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Nick Rosen All Planned Out? - The Worldwide Impact of the British Town and Country Planning System
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All Planned Out?
The Worldwide Impact of the British Town and Country Planning System

18 and 19 May 2007

Nick Rosen

Nick is the editor of, and author of How to Live off-grid, to be published by Doubleday (June 2007)

A maverick ecologist, Nick is a documentary-maker, journalist and broadcaster. His TV company, Vivum, produced Britain’s Commuter Nightmare, a one hour documentary for Channel 4 Dispatches about transport congestion in the UK, transmitted September 2006. He devoted the early years of his career to a study of the power of global corporations.

In 1995 he founded one of the UK’s first internet companies.

After a decade of living in squats and unlicensed warehouses, these days he has a proper house. He and his family are still in London - for now.

Website: and


14.00 to 15.30 on Friday 18 May 2007

Off-Grid is a special case, deserving special treatment


I spent some months last year visiting people who live off-grid – without mains power and water. Some do it for environmental reasons, more do it to save money, or because they just don’t want to play more of a part in “consumer society” than they have to. All are either deliberately or as a by-product fulfilling the current goals of a more sustainable and less polluting society.

But the entire planning system militates against them – both from the point of view of taking a residence off-grid if it is on – as most are, or if your intention is to create an off-grid home, or second home, then you suffer all the more from the present system.

Taking a home off-grid is difficult and expensive enough without the planners objecting to solar panels or wind turbines or rainwater collection equipment, but they do regularly prevent people from modifying their dwellings for reasons of aesthetics at a time when the clear, over-arching national goals are to reduce our output and consumption of hydrocarbons.

And woe betide anyone who puts up so much as a yurt in a woodland clearing. Nosy neighbours will work with the local council to have it banned. It is hard to see why there is such a knee-jerk negative reaction to off-grid dwellings. Perhaps it is simple jealousy. “I paid 500,000 for my house, and I do not see why you should get something almost as good for 50,000,” is how the argument would run.

Also it is the tidy minds of planning departments. Off-grid houses simply don’t figure in the lexicon.

I am not saying that everyone ought to live off grid, or even that some of us should. I am merely pointing out that this is an option available to all of us – or it would be if the planning system would allow it.

Off-Grid is a special case, deserving special treatment

Nick Rosen's How to Live off-grid, to be published by Doubleday (June 2007)

How to Live Off Grid, by Nick Rosen

Off-grid, is about escaping the rat race, bucking the system, and generally disappearing – becoming untraceable.

Off-grid, for those who want to unplug, relax and feel at home anywhere on the planet, whether in an office, the back of a camper van, walking in a forest, or having lunch in a city park.

Off-grid, places or buildings or gizmos that work without mains water or power. Shepherds huts in the mountain, canal-boats or caravans may all have power and water - but not piped in by the big utility companies.

Off-grid, the 21st Century version of the Good Life.

Part travelogue, part manual, Nick Rosen’s book is a tour of the country’s off-grid population – why they do it, how to avoid the pitfalls and where to find the best solutions – including the latest gadgets.

Up to 300,000 people will be living off-grid in the UK in 2007, without mains power or water.

Nick, his wife and their baby daughter travel the UK in a converted care bus fueled by vegetable oil and the sun. They see every aspect of life off-grid, part-time and permanent. They meet communards and millionaires, survivalists and treehuggers, traditional farmers and hermits in rough shacks, all wanting for nothing.

As the pressures of urban life force more and more of us to consider living off grid in remote areas, Nick’s own experiences show how to do your bit for the environment and still live luxuriously.

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