by Anna Stepp
Daniel and Lora Newman were dragged before a Magistrates Court on Friday 9th of August for being in breach of an enforcement notice.
I am amongst a large number of people who feel very strongly that this family should be allowed to stay on their land instead of being criminalised and made homeless.
Lora and Daniel Newman are a conscientious, responsible and caring couple, who are simply working incredibly hard to live the life they believe in and yet they are at risk of losing their home and way of life.
They are bringing up two wonderful boys who don’t deserve to be uprooted from the only home they have ever known, especially when they could be growing up in this idyllic way, learning community and environmental values that I, as a Secondary School Teacher, sometimes struggle to instil in students who grow up in an increasingly commercialised and selfish consumerist society.
It is essential to see that this is not a case of people trying to free-load or get away without making financial contributions because the Newmans have legitimately and repeatedly applied for planning and are employed tax payers who fully contribute to society.
They are taking responsibility for themselves as they are a low-income family solving their own housing problems at no cost to the tax payer.
Far from causing any problems for the Council which would justify eviction from their land, they are contributing to the community without taking anything from it. If they lose their home, they will be forced to apply for support with housing instead of contributing as they currently are.
Of course planning regulations are crucial in protecting our environment and they need to be adhered to. The Newmans have twice applied for planning and it seems to me that they have been rejected on unreasonable grounds, which are not in line with the Government’s aim of increasing affordable and sustainable housing.
The grounds for rejecting their application are ill-founded as it is based on the argument that their land is in “open countryside”.
As their land is within very close proximity of the village of Carharrack, old mining sites and a quarry, I would very much like to know the definition of the term “open countryside” and how exactly it applies in this case.
I can think of several recent developments in Cornwall that are in far more “open” locations than this one. Inc a barn conversion next door.
Furthermore the family have appealed against the outcome, not because of any disregard nor disrespect for the authority’s decision, but because they believe they have been unfairly treated and are still in the process of having their situation reviewed by the Council.
Surely, whilst this case is ongoing, they should be allowed to stay in their family home, until it is decided once and for all, that their case has been fairly and duly considered, which as it stands they, and many professionals and upstanding members of society who have considered their case, do not.
Our current government has stated that they would like us to become one Big Society; this cannot become a reality if people who are an integral part of their community are prevented, by their own council, from being a part of their local society.
The Newmans have the full support of their local community, local businesses (who have paper petitions on their counters), the local school, fellow smallholders in the area, professional local ecologists and even the local MP.
Furthermore, the recent introduction of the Bedroom Tax has highlighted the dire need for accommodation for smaller families on low incomes, especially in Cornwall.
The Newmans would become one of these families if prosecuted and are at threat of becoming homeless despite already having a home.
Whilst increasing numbers of working families are forced to turn to Food Banks in order to survive, it seems laughable to turf out a family who get by on a low income only because they grow their own food in their own home.
Time and again we are told we have a housing crisis in the Duchy; this will not be solved by adding yet another family to the thousands who are struggling to find affordable accommodation already.
They are simply trying to build a low-impact dwelling that surely pales in significance next to the massive estates that are springing up all over the beautiful Cornish countryside which provide only just enough affordable accommodation in order to secure their planning permission.
The big developers’ only aim is to make as much money as possible; the Newmans’ only aim is to live a sustainable lifestyle and bring up their family in the way that the government tell us is right: part of a community, contributing to society and looking after the environment.
I know who I would rather have build a house in the field next door to me.
Living in an area of the UK where a huge number of homes are empty for half of the year and yet house prices are hugely disproportionate to income, we are acutely aware of just how hard it can be to simply have a place to live.
It is incomprehensible why our own Council would prevent a family who are taking responsibility for the impact they have on the world and are making their own way in an area with an acute housing shortage. Isn’t it time that Cornwall Council starts looking after Cornish people?
Let’s face it, plenty of new second homes are permitted to be built in idyllic, countryside locations all the time and yet their owners fail to contribute to the local economy for most for the year and largely segregate themselves from the local community.
The Newmans are a big part of the community that they grew up in, both economically and socially and it is a better place because of them.
Most of us try to do our bit to save the planet because we are told it’s the right thing to do: recycling, reducing your food-miles, boycotting Primark; this is just peanuts in comparison to what this family are doing because they have drastically adapted their lifestyle to be truly sustainable in a way that most of us would find inconvenient. If everybody lived the way they do, the world would be a much better place, so just let them set an example that the rest of us can strive towards.
I have looked after the Newmans’ home and land for them whilst they were on holiday and it is no easy task, but constant hard graft, which shows that they are not trying to cheat the system or get away without contributing, but quite the opposite: they are leading by example by passionately striving for what they believe in.
We all need to wake up to the reality that once fuel resources run out and our climate changes we will all have to drastically adapt our lifestyles.
The Newmans are just a respectable, modern family who are leading the way in adapting to our changing world in a realistic, responsible and hard-working manner and therefore they should be supported, not prevented, from setting an example to the rest of us.
This leaves me with nothing but a simple question: What are the Council’s grounds for evicting and prosecuting the Newmans who are harming neither people nor land and do not cause the Duchy of Cornwall any problems? I personally do not wish for my Council Tax to be spent on this case when there are far greater and more pressing issues in the County in these tough economical times.
If there are any doubts in answering the question I pose to you, please turn to Lora and Daniel’s neighbours and wider community who are fully supportive of their living arrangements and feel very strongly about them being allowed to stay in their family home.
Many of them will be present at the Magistrates Court on Friday to demonstrate their support.
Please also refer to the online petition that has gathered over 1000 signatures in less than 4 days.
The accompanying comments from people in the community, those who know the area and fully understand the situation speak for themselves. (http://www.change.org/en-GB/petitions/cornwall-council-demand-the-newman-family-carharrack-live-on-their-land-without-prosecution#supporters as of 7th Aug 2013)
Note to readers; CCN sent this query to the council on Monday at 4.45pm
We have a query about the council prosecution of Lora and Daniel Newman for breaching an enforcement order
Lora and Daniel live on land they have bought outside Carharrack
Can the council please tell us
1. Why is the council prosecuting Daniel and Lora?
2. What is the cost of the prosecution?
They didn’t reply
To support Daniel and Lora add your voice to the rapidly growing petition online HERE