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Ecological Land Cooperative

What they do

The Ecological Land Cooperative purchases agricultural land with a view to subdividing it into a number of ecologically managed residential small farms. To date they have purchased five separate parcels of land with an average size of 20 acres.

About ELC

"We repeatedly see entrants to farming struggle to get access to land, planning or finance. ELC have an excellent strategy, helping new entrants overcome all of these. Their model will get more land into productive, ecological management"

Kate Swade, Director, Shared Assets

The Ecological Land Cooperative was set up to address the lack of small farm sites for affordable, ecological land-based livelihoods in England and Wales. There is an enormous disconnect between the combined cost of land and rural housing, and the income that is usually derived from sustainable rural livelihoods.

When the ELC purchases agricultural land, they draw on the advice of organic horticulturalists and farmers, ecologists, soil experts, transport advisors, planners, prospective customers, the local community, and those with local knowledge.  They then establish a new smallholding cluster, with a binding ecological management plan in perpetuity.


ELC's Small Farms

ELC obtain temporary planning permission, develop a shared infrastructure and then sell 150 year leases. The Cooperative’s first project of a cluster of three affordable small farms for new entrants to ecological agriculture is Greenham Reach in the parish of Holcombe Rogus, Mid Devon. A five year temporary planning permission was granted for the project in April 2013.

The permission allowed them to use their 22 acre greenfield site for three farm businesses including constructing a barn, track and three temporary residential agricultural workers’ dwellings, each tied to an agricultural holding of between 5.5 and 8.5 acres, one dwelling on each small farm.

ELC offered the small farms on long-term tenure to three ecological food and herb producers, subject to compliance with a rigorous whole-site management plan. Each small farm operates as a separate business and the Cooperative has overall responsibility for compliance with the terms of both the management plan and the planning conditions, and they work with the farmers to ensure that this is achieved.

 

The farmers were offered all the infrastructure listed above plus a package of support which has so far included: a year of advice from a farm mentor; occasional work weekends where their Cooperative’s supporters and members volunteer on the smallholdings; and assistance with planning applications, farm business planning, and grant applications which have raised money to provide a bore hole to supplement the water supply, a wind turbine and a food grade preparation kitchen. The holdings were sold for £72,000 each and all three small farms’ 150 year leases have now been purchased outright, although originally purchased on the rent to buy scheme.

In March 2018 ELC submitted a new planning application asking for the temporary nature of the original permission to be removed and they were granted permanent permission for the three residential small farms in July 2019.

On their second site in Arlington, East Sussex ELC were granted temporary planning permission in August 2018. Work finished on the infrastructure development in July 2019 and two leases were sold in November 2019. ELC are actively recruiting for a third leaseholder for the last plot at Arlington and hope to have a new tenant by Spring 2020.

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