Please Note: This website is out of date. The Steward Community Woodland sustainable living project ended in 2018 for legal and planning permission reasons. The contents have been left here as a historical archive.


               THE PLANNING APPEAL 2016

The witness statement (called a 'Proof of Evidence') of Daniel Thompson-Mills (community member) runs to 49 pages with 31 appendices running to hundreds of pages. Our lawyers and experts have done a fabulous job of guiding and supporting us to ensure that this is the best that it can be. We are really proud of what we have produced to show in great detail the positive effect we are having on the woodland, our visitors, our local area, and the planet generally by living here.

Daniel's Proof lays out the foundation of our case with supporting documents such as our Management Plan for the land, and our Needs Analysis which calculates that we meet 81.5% of our basic needs by living at Steward Wood.

Our world is in severe crisis. Those of us around on the planet at the moment, as a

result of what we are learning from science and from our own experience, are charged

with beginning to turn this around. This means adopting more sustainable lifestyles. It means coming into alignment with Earth Care, People Care, and Fair Share – the three founding ethics of permaculture. This can happen and is happening in many ways. Low impact living is one of those ways.”

Steward Community Woodland is a success story and an asset to the Dartmoor National Park. The project is meeting its Aims in full and is fulfilling National Park policies as well as the [government's Planning Framework]. It is demonstrating much needed solutions to the huge environmental challenges we face. We urge both the Dartmoor National Park and the Planning Inspectorate to actively support this project by allowing its continuation with permanent planning permission.”

In addition to Daniel's Proof, we have the witness statements of:

Sonia & Marly Parsons (two other community members) setting out how we educate our children and the benefits of that (given how prevalent 'Nature Deficit Disorder' is in our modern world).

It may be hard for others to understand, quantify and prove the benefits of living in harmony with our human, animal and plant relations in a world where separation, disconnection and greed are the norm. But having lived this way for the last 12 years, for us and our children this way of life is the only way of life. It allows for the development of skills that enable provision of shelter, fuel, food and water for families without the call for huge financial input. In addition, it creates a deep sense of connection to each other and the natural world, encouraging responsibility and care without the huge and harmful impact that comes with conventional living.”

Working towards a more sustainable future is a major part of our lives here, so it is for our children. This is evident in their enthusiasm and involvement with community tasks including growing food and medicinal plants, cooking and eating communally, picking produce with friends and showing visitors around their woodland home. There are few places in this world that offer such a wide variety of learning opportunities in a setting which allows for first hand experience! As parents, home educators and community members, we have witnessed that these factors make for some of the deepest learning experiences available to man, woman and child. Leaving the woodland, our homes and this unique and wonderful way of life would have a detrimental effect on us all but most devastatingly on the children as it is all most of them have ever known and would include separating them from what is in effect their beloved family, friends and support network, and the woods they love.”

Peter Cow, our permaculture expert. He was one of the founders of the project and lived here until 2007. He has been teaching permaculture internationally since then.

The nature of the complex, interwoven lifestyle of a self reliant permaculturalist is one of many small and large daily and seasonal tasks, undertaken in intimate relationship with the land and the social landscape around them. These daily and seasonal tasks need to be undertaken at the optimal timing and location, which is best assessed by personal observation. Only by living on site, in close relationship with the surroundings gives this possibility to the members.”

Alison Heine, our legal expert. She specialises in gypsy cases but has moved over to low impact development for this case. Her evidence shows how the project is meeting the policies of the Dartmoor National Park.

Given the support locally and nationally for this Project, I perceive a need for the Dartmoor National Park Authority to work more closely with Steward Wood to make a success of this low impact sustainable living experiment as it is clear many agree it has much to offer. …. Similar projects have succeeded elsewhere and it would be a shame, if after 16 years dedicated work, and adoption of a policy [by the National Park for low impact development], this Project was not supported, made permanent and given the full support of the National Park.”

Jim White, our woodland management expert.

If the woodland management approach was one for commercial gain through conventional thinning, clearfell and replanting of the timber crop then, it could be argued that no residential on-site presence is required. However this is not the management approach that is in train for this site. It is a community woodland with public access, ongoing forest gardening work and continuous cover forestry management in process – no less ‘proper management’ than a more commercial approach and arguably with far greater public benefit and interest. The ccf monitoring demonstrates clearly the transformation that is underway from coniferous woodland to self-regenerating broadleaved woodland is at the rate it is partially as a result of project workers living on site and applying day to day management. They provide the eyes and ears for the management of the site and can apply operations on a highly responsive basis, this would not nearly be so possible if the site was uninhabited. …. I gained a distinct impression from my site visit that the residents of SCW have observed and maintained a light-footprint, sustainable approach to their occupancy of the site, in a way that is congruent with their stated principles and aims. I would suggest that currently little or no long-term irreversible harm is being done by their habitation of the site and given the benefits that this in fact has provided for the wood’s vitality and ongoing management it could be tolerated at the agreed carrying capacity.”

and last but not least

Jane Willis, a local resident and Chair of the Moretonhampstead Parish Council. She is giving evidence in a personal capacity on our involvement in the wider community and the support we have locally.

Many of us are concerned about climate change and finding a good way of living a simpler and more sustainable lifestyle. It is the inventiveness, resourcefulness and commitment Steward Community Woodland bring to being a living example of this concern, that has earned it such a lot of support and admiration from the local community and from further afield.”

Emerson and Thoreau, the founding fathers of the world wide National Parks movement would have understood and supported the aims of Steward Community Woodland. I ask you allow this community to continue this exemplar of low carbon living in harmony with the natural environment.”

Full Evidence submitted:

Daniel Thompson-Mills - Proof of Evidence


  1. Policies of Affinity Woodland Workers Co-op Ltd – March 2016
  2. Steward Community Woodland - Settlement Area
  3. Fifteen Criteria for developments associated with sustainable land-based rural activities
  4. Report produced by 4th World Ecological Design in June 2008
  5. Management Plan 2016-26
  6. Report on the Structures at SCW – March 2016
  7. Renewable Energy at SCW
  8. Block Plans of SCW / MoreFood
  9. Structure Plans (submitted with the Planning Application)
  10. MoreFood Community Garden Project – Composting Toilet
  11. MoreFood Community Garden Project – Polytunnel
  12. MoreFood Community Garden Project – Interpretation Centre
  13. Photos of SCW from the surrounding landscape – February 2016 (90MB)
  14. Non-exhaustive list of the roles, skills, and activities fulfilled and performed by the residents at SCW
  15. Needs Analysis
  16. MoreFood Community Garden Project – DNPA Officers' Report to Development Management Committee
  17. MoreFood Community Garden Project – Refusal of Planning Permission
  18. MoreFood Community Garden Project – Business Plan
  19. Anthony MacKarel's Report on Woodland Management – March 2016
  20. Letter from Kenny Comain dated 17th March 2016
  21. Letter from Dr Christian Taylor dated 7th February 2016
  22. Letter from Devon Wildlife Trust dated 20th June 2014
  23. Felling Licence issued by the Forestry Commission – December 2014
  24. Permissive Path at SCW
  25. Photos of the Growing Area at SCW – Summer 2015
  26. Letter from Peter Cow dated 10th November 2014
  27. Letter from Adrian Lloyd dated 2nd July 2014
  28. Letter from Associate Professor Roger Cutting and Dr Robert Cook of Plymouth University dated 15th March 2016
  29. Summary of the record of activities provided for the public at SCW 2009-14
  30. Accounts of Affinity Woodland Workers Co-op Ltd 2014-5
  31. Letter from Rebecca Laughton concerning the Needs Analysis dated 21st March 2016

Jane Willis - Proof of Evidence

Peter Cow - Proof of Evidence

Jim White - Proof of Evidence

Alison Heine - Proof of Evidence

Sonia and Marly Parsons  - Proof of Evidence


Last updated: 2016-03-29

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