly Government’s One Planet Development policy[28] which is outlined in Technical Advice Note 6 – Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities.[2][29]

Barriers to the growth of Low-Impact Development[edit]

Over the years, there have been various struggles with planning authorities over LID in the UK. Tony Wrench spent over a decade fighting the planning authorities until he was granted planning permission for That Roundhouse.[30][31][32][33] As Lisa Lewinsohn points out in her MSc thesis on LID, Tony Wrench and his partner Jane Faith have been “enforced against, fined, refused planning permission several times”[3] while Lammas has “probably spent about £50,000 on the application process.”[3] Similarly, since 1986 Tir Penrhos Tsaf has tried several times to get planning permission[34] and only succeeded in December 2006, twenty years after their first planning application was submitted.[35]

The residents of Tir Penrhos Isaf consider:

"that current planning and building legislation represent some of the greatest obstacles to developing sustainable systems in Britain. The legislation favours those who already have land and property, actively encourages the squandering of resources and environmental degradation and actively discourages movements towards low impact, sustainable development."[34]

Other LIDs, such as Quicken Wood, Framfield, have been told that they will not get planning permission to live permanently on the land after 10 years of battling with the local planning authorities.[36]

Currently, several LIDs in the UK are engaged in ongoing planning struggles, including Pwll Broga in Glandŵr Pembrokeshire.[17][37]

Development of the term 'Low-Impact Development'[edit]

Low Impact Development (LID), in the UK sense of the term, was first coined by Simon Fairlie in 1996 to refer to “development that through its low impact either enhances or does not significantly diminish environmental quality”[38]

Fairlie later wrote about the development of the term:

"In 1996, I started promoting the concept of 'Low Impact Development' in a book of that name, a book born out of the frustration of trying to obtain permission to live in a self-built, off-grid community in Somerset. Neither the term nor the concept was new. People have been living low impact lifestyles in low impact buildings for centuries; indeed until very recently the majority of people in the world lived that way. The book borrowed ideas from several other people, notably Tony Wrench, who was facing similar planning problems in Wales."[39]

Since his original definition in 1996, Simon Fairlie has reworked it. He now prefers to define LID as ‘development which, by virtue of its low or benign environmental impact, may be allowed in locations where conventional development is not permitted.’[39]

Fairlie explains his new definition:

"I prefer this revised definition because wrapped up in it is the main argument; that low impact buildings need not be bound by the restrictions necessary to protect the countryside from 'conventional' high impact development – a.k.a. suburban sprawl. There are two other principle arguments in favour of LID: (i) that some form of exception policy is necessary because conventional housing in a countryside protected from sprawl becomes too expensive for the people who work there; and (ii) soon we will all have to live more sustainable low impact lifestyles, so pioneers should be encouraged."[39]

Others have expanded on the definition of LID. A study by the University of West England acknowledged that "LID is usually integrally connected with land management and as much as describing physical development, LID also describes a form of livelihood.”[20] However, it also states that as LID is a “multi featured and intrinsically integrated form of development,” a simple definition cannot capture the meaning of LID and goes on to develop "a detailed themed definition with detailed criteria."[20]

Dr Larch Maxey has also given a list of what he considers to be the main features of LID:

  • locally adapted, diverse and unique
  • based on renewable resources
  • of an appropriate scale
  • visually unobtrusive
  • enhances biodiversity
  • increases public access to open space
  • generates little traffic
  • linked to sustainable livelihoods
  • co-ordinated by a management plan[40]


  1. ^ Maxey, Larch (December 2012). "Proof of Evidence of Dr Larch Maxey in relation to appeals APP/Y1138/ A/12/2181807, APP/Y1138/ A/12/2181808, and APP/Y1138/ A/12/2181821, evidence submitted to Mid Devon District Council planning inquiry". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  2. ^ a b Pickerill, J. and Maxey, L. (ed.). "What is Low Impact Development?". Low Impact Development: The Future in our Hands. 
  3. ^ a b c Lewinsohn, Lisa (July 2008). "Planning Policy and Low Impact Developments – What are the planning barriers to low impact developments in rural areas in Britain and how might they be overcome?". MSc Thesis, Advanced Environmental and Energy Studies, CAT. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  4. ^ Woolley, Tom (2013). Low Impact Building: Housing using Renewable Materials. Wiley-Blackwell. ISBN 978-1-4443-3660-3. 
  5. ^ Wilkes, David (25 November 2013). "The £150 hobbit hole: Farmer builds a cosy cob home using materials he recycled from skips... and the tenant pays the rent in MILK". Daily Mail. Retrieved 26 November 2013. 
  6. ^ "Landmatters Coop gets planning approval!". Indymedia. 25 August 2007. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  7. ^ Monbiot, George (August 23, 2004). "Living with the Age of Entropy". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 May 2013. 
  8. ^ Economads. "Tinker's Bubble". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  9. ^ "Transition and Permaculture". 1 March 2013. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  10. ^ a b "Transition Homes". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  11. ^ "Transition Homes: Pudhaven Field Site Visit Feb 2013 (video)". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  12. ^ "LILAC means Low Impact Living Affordable Community". December 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  13. ^ Brown Bread Films. "LILAC Cohousing Documentary (video)". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  14. ^ Norwood, Graham (February 2013). "Co-housing: a lifestyle with community spirit built into the foundations". The Observer. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  15. ^ "Housing Minister and Kevin McCloud visit LILAC". Lindum Group. 1 April 2013. Retrieved 11 April 2013. 
  16. ^ Hill, Vicki (20 February 2008). "How I built my house for £4,000". The Independent. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "'Hobbit home' to be demolished after Pembrokeshire vote". BBC. 1 August 2014. Retrieved 2 August 2014. 
  18. ^ "Our £3,000 Hobbit house: The family home dug from a hillside and built with scraps scavenged from skips". Daily Mail. 22 September 2011. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  19. ^ Heydon Prowse; Tom Bell (22 March 2011). "Lammas: The eco-village that lives off the grid (video)". The Guardian. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c University of the West of England; Land Use Consultants (December 2002). "Low Impact Development – Planning Policy and Practice: Report to the Countryside Council for Wales". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  21. ^ Baker Associates (February 2004). "Low Impact Development – Further Research, report to the Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  22. ^ Various. "Index of Low Impact Documents on Lammas website". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  23. ^ Lammas (2010). "Annual Monitoring Report For Tir y Gafel Ecovillage: August 2009 – January 2011". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  24. ^ "Welsh Government's One Planet Development policy Development Practice Guidance". October 2012. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  25. ^ Fairlie, Simon (2009). Low Impact Development: Planning and People in a Sustainable Countryside. Jon Carpenter Publishing. Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  26. ^ Dartmoor National Park Authority (February 2012). "Policy DMD30: Low impact dwellings in the open countryside". p. 60. 
  27. ^ Pembrokeshire County Council (June 2006). "Supplementary Planning Guidance: Low Impact Development – Making a Positive Contribution". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  28. ^ Welsh Assembly Government (July 2010). "Technical Advice Note 6: Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities – Section 4.15 One Planet Development". Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  29. ^ Welsh Government (January 2011). "Technical Advice Note 6 – Planning for Sustainable Rural Communities (2010)". Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  30. ^ "Roundhouse approved after decade". BBC News. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  31. ^ "10-year Pembrokeshire eco-battle ends". WalesOnline. 15 September 2008. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  32. ^ Barkham, Patrick (25 September 2008). "Round the houses". The Guardian. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  33. ^ Salkeld, Luke (17 September 2008). "Lost middle-class tribe's 'secret' eco-village in Wales spotted in aerial photograph taken by plane". Daily Mail. Retrieved 6 March 2013. 
  34. ^ a b Dixon, Chris. "Planning History at Tir Penrhos Isaf". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  35. ^ Dixon, Chris (October 2009). "Planning latest at Tir Penrhos Isaf". Retrieved 7 March 2013. 
  36. ^ "Double-decker bus family lose out in planning fight at Blackboys". Uckfield News. 24 October 2012. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 
  37. ^ "North Pembrokeshire family fight to keep roundhouse they built without permission". Western Telegraph. 22 March 2013. Retrieved 24 March 2013. 
  38. ^ Fairlie, Simon (1996). Low impact development : planning and people in a sustainable countryside (Repr. with minor rev. 1997. ed.). Charlbury: Jon Carpenter. p. xiv. ISBN 1897766254. 
  39. ^ a b c Pickerill, Jenny; Maxey, L. (2009). Low impact development : the future in our hands. [Leicester: University of Leicester, Dept. of Geography]. p. 1. ISBN 1870474368. 
  40. ^ Maxey, Larch (2009). "The Future in Our Hands: Low Impact Development and Sustainability Transitions". Convergence on Zero Conference, Washington DC. Retrieved 7 April 2013. 

External links[edit]

Low Impact Developments[edit]

Listings of Low Impact Developments[edit]

Organisations supporting Low Impact Development[edit]

Resources supporting Low Impact Development[edit]

Practical examples[edit]