Page last updated at 14:04 GMT, Monday, 15 September 2008 15:04 UK

Roundhouse approved after decade


People have been living at the site for more than a decade.

A 10-year long planning battle over an illegally built eco-community in north Pembrokeshire has finally ended with residents being told they can stay.

The National Park Authority has approved the roundhouse at Brithdir Mawr and a number of new buildings under its new sustainability policy.

It ends a decade of inquiries, court and planning hearings.

The authority was unaware the settlement existed until it was spotted by chance from a helicopter in 1997.

The roundhouse
The roundhouses are built from environmentally friendly materials.

Residents said they were delighted it had finally been recognised - although the national park will review its decision in three years' time.

The application - in part retrospective and in part proposed - allows for eight roundhouses along with toilets, agricultural buildings and workshops on the land.

Materials include straw bales, locally-sourced timber, recycled glass and walls plastered using clay and manure.

Permission has been granted for six permanent residents, five visitors, ten campers and day visitors.

Power is generated on site, water is collected locally, and 75% of residents' income will come from working the land and craft industries such as wood carving.

Emma Orbach, who addressed Monday's meeting, said afterwards: "I'm really excited and happy as it has been a very long experience.

Emma Orbach
We want to prove its possible and hopefully demonstrate that humans can live more simply
Emma Orbach

"They are pioneering a new policy in the way that we pioneering a new life.

"The eyes of many different planning committees will have been on them today and I understand change is difficult.

"There are stringent criteria so nobody will be able to go ahead and do low-impact sustainable development without meeting [them].

"It's a milestone in a free society that a minority of people who wish to live simply on the earth are now being given this opportunity.

"We want to prove it's possible and hopefully demonstrate that humans can live more simply."

But not all the members of the committee backed the decision.

Councillor John Allen Mirehouse, who abstained, said: "I don't quite see how this can be controlled - a proliferation of these will cause us immense problems.

"It's a dwelling in open countryside. My sympathies go to the many farmers who have had applications to convert existing farm buildings turned down."

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