I ACQUIRED THIS LAND AGAINST ALL THE ODDS AS AT THE TIME I HAD NO MONEY BUT I WAS VERY KEEN TO ACQUIRE ABOUT 2 ACRES OF LAND SOMEWHERE IN THE PENWITH PENINSULA, CORNWALL . I ENQUIRED WITH VARIOUS ESTATE AGENTS IF 2 ACRES OF LAND EVER CAME ON THE MARKET AND THEY ALL SAID QUITE CATAGORICALLY "NO"...THIS WAS THE EARLY SUMMER ABOUT 9 YRS AGO. MUCH IN THE SPIRIT OF HENRY DAVID THOREAU I WANTED TO LIVE A SIMPLE LIFE ON A SMALL HOLDING. A MONTH OR TWO LATER I FOUND MYSELF IN LAMORNA VALLEY AND TOOK SOME PICTURES OF THE STREAM & WOODLAND ADJOINING WHAT WAS ONCE "LAMORNA SAMUEL JOHN BIRCH'S STUDIO"...HE HAD ADDED "LAMORNA" AS A FORENAME AS LOVED THE PLACE WHERE HE WAS TO SETTLE SO MUCH...THE LAND I EVENTUALLY ACQUIRED WAS HIS FORMER VEGETABLE PATCH. LAMORNA BIRCH WAS A VICTORIAN/EARLY 20th CENTURY PAINTER AND WAS JUST ONE OF THE MANY PAINTERS THAT WORKED IN & AROUND LAMORNA, INCLUDING "DAME LAURA KNIGHT" (1877-1970) WHO DID A PAINTING OF LAMORNA BIRCH WITH HIS TWO YOUNG DAUGHTERS ON THE LAND BY THE STREAM IN LAMORNA WHICH TOOK HER 23 YRS TO COMPLETE...AND WHEN IT WAS FINALLY SUBMITTED TO THE ROYAL ACADEMY IT WAS VOTED THE BEST PAINTING OF THE YEAR....WHICH WAS NO MEAN ACHIEVEMENT FOR A WOMAN AT THE TIME (i.e. BETWEEN "THE WARS". THE POET DYLAN THOMAS ALSO LIVED UP THE VALLEY FOR A WHILE AND GAVE FREE REIGN TO THE CREATIVE FLOW & WROTE "UNDER-MILK-WOOD" IN A SMALL GARDEN SHED ON LAMORNA...BY THE STREAM. ALSO THERE IS A HOUSE UP THE VALLEY DESIGNED BY SIR EDWIN LANDSEER LUTYENS OM (1869-1944) WHO DESIGNED "THE CENOTAPH" IN WHITEHALL & "THIEPVAL ARCH" IN PARIS PLUS MANY BUILDINGS IN VARIOUS PARTS OF THE FORMER BRITISH EMPIRE.
I WAS FLUMMOXED WHEN TWO MONTHS LATER THIS 2 ACRE PLOT APPEARED ON THE MARKET...I RUSHED ROUND TO THE AGENT ONLY TO BE TOLD THAT IT WAS SOLD...I COULD NOT BELIEVE IT AS IT JUST CAME ON THE MARKET BUT THEY SAID THE VENDORS HAD JUST ACCEPTED AN OFFER FROM A WOMAN... I WAS SO KEEN TO GET THIS LAND THAT I MADE AN OFFER ANYWAY OF £20,000 EVEN THOUGH IT WAS ADVERTISED AT £12,000 JUST IN CASE THIS WOMAN PULLED OUT AND LOW & BEHOLD TWO WEEKS LATER I HEARD THAT SHE "PULLED OUT" AND THAT MY OFFER WAS ACCEPTED. THE AGENT BEING COGNISANT OF PECUNIARY CIRCUMSTANCES ASKED WHERE I WAS TO GET THE MONEY FROM AND I REPLIED "YOU OF LITTLE FAITH", GIVE ME 4 WKS AND I WILL GET THE MONEY. A FEW DAYS LATER I WAS WALKING ALONG THE PROMENADE IN PENZANCE AND A VIOLIN MAKER FRIEND PASSED BY ON HIS BICYCLE AND I SHOUTED OUT: "ANDY CAN YOU LEND ME £10,000" AND HE REPLIED: "COME ROUND TO MY PLACE TOMORROW EVENING". AT THE TIME I THOUGHT THAT IF I BORROWED FROM ONE PERSON SAYING THAT I ALREADY HAD £10,000 I COULD BORROW ANOTHER £10,000 SAYING THE SAME THING...SO THE FOLLOWING EVENING I WENT TO VISIT ANDY IN MOUSEHOLE AND OVER A CUP OF TEA HE SAID THAT HIS MOTHER HAD JUST DIED AND THAT HE HAD INHERITED SOME MONEY AND DID I KNOW THAT, I REPLIED THAT I DID'NT...ANYWAY HE AGREED TO GIVE ME A CHECK THERE AND THEN (AN UNSECURED LOAN) AND I WOULD HAVE 2 YRS TO PAY HIM BACK THE MONEY WITH INTEREST...I FINALLY GOT £11,000 TO ALLOW FOR LEGAL EXPENSES AND I INSISTED ON A CHARGE ON THE PROPERTY IN HIS FAVOR. HE TRUSTED ME FULLY...MAYBE AS A RESULT OF THE FACT THAT HE WAS ONE OF MY MOST REGULAR CUSTOMERS IN MY VEGAN RESTAURANT/MINI ART CENTER IN PENZANCE THAT I RAN A FEW YEARS EARLIER AND HE REALIZED THAT I WAS AN HONEST MAN.
SO I WAS HALFWAY THERE: I HAD TO FIND ANOTHER £10,000...I APPROACHED A PROPERTY DEVELOPER IN LONDON WHOME I USE TO DO CONTRACT DESIGN & BUILDING WORK FOR & WHO ALWAYS USE TO SAY THAT HE WOULD INVEST MONEY INTO ANY PROPERTY DEALS THAT I DEAMED VIABLE, SO I PUT HIM TO THE TEST AND HE WAS OBLIGING AS HE COULD NOT RENEGE ON A GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT AND I GOT MY £10,000 LOAN. WITHIN A MONTH I COMPLETED THE DEAL AND THE 2 ACRES WAS MINE...ADMITTEDLY WITH A £21,000 DEBT AND AT THE TIME I WAS PAINTING PICTURES AND HAD "NO INCOME".
HAVING ACQUIRED THE LAND I EMBARKED ON A MAJOR RELANDSCAPING JOB TO RE-ESTABLISH THE PLOT AS A VIABLE VEGETABLE/FRUIT GARDEN...BUT LIFE IS NEVER SIMPLE AFTER YEARS OF GRUELLING WORK MY HUMBLE AMBITIONS WERE TO BE THWAUGHTED. FOR THE FIRST 2 YRS I WAS STAYING IN A SMALL TENT FROM TIME TO TIME WHICH WAS VANDALISED A FEW TIMES SO I EVENTUALLY ERECTED A 10X8 FOOT SHED THAT WAS TO BECOME MY MANDALA...I NEEDED A MORE SECURE PLACE TO STORE ALL MY TOOLS AND ALL THE NECESSARY ACOUTREMENTS REQUIRED FOR WORKING & MAINTAINING A 2 ACRE PLOT...IT ALSO GAVE ME A PLACE TO MAKE TEA AND STAY OVER-NIGHT FROM TIME TO TIME.
ANOTHER 4 YRS ELAPSED AND I MOVED HUNDREDS OF TONS OF GRANITE SINGLE HANDEDLY MAKING THE PLOT MORE ACCESSABLE/WORKABLE AND PLANTED NUMEROUS BUSHES/TREES...I ALSO CREATED A "SHRINE" IN MEMORY OF THE DROPPING OF TWO ATOMIC BOMBS IN JAPAN 60 YRS PREVIOUSLY ON "HIROSHIMA & NAGASAKI". I WROTE MANY HAIKUS IN THE PRECEEDING SIX YRS AND PAINTED A FEW PICTURES...I ALSO CREATED A SCULPTURE ENTITLED "LAMORNA MOMENTO" MADE FROM FRAGMENTS OF BROKEN PLATES ETC THAT I DUG-UP FROM THE GARDEN...IN THOSE SIX YEARS MY EFFORTS WERE "A LABOUR OF LOVE" WITH NO THOUGHT OF REWARD JUST HAVING THE JOY OF "WORKING". THEN THE "BUREAU BUNNIES" FROM THE LOCAL COUNCIL CAME OUT WITH THEIR VINDICTIVE CRY & WITH FULL VENOM SAID: "MR. MCCLURE YOU WILL HAVE TO DEMOLISH YOUR SHED AS YOU DO NOT HAVE PLANNING PERMISSION"...MY HUMBLE LITTLE SHED THE ONLY PROPERTY (WITH THE 2 ACRES) THAT I OWNED AND SO THE BATTLE LINES WERE DRAWN.
THE FOLLOWING IS A COPY OF THE LETTER OF APPEAL TO THE ORDER FOR ME TO REMOVE MY "MANDALA" i.e. MY BELOVED LITTLE SHED:
Peter Hugo McClure
c/o C & S Rudman
18 Cornwall Terrace
Penzance TR18 4HL
21 October 06
The Office of the Deputy Prime Minister
Room 3/24, Hawk Wing
Temple Quay House
2 The Square
Bristol BS1 6PN
Re: Application: 04/P/0899/F
Penwith District Council/Cornwall
Town & Country Planning Act 1990
General Development Procedure
Refusal of permission for development
To whom it may concern…
With reference to the above it is debatable whether the erection of a 10' by 8' wooden shed on a 2 acre wooded plot is indeed a Development or that permission is required… If it was placed in an obtrusive/incongruent position there could be a case, but it is on the contrary positioned discreetly and hardly discernible from any public place. It is absolutely essential to have a shed in order to act responsibly with regard to maintaining the garden and cultivating produce… Aesthetically, it is in keeping with tradition and the local environment… So you can imagine my consternation on receiving the refusal for retrospective planning permission which would appear out-of-sync with the feelings of a lot of local people.
I have lived in the Penwith district for over 24 years and in that time I have gathered considerable intelligence regarding decisions made in the past (and the many appeals that have been won)… one would hope that there would be a degree of continuity in the council's policy and that precedents are established based on intelligence and impartial consideration and that special favours (whether in the form of nepotism, bribery or worse) do not play a role in their decision making… I have had personal experience of their incompetence (or maybe that was "simple corruption"). One could quite easily take umbrage if it was not so totally absurd and farcical… The Monty Python team would have a field day parodying the petty-bungling bureaucrats… a lot of their decisions are so anomalous it would make "The sieve of Eratosthenes" look like a fly-catcher. I am primarily an Artist and in 40 years of work-life I have been employed in many fields and it has always been my over-riding passion to maintain the highest moral/aesthetic standards in all that I do.
I acquired this plot of land about 5½ years ago against all the odds as at the time I had no money/paid employment… I was focusing on my Art work so I had to borrow money to pay for the land and cover all legal costs. I had been looking for approx 2 acres at the time with the aim of self-sufficiency by growing fruit/vegetables, so when this land came on the market I thought it was an act of God, answering my unsaid prayers… It was formerly owned by Lamorna John Birch (the painter) but had been neglected since his death approx. 60 years ago. I wanted to bring it back to its former glory - a thriving small holding that kept two gardeners busy. Being a glutton for hard work, I did not find the prospect before me at all daunting, so with the same enthusiasm as Henry David Thoreau, I shed blood, sweat and tears on a painstaking journey to make good the many years of neglect… The plot was overgrown with weeds, strewn with rubble (from landslides), fallen trees and industrial/domestic detritus that had been dumped there over the years.
In the past 5½ years I have religiously been rebuilding retaining walls/footpaths/steps etc. and moved over 100 tons of granite (by hand) in the process with all the finesse of a Master Mason, clearing, levelling various areas for future cultivation and I have planted many fruit/nut trees/bushes/herbs/perennials etc. Throughout this time I have never thought of profit but worked slavishly for love of the land and the joy of communing with Nature… the founders of Findhorn would understand.
Between 12 and 16 years ago I started and ran almost single-handedly "The Millhouse" vegetarian restaurant/gallery here in the centre of Penzance… Apart from the vegan cuisine it was a venue for the visual arts, music (often impromptu), poetry reading/ publication, chess, a forum (mainly for the dispossessed), Zimmer theatre, faith-healing( U.N. recognised healers), Buddhist meditation, spiritualists and the local Green Centre, which initiated a local bartering system (inspired by the one in Totnes) that is still functioning. During the 4 years of running "The Millhouse"(sometimes working over 100 hours a week) I was just able to cover running costs and I never earned a penny… I could not delegate any of the work I did to anybody as most people expect to get paid (and I was not a registered charity)… I was literally enslaved to the place and would say to my customers I didn't mind so long as I had interesting visitors and those I had in plenty from all around the Globe… academics, artists, musicians, writers, directors of theatre, actors et al.
I have never bowed down to money or cow-towed to bureaucracy, which I think is imperative if one is to be a True-Artist much in the spirit of William Blake… and by conquering adversity without compromising while bearing witness to the corruption all around, one's creative spirit is truly honed.
"So what?" the pundits may ask, "it's all irrelevant!" to the case in hand i.e. The Shed… Well, I dispute this as it is all part of a continuum (like the butterfly effect) and follows the laws of karma and what was a shed is now a "Mandala" and gone through a process of Transmutation… Alchemy only works when one is in great need and when faith has not been diminished by the "Trials and Tribulations"!… Sorry to those petty bureaucrats in the Planning Dept. who seem intent on harassing innocent people (for I am not alone) way beyond the parapet… With the disease of endemic corruption on all fronts: selling peerages, "bungs" by directors of various institutions, money laundering by the Oligarchs, shady property deals (that depend on sympathetic treatment from the Planning Dept.) "Bunging money" in the right places certainly bestows undreamt of privileges and you can see the bureau-bunnies positively swooning. Honest hard working citizens cannot begin to imagine the scale of the problem… it is like another parallel world running in tandem with the world that most of us are familiar with… head to the grindstone and all that. Does the Government know or even care how much money is unaccounted for in back-handers… There are no degrees in dishonesty or habitual lying and once caught in the web there is no escape. When the honest broker doesn't get a look in an explosive situation will arise and the money-grubbers and brokers of power will eventually be brought to heal by "The Higher Powers of Justice & Retribution"!
Back to the "Mandala" in Lamorna… that sacred 2 acres… in recent years there have been numerous "Real-Estate-Developments" in Lamorna… former affordable studios converted to holiday homes/lets, new residential studios built, new rooms/apartments/restaurants added to existing establishments… and most of these unsustainable developments are empty for most of the year and the plight of the locals to find affordable housing/work space becomes even greater. The Government via the Housing Benefit System is indirectly lining the pockets of landlords (often absent/foreign) whose mortgages are serviced by the tenants. Surely the billions of pounds that go to the landlords (often with Buy-to-Let schemes) could be used more constructively to help those in great need.
We are entering a Dickensian scenario: where the homeless, the disenfranchised and those on subsistence life styles, where the mass of humanity is treated like unwanted "flotsam" by the corporate moguls of competition, profit, greed and no compassion… Adam Smith please come back! The Planning Dept. should seriously examine the true meaning of Sustainable Development and should engage themselves in the needs of greater and greater numbers of people who are being left "out-in-the-cold"…Stop the pussy-footing and let natural justice prevail.
I ain't got a lot
But I do have a small plot
And House… I have not
A Shed in addition to serving the garden's needs is also a retreat from the worries of the world, a place for quiet repose, focusing on Nature and where great ideas/innovations/inventions can flourish… It is a place where symphonies/novels/poems/paintings/philosophical treatises are born… In "the Shed-at-the-bottom-of-the-garden"… just like Thoreau's Walden Pond… Are we to encourage such activities or nip them in the bud. James Lovelock (described as being the only independent scientist in Britain) is not at the mercy of multi-nationals or petty bureaucrats and therefore able to express and develop radical ideas… ideas that may save the world… that are not promoting vested interest but serving the best interests of humanity for the long term. There a quite a few like-minded people who through lack of funding struggle to survive… a few examples of independent minded individuals are: Nikola Tesla and Rupert Sheldrake, both ahead of their times.
I am an independent Artist/Designer and the removal of my "Mandala" (or shed to the Philistines) would be an act of crass vandalism on par with the destruction by the local authorities of Kurt Schwitter's "Mertz-Build" barn-transmutation… it was possibly his most important creative act. Fortunately an American Art Trust built a facsimile of it from photos of the original… they recognised his genius…Though a facsimile is not the same as the original… can you imagine if Picasso's Guernica had to be replaced because the original was destroyed… it's always second best. The trouble with the Materialists is that they don’t recognise the soul or spirit and they don't recognise Real Art.
We have in Cornwall a vast array of Artists of various hues including a lot of clichéd Kitsch and variations on the theme of "The emperor's new clothes" (the nothing-in-it-school)… the sort of stuff favoured by some nouveau riche moguls with a flair for creating Grand Illusions with their most malleable proteges whose work lacks merit or any innate worth… again the deals behind the scenes beggar belief. It is far easier to produce (or mass produce) crap…remember Ratner's Jewellery being compared to a British Rail cheese sandwich…so crap is preferred to Intelligent designed/conceived work ("like man it's just too much like hard work")… no wonder the likes of Rover, Marconi and the dot-coms on both sides of the Atlantic crash … with no morals and a total disregard to workers and share-holders alike.
By far the majority of people in this country are passionate about doing their best and maintaining standards in all their endeavours… we are supposed to live in a Democracy after all… let the people decide! Let's face it crap is nothing but crap regardless how it is framed or packaged and the Emperor is naked.
I do humbly submit this Appeal while in Defence of the Realm, Intelligence, Impartiality & Equity… may peace be with you…
See my website at:
P.S. This appeal has been drafted & sent rather late-in-the-day as I was abroad for most of the summer & late spring.
TO BE CONTINUED...