Towards an Ecotopia? An assessment of Wales’s One Planet Development policy as a facilitator of open countryside low impact developments, 2010-2021

  • Brett Sanders

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research examines the Welsh Government’s One Planet Development (OPD) policy, assessing its success in facilitating Low Impact Development (LID) in the open countryside. The thesis assesses OPD across each of the 55 determined applications in the period of 2010-2021. Having established that OPD does, on paper, open up a legal space for LID in Wales, it subsequently focusses on the policy’s implementation across three stakeholder groups: the policy’s applicants, the decision makers (planning officers and elected members of planning committees) in Local Authorities, and the local communities into which OPDs must socially and economically integrate. The research is rooted in a mixed method approach, utilising interviews and archival research of the policy’s implementation, in addition to an examination of the policy’s newspaper coverage.

The findings of this research show that OPD has been successful at facilitating LID in the open countryside in Wales, demonstrated by the 39 successful OPD applications in the period of the study. However, this thesis argues that both the policy’s stringency and the unique personal profile requirements of its applicants has resulted in a low number of applications. In addition, the policy was also hampered by initial resistance from decision makers, partly explained by the policy being under-resourced. This issue has been partially resolved by the Welsh Government publishing additional technical guidance in 2012, and the emergence of the grassroots advocacy group, the One Planet Council, in 2014, who have provided training to planning professionals.

Elected members of planning committees, however, have affected OPD’s implementation and passage through the planning system. This has taken two forms: deficient decision making (failing to adhere to material policy considerations) and the fostering of divisive narratives (that have served to affect the social integration of OPDs into their local communities). As a result of this and the limited policy uptake, particularly by those from Welsh farming communities, OPD is often associated with alternative lifestyles and perceived as offering an incomer advantage at the expense of local communities. The study concludes, therefore, that whilst OPD represents a significant progression from the status quo seen in England, its stringent nature has affected a limited uptake. The potential for LID could be expanded in Wales by adjusting the OPD policy to streamline the application process, reduce the risk placed on applicants, alongside the provision of additional training and resources for Local Authorities.
Date of Award7 Dec 2022
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Coventry University
SupervisorDarren Reid (Supervisor), Alexander Thomson (Supervisor) & Chris Smith (Supervisor)


  • One Planet Development (OPD)
  • Local Authorities
  • Wales
  • Ecotopia
  • countryside

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