Do other organisations do what ELC does?

There are several other organisations actively campaigning and developing opportunities and support for new entrants to agroecological farming across the UK. Our model of land purchase and lease is currently unique in England but there are other ways to access land-based livelihoods. Support is available through training, mentoring and participation in CSA schemes. A great place to find out more is the Landworkers’ Alliance New Entrant Support page.

Why must I establish a financially viable smallholding, why is being self-sufficient not enough?

To get planning permission for permanent structures, your application must meet the local authority assessment requirements. The farm business must prove that it makes enough profit to cover the living expenses of the people living on it, as well as its own future investment needs.

Today, there is increased understanding that low impact living requires smaller incomes. However, it's unlikely that a farm that only covers the most basic living expenses of the tenants would be considered viable.

What is “farm-scale agriculture”?

There is no legal definition, but we mean practicing commercially productive agriculture (or agroforestry, etc) that requires and uses the clear majority of your allocated land area, either for annual production or on short rotations.

How much experience do I/we need to have to take on an ELC smallholding?

Some experience of working or volunteering on a farm scale agriculture project is essential. This is because understanding the issues involved with producing and selling to raise income requires direct experience. If you have experience of managing an agricultural project this will make your proposal and business plan even stronger. If you don’t have this experience, but have been involved in running/managing a non agricultural business, this will also support your application.

What is a “viable, ecological, small-scale farm business”?

Viable: you must be able to show you are making enough profit after all farm expenses are deducted to cover your living expenses and provide for future investment needs – ideally the budget would include your own ‘wage’. You can see a definition of viable agriculture on page 17 of the Example Management Plan.

Ecological: your growing processes must meet certain environmental standards. This includes a ban on using agrichemicals and poisons – you must also observe high standards of animal welfare. See the Management Plan for a complete guide to what we require.

Small-scale: relates to the size of the smallholding and the amount of land being farmed. These are not conventional, mechanised farms. They are small and will be labour intensive.

Do we have to adhere to building regulations for the temporary dwelling?

Not in the temporary phase of permission. We have been advised that caravans and timber cabins less than 20m x 6.8m are classified as caravans, and therefore exempt from building regulations. Permanent dwelling structures would likely have to adhere to the regulations. Please speak to us or read the Caravan Act 1968 (amended 2006) for a fuller understanding of the regulations.

The Caravan Act

The definition of a mobile home in Section 29 of the Caravan Act is crucial. To give it its formal title, The Caravan Sites Act 1968, as amended in England 2006 and Wales 2007 has several criteria for what constitutes a mobile home. First, maximum dimensions:

  • Length (excluding any drawbar) 20 m (65.6’)
  • Width 6.8 m (22.3’)
  • Overall height (internally, from the floor at its lowest to the ceiling at its highest) 3.05 m (10’)

Second, some general points. It must be:

  • A structure, and not a building
  • Fit for human habitation
  • Capable of being moved from place to place, including around its site once assembled

Source: Norwegian Log

What does ELC provide as part of the cost of the lease?

  • Initial temporary planning permission to live on the farm
  • After five years, we apply for permanent planning permission to build a low impact dwelling
  • A shared timber frame barn
  • A Highway Authority compliant access track
  • Renewable electricity generation and rainwater harvesting with no ongoing charges
  • Shared access to water via mains or borehole

How are plots priced?

We calculate the price of each smallholding by working out how much we have spent to buy the land and develop it, including a proportion of the costs of setting up and developing the ELC and the cost of raising the finance to do all of this work. The other factor is the size of each plot – we calculate a fixed overhead cost which is the same for each plot, and then a price per acre which varies according to the size of the plot.

For example, on a site with three plots of 3.5, 6 and 10 acres respectively, each plot would share a third of the ELC’s site development costs (equal to approximately £80,000* per plot) plus £6,000 per acre. Therefore if the total cost of developing the site is £240,000 then the 3.5 acre plot would cost £101,000, the 6 acre plot would cost £116,000 and the 10 acre plot would cost £140,000.

Figure based on costs of previous ELC developments and is subject to change

How does the rent to buy option work? What other costs are involved?

Our rent to buy option enables ELC tenants to purchase their lease with an initial down payment and then pay the outstanding amount over a period of years via monthly rental payments. The information in the table below provides example costs involved and payment options available for the purchase of a 6 acre plot. These costs are described in more detail on page 10 of our business plan.

Item Outright Purchase Rent to Buy
6 acre plot £116,000 Initial Down Payment (20%)
£23,200
Monthly Payment
EXAMPLE ONLY – The actual rent will be calculated based on the final purchase price of the lease for each plot.
£0 £430* for first 5 years
£650 for 20 years
£0 after 25 years
Annual Costs – monitoring fee and insurance Starting at £450 per year – with an annual increase linked to the CPI inflation rate Starting at £450 per year – with an annual increase linked to the CPI inflation rate

* Initial reduced interest only payment in first 5 years of lease, i.e. before start of capital repayments.

What is the rental option?

Our rental option is designed to make an ELC plot affordable for those with insufficient savings or access to capital (e.g. a house to sell) in order to put down a deposit on a lease for one of our plots. Substantial investment in business set up costs will still be required. If you’re interested in finding out more about this option, get in touch with us about your situation and needs so we can understand if this is an option we can offer you.

What will happen if we decide to move on from our plot?

If you decide to move on from your plot ELC would endeavour to buy it back. The price would be calculated based on how much of the lease cost you’ve paid back and the value of the work you’ve put into developing the plot, based on our valuations policy, an example of which is available on request.

Can we/they sell the lease?

Yes. But the lease determines the selling price – not the market.

Whoever inherits the smallholding or buys it from the smallholder will have to adhere to the same conditions – i.e. manage the land ecologically and derive their livelihood from the holding, as well as provide full-time work for at least one person.

The lease also gives the ELC the first right to buy the smallholding at the re-sale price. We recommend that all prospective tenants read the Lease, the Management Plan and the Valuation Policy in full.

Will leases be inheritable?

Yes. The smallholder can leave their property to their children, or whoever they want, for the 150 year length of the lease. But the future leaseholder must still adhere to the terms of the lease including the management plan requiring the smallholding to be farmed ecologically. Anyone in breach of these terms can be asked to relinquish the lease back to the ELC.

What is the relationship between an individual smallholding and the ELC?

As the smallholder, you own your land through a 150-year leasehold from us, the freeholder. This kind of lease is called a Farm Business Tenancy, and you run your business independently.

The ELC retains the freehold for three reasons. To ensure that the land is used ecologically, for a land-based livelihood, and that the site is sold on at an affordable price.

As set out in the lease, the ELC monitors the site on an annual basis, and seeks to rectify any issues arising from this process. We might be able to help you with applying for grants, and provide other support and assistance for your farm business to succeed.

How are a tenant’s improvements to the site recognised if they decide to sell?

You must agree improvements with us, so we can incorporate them into the resale value of the smallholding on an annual basis. High value improvements such as a dwelling, large farm buildings or major infrastructure must be agreed with the ELC before construction. Lower value improvements can be added to the business valuation annually.

We want to ensure that the holdings remain affordable, so there will be an upper limit on the total value of improvements and a cap on the total resale value of the smallholding, including the dwelling.

Please read the draft Valuation Policy to understand how improvements are agreed and the resale value calculated each year. If there is anything you don’t understand in this policy please seek guidance before proceeding either from the ELC or your solicitor.

How many people can live in one smallholding?

An individual, a couple, or a family unit can apply for a smallholding. Of course we expect that their dependents (for example children and/or elderly parents) will live there too. If you're a group of friends or a pair of couples then we advise you to apply for a smallholding separately and make it clear on your application that you would like to be considered in conjunction with the other applicants.

Can we have pets?

We expect many of our smallholders to keep animals and livestock which are integral to their businesses – we also recognise that some people don't draw a clear distinction between “pets” and farm animals.

However, we suggest that the question of “pets”, like many other questions, is something which neighbours will need to discuss, negotiate and potentially compromise on.

Is it some kind of commune?

No. Each smallholder has their own independent smallholding and their own dwelling. We are, however, providing shared facilities including site access and track, a barn with solar array, and a water supply.

Why do we only have a five year temporary permission?

The ELC needs to prove to the local community that your development can be a positive contribution to the local economy. The planning policy states that a temporary permission should be granted while the farm business is getting established. It's expected that the farmer would apply for permanent permission before the end of this 5 year period. At that point, they should have the track record to demonstrate that their farm business is viable.

What will happen at the end of the five year temporary permission?

Before the five years has elapsed and if the Management Plan has been adhered to, the ELC will apply for a permanent permission. ELC will work with tenants to help ensure that the Management Plan is adhered to and that their plans are clear and credible.

Can I set up an educational or therapeutic project on the land?

We are not offering an opportunity for people to buy land to set up educational or therapeutic projects. Training and education about regenerative agriculture, low impact living and cooperative ways of working are integral to the mission of the ELC and we fully support our smallholders to develop educational and therapeutic offerings.

However, this cannot be the main activity of the business. The planning permission is agriculturally tied, meaning that it has been granted on the condition that commercial agriculture is taking place there –  in the form of a farm business with a functional need for the grower to live on site. This will be assessed annually as part of the ELC monitoring process. It will also form the basis of independent agricultural assessments that are undertaken when we make the application for permanent planning permission in 5 years’ time. The leases we are offering make this clear.

First and foremost this is an opportunity for farmers, not educators and therapists.

What is functional need and why must I demonstrate it?

Permission to build a new home in the countryside is agriculturally tied – so you must demonstrate that there is a need for you to be living on site in order to successfully manage the ecological farm business. Without a functional need it could be argued that there is no reason for the producer to live on site and planning permission could be removed.

How soon can we move onto the land?

This depends on the stage of development of the site you’ve applied for. Once we have secured temporary planning permission for a site, people can start work on their holding as soon as they have signed their lease. See the information sheets for our available sites in Somerset and Cornwall for an indication of when this might be. We understand that moving full time to a new place can take time, but we would like that to happen within twelve months of signing the lease.

What plots do you currently have available?

  • Available plots

    We currently have plots available at a number of our sites in the south west and South Wales.

    If you are interested in a particular ELC site we encourage you to make a visit to get a feel for the space. Please get in touch with hannah@ecologicalland.coop to make the arrangements rather than heading there independently.

    Furzehill, Gower, South Wales

    • Plot 1 (5.8 acres)

    Wyvern Fields, Sparkford, Somerset

    • Plot 3 (4.5 acres)

    Orchard Park, Netherton, Cornwall

    • Plot 1 (3.5 acres)
    • Plot 2 (6 acres)

Does ELC have land across the whole of England?

At the moment all our plots are in the South of England and Wales. We are a relatively young organisation with limited resources, necessitating a geographical focus in our activities. In the future we're keen to work further north and develop opportunities in the Midlands and North of England. You can keep up to date with our land acquisitions by subscribing to our newsletter.

What happens if I don’t always agree with my neighbours?

It is possible that there will be disagreements at some point in the life of the smallholding cluster and, when discussed in the right way, this can be beneficial to the development of close, mutually supportive relationships. We also recognise that dealing with these issues can be difficult. We will provide training for new smallholders on effective group working and conflict resolution. The ELC will do as much as we can to provide an overall framework with defined boundaries and agreements to reduce the risk of the misunderstandings that can lead to conflict.