Swansea’s first One Planet development given green light

SWANSEA’S first ever one planet development project has got the green light on land the couple who will live there described as a grower’s dream.

Trevor and Bettina Davies (pictured) began work on their market garden venture – The Rowan Tree – on a field west of Ilston, Gower, in 2020, while living off-site.

The land is owned by a not-for-profit group, called the Ecological Land Cooperative, which applied to Swansea Council for planning consent under the Welsh Government’s one planet development policy. This policy encourages low-impact living, both in terms of the homes people can build and the land-based activities they scale up to meet most of their needs.

The Ecological Land Cooperative had to submit significant amounts of information to support the application – from its visual impact on the Gower Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to how energy would be generated on-site and waste dealt with, to how much Mr and Mrs Davies expect to earn and spend per year. Councils have to monitor one planet developments, and each application has to have an exit strategy in case things go wrong.

Mr and Mrs Davies said there was initially some opposition to the plans for the site – called Furzehill – but that they’d made good friends since.

“Farmers appreciate hard work when they see it, and we’ve had help and good advice from people who know this land,” they said.

“The south-facing orientation of our field is ideal, with lots of sunshine year round. The soil is incredible – free draining yet it holds moisture well in dry spells – a grower’s dream. Most crops have done well here so far.”

They plan to start building their small timber-framed home this summer and complete it in the following months. They already sell flowers, fruit and veg and will continue to grow the business on the six-acre plot of land. An orchard and small woodland will be planted, and hedgerows restocked and thickened. Ponds will be dug, and beehives will produce honey for sale.

Mrs Davies was a dancer and choreographer before retraining in horticulture and setting up a cut flower business and managing an orchard in Hertfordshire. Mr Davies’s varied career has included work as a freelance actor, musician, composer, writer and postman.

The couple said: “Trevor dreamt about a land-based life since his teens. Life has taken him on a long detour to finally arrive at Furzehill! We’ve always lived quite frugal lives and have been involved with various sustainability groups and initiatives.

“After Bettina re-trained in horticulture we started growing most of our own fruit and veg on our allotment, while growing cut flowers for sale. We realised we could make a living from growing produce, and things fell into place from there.”

Their project has plenty of supporters. One of them said in an email to the council’s planning department: “The applicants openly welcome visitors to their field, who will be met by an intelligent, lively couple and a beautifully tended, biodiverse market garden – all great assets to both the local community and the environment of Gower.”

Another supporter said the couple were “truly committed” to an environmentally-responsible life, adding: “The home that they propose to build would be very minimal and would fit in well to the landscape. It would make a huge difference to the applicants’ business if they were able to live on the land.”

Mrs Davies said living on-site was critical to the running of the enterprise. “We’re very grateful that Swansea Council have given our project the thumbs-up.

We’ll be able to put down roots here, living according to one planet development principles,” she said.

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