Planning regimes on and off the grid: Low-impact dwelling, activism and the state in west Wales

Forde, Elaine. 2016. Planning regimes on and off the grid: Low-impact dwelling, activism and the state in west Wales. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis presents ethnographic research into the practice of off-grid, low-impact dwelling in West Wales. It asks how participants imagine, construct and live lives that are low impact, and explores how this brings them into conflict with local authority planners about the proper use of land. The thesis extends anthropological theories of dwelling to critique the domestic development agenda. It demonstrates ways that low-impact dwelling is qualitatively different to low-impact development. This important distinction provides an original contribution to the existing body of literature about UK low-impact development, by revealing how inequalities implicit in the notion of development shape the possibilities for alternative models of rural land use.

Research was conducted within an ecovillage in West Wales for a period of 15 months between 2010 and 2011. Supplementary visits and short stays were arranged with participants in other sites, both ecovillages and independent autonomous dwellings. This immersive approach built a sound network of low-impact practitioners, who provided semi-structured and unstructured interviews, and opportunities for participant observation.

A new planning rationality has consolidated around the idea of sustainable development; policies in favour of low-impact development, but which remain subject to regulation, standards and models to ensure compliance with a matrix of requirements, are one of the results. Research participants and the Welsh Assembly Government hold divergent notions of low-impact dwelling in spite of models and mechanisms which would contain them both. Low-impact dwellers reject this system, or “grid”, and in doing so construct a hoped-for future in the present, a form of everyday activism.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

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Planning, Wales, Off-grid, dwelling, activism

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31 October 2016

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Date Deposited:

29 Nov 2016 14:35

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:43


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