Why won’t they listen to us?

Penny: doing her democratic duty
Former bank manager Penny Burgess, runs her own family business in Cheltenham, UK, and lives in a rented cottage on a farm, with her husband and children, 10 chickens, a dog and lots of fruit and vegetables. She is not affiliated to any political party, and has no links to any other organisation. She really is just a man on the street.

Here is Penny’s story of how she is trying to get the British government to pay attention to those of its citizens who wish to, or need to live off the grid. She already has strong grassroots support – but she needs more support. She needs your support:

Gazing idly at the television can sometimes involve you in far more than you bargained for! In Early July, I happened to see Nick Clegg talking about a website he was launching called “Your Freedom”, the purpose of which was “to restore Britain’s traditions of freedom and fairness, and free our society of unnecessary laws and regulations” (1)

Over the next couple of days I started to think of just such an unnecessary regulation. I’d been given Nick Rosen’s book “How to Live Off-grid
” for my birthday, as it has always been something we were passionate to do, even if it meant moving to another country, and this seemed an ideal opportunity for someone to make the case for allowing people to live peacefully, in a sustainable manner, off-grid, here in the UK.

So I contributed the following proposal to the Restoring Civil Liberties section of the site:


“Living in a temporary dwelling on your own land

by pennyb on July 03, 2010 at 09:54AM

In most of Europe, it is currently perfectly legal to live in a caravan or camper or log cabin, any temporary dwelling in fact, without planning or other permissions on land which you own.

In this country it is not allowed. What I would like to see is the abilty for those who wished to, to live full time on their own land, in a temporary dwelling.

Why the contribution is important

With the housing crisis that we have, it seems completely absurd that so many people who care desperately for the environment, cannot live in a simple sustainable way on their own piece of land.

Most people who wish to do this are not strange new age travellers – I used to be a bank manager. I would just like to live a very simple life, pay what taxes I have to, and leave as small a footprint on this earth as possible. Please let me and thousands like me, have a chance to do so.”


Much to my surprise the comments and votes started to come, and have not stopped since (at time of writing there are 214 votes – almost all of them totally favourable, and 284 comments – more votes and comments than any other suggestion in that category). There have been a couple of very negative people with concerns about the harmful impact it may have on the countryside, but the vast majority of people have been positive and supportive.

As it started to gain momentum, I decided to contact some organisations to see if they were willing to support the proposal. Greenpeace put it up on their staff notice board, CAT gave me lots of contacts, I spoke to Simon Fairlie at Chapter 7, LILI, (low impact living initiative) took the trouble to ring me and thanked me from the bottom of their hearts for managing to get this issue such high profile attention. The proposal continues to get lots of really positive responses, and provoke interesting debate.

There’s just one small problem however, there has been no feedback from anyone in Government, not a sausage, b-all! Twice I’ve sent a polite message to the site moderators asking what the process and timescales are likely to be for feedback on the popular proposals; nothing. I wrote to Paddy Ashdown, as he is on record as supporting Tinkers Bubble in Somerset; nothing. I put a comment in the proposal itself; nothing.

The last time the website home page was updated was 9th July, nothing since.

This proposal is now 7th by number of comments out of around 5700 proposals on this part of the site and has an average vote of 4.7 out of 5. It is, without question, one of the best-supported proposals that has come out of this Government exercise.

What we need to do next is build on this momentum, really push it in as many ways as we can think.

If you want to help, firstly, go on the site leave a comment and vote 5 stars. You’ll need to register to do this –


Once you’ve registered go to this link:
Scroll down to the voting stars (you’ll know them when you see them):

Click the far right star if you wish to rate the proposal with 5 stars, they’ll all turn yellow.
If you wish to add a comment, go right to the bottom of all the comments to the reply box.
In addition, you could write to your local MP – or make an appointment to see them in person. Just one supportive voice in the House of Commons would lead to the matter being raised, whether through questions to the relevant ministers, points raised in debates, or an EDM for others to sign and get behind. If there were more than one MP – even better!!

To take this to the next level we need to make a lot of noise. They have asked for feedback from the country – let’s give it to them!

Penny Burgess

3 Responses

  1. GoneWithTheWind, that may be true for some or even most rural areas, but I am here to tell you that there are places in the US where there are few, very few codes, those places are few and far between, but they still exist, they aren’t highly advertised though. In fact where I live, the only things that need inspections or licenses are water related, if you have a well and/or a septic system, the well has to be licensed and the septic has to be inspected, if your property is over 10 acres, then you can have an exemption on getting your septic system inspected. Other than that you can build whatever you want to live in or work out of. I made sure of this before we moved here. This is something where you have to do your homework, you don’t want to find out after you build that there are codes that you weren’t aware of.

  2. It is a common misconception that there are places in the U.S. that have no building codes or lax building codes. It is not true. What you hvae is some rural areas that have lax enforcement of minimum codes. You risk being caught and fined and forced to restore the land to it’s previous status.

  3. I followed Penny’s link and read the proposal, then I began reading all of the comments, I was amazed at how many people are scared of “travelers” moving in, I didn’t understand it at first, then I realized they are talking about gypsies, it reminded me of watching old black and white movies about gypsies when I was a kid, is that really such an issue today?

    The next thing that I found interesting, one person would complain about how doing this would drive land prices up, another person complained that it would lower land value…. hmmmm, so which is it?

    I must admit that I live in the USA so I really don’t have a clue as to how things are across the pond… there are places in the US that are very restricted as to what you can build, minimum square footage, building materials and such, that’s usually a local thing, there are places where you can go that have few or no building codes, I live in such a place, there are no swarms of people moving in making it a shanty town. I don’t understand why all the fuss, if you OWN your land, you should be able to do with it as you please, there needs to be some sort of rules, where I live, there are minimum acreage requirements, 5 acres is the smallest you can have, and you can’t subdivide your property, you aren’t supposed to have more than one house, though some have a main house and a smaller guest house, no one complains about that.

    I can’t imagine a government, local or otherwise saying that you can live on YOUR OWN land for 28 days a year, no more, that is just wrong. I don’t know what the answer is, but it seems that the current status quo is not working now.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.


Join the global off-grid community

Register for a better experiencE on this site!