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Off-Grid Authors Battle Neighbours

Cover of HOW WE WENT OFF GRID by Matthew Watkinson
Book wound up neighbours, who have taken surprise action
The authors of a book about how to live legally off the grid have been blocked from their home as revenge for writing the book. Charis and Matt Watkinson had used the book, HOW WE WENT OFF GRID, to blast the opponents of their planning application as selfish Nimbys.

Neighbours of the couple took control of a vital footpath leading to their Welsh smallholding, and now they fear they will be forced to sell up and move out.

“The impact could be devastating,” they said. “If we don’t have access to our home then we will have to leave and have to start from scratch.

“We will just have to start again. I don’t know what property prices are like at the moment but it will be hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“It will be emotionally and financially devastating. It would just be the worse case possible.’

“How We Went Off-Grid” is published by Vivum Media, which also publishes the off-grid.net web site. Matt and Charis, who quit jobs as vets to move to a zero-carbon eco-farm in Wales are facing financial ruin after neighbours ‘bought an unregistered right of way footpath just to cut off their access in personal vendetta’ according to their claims.

Their self-sufficient farm, described by Mr Watkinson as ‘a glorified recycling junk yard’, includes a person-powered washing machine and a gas cooker that functions on horse manure. They also have solar panel for electricity and a biodigester for gas, meaning they only have to pay for council tax.

Living on a zero carbon farm protected the family from soaring energy prices and the cost of living crisis, while its remoteness also provided a shield from the Covid pandemic.

A previously unregistered right of way, the access lane to their dwelling, has been purchased by a retired couple who are threatening to sue for trespassing and harassment.

The couple, who have two young children Elsa and Billy, were able to begin living their green dream thanks to the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development Policy.

The scheme allows families to build houses on green-belt land as long as they operate on zero carbon – a target they must hit within five years. HOW WE WENT OFF GRID provides the template that others can use to do the eact same thing.

Mr Watkinson said: ‘We have been here six years now. We are now living a very sustainable and low impact lifestyle. We have been shielded from energy price hikes, Covid, and the cost of living crisis.

‘We have been very glad to be up here. The house is a glorified recycling junk yard. We have a horse lorry, a camper van, but it is all perfectly functionable.’

‘There was opposition when we first moved, but once we received planning permission, we thought we would be left alone.

‘We were not being questioned just on the plans, it was a character assassination. We hoped that would go quiet, but that has not been the case. Once we hit the five-year target of being carbon neutral, we hoped it would prove our cause, but it has made it even worse.

‘It is 100 per cent a personal vendetta. They are a retired couple and have put £10,000 for footpaths they don’t need, plus whatever they have spent on legal advice. They are trying to evict us from a low impact home. It doesn’t make sense. It is not a worthwhile cause.’

The issue surrounds a historic footpath that has been used by members of the public for hundreds of years to access the popular Carningli Common.

The Watkinsons’ took the footpaths for granted, so it remained unregistered until being purchased by their neighbours, who have long been against the zero carbon farm.

They now fear their neighbours will erect signs and lock gates to prevent members of public from using the paths and, in doing so, also prevent the family from accessing their home.

A sign already erected states: ‘The use of this footpath between the public highway and Carningli Common is with the willing consent of the landowner.

‘The only right of access over this footpath to Castle Hill Fields (also known as Carningli Sylvan and Beeview Farm) is for agricultural use and not to access any accommodation.’

Due to their low impact lifestyle and having quit their jobs as vets to move to the area, the family’s only income is selling the eggs from their many chickens and ducks and honey from their bees.

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