Dan wants to negotiate with DEFA to stay in glen

By Siobhan Fletcher   |   Reporter   |
Friday 22nd October 2021 1:00 pm
@siobhanfletcher
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Dan Richardson with his self-built cabin near Ramsey - ()

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Tucked up in a part of Nut Glen above Ramsey, is a modest, one-room wooden cabin overlooking a trickle of a stream and some neatly arranged gardens, with a view of the sea in the distance.

Just off to the side is a workshop, and tucked behind the cabin is an outdoor toilet and shower area christened the ’earth closet’ in recent court proceedings.

The earth closet gets its running water from the stream in the glen behind it, and is hidden from sight by a piece of wood secured beneath a roof beam fashioned out of a felled elm tree.

In the cabin, there is a wood burner for heat, and the electricity is provided by solar panels attached to the roof.

The cabin itself was built for a total of £77, with all materials used either recycled, reclaimed, or donated.

The whole set up is a self-sustainable, environmentally friendly experiment in living off the land, and for Daniel Richardson, who calls the place home, it is simply a little slice of heaven.

He doesn’t have a television, or any other major technology.

Instead, he has an old radio and some musical instruments to tinker around with.

The glen is quiet, but for the sounds of nature around him.

’I love the sound of the rain on the roof,’ Dan says. ’I love the sound of the wind in the trees and I love the sound of the water in the Glen.’

The roof, made of corrugated metal must be deafening when some typical Manx rain passes through the area.

’It’s like a symphony. It really is. Every rain drop is different, it’s not uniform. It’s just lovely, I love it.’

Dan built his eco-home between May and August 2018, on what he believed to be ’no-man’s-land’ following several searches through records at the land registry to find the true owner.

He had worked on the land for several years, removing waste which had been dumped in the area, and then decided to use some of this dumped material to aid in his build.

The structure was later nominated for a UNESCO Biosphere award.

Incidentally, at the 2019 biosphere awards, Dan was praised by then-Department of Environment Food and Agriculture (DEFA) minister Geoffrey Boot for his sustainable lifestyle.

The award nomination and the commendation given to him on the night came about two weeks after the court proceedings brought by DEFA to remove him from the land had already begun.

Speaking about his relationship with DEFA going forward, Dan said: ’I think the new government coming in, the new DEFA minister, has got an opportunity.

’I gave so many olive branches to Geoffrey Boot, he never grabbed one of them.

’There’s another olive branch I’m holding out now, and that is "Look, revisit the decision making process which led up to going to court."

’Because the decision to go to court was evidently made in a sea of confusion.’

Last week, we reported that Dan had three months to leave the area after a case heard by Deemster John Needham in the High Court of Justice in Douglas found that he had no right to live on the land - which has been revealed to be owned by DEFA.

However, that isn’t necessarily the case.

As Dan explained, the enforcement of the possession order in favour of DEFA has been postponed so as not to occur before 4pm on Friday, February 25, 2022.

The entire case was built around determining whose land Dan had actually built his home on.

Now that is settled, Dan hopes all parties involved can work out a way forward.

’All the time, we didn’t know where the boundary was, we didn’t know whose land I was on,’ he said.

’Because we didn’t know whose land I was on, number one: the landowner couldn’t kick me off, and number two: I couldn’t negotiate with the landowner as to trying to stay.

’Now we know whose land it is, we’ve got those two options now.

’DEFA can either negotiate with me, to try and work out a way forward where I can stay, or they can say "Sorry mate, you’ve got to go."’

After the news of the judgement against Dan broke, a petition was started to ’let [him] stay in his self made log cabin and maintain the land’, which has quickly garnered more than one thousand signatures.

When the Examiner went to press, this petition had nearly 1,400 signatures and counting.

So why does he want to so desperately keep his home in the glen?

’This is success in life for me this is,’ he said. ’This is it.

’I’ve lived all my life for something like this and I’m here now and, it’s like, all the threats don’t mean anything.

He added: ’I mean you know, it’s all about sustainability now and I really am trying to show that there are ways that we can all improve in our lives on that sustainability platform.

’Be it growing your own vegetables, be it generating your own power or dealing with your own human waste or having fuel security or whatever, you know, why in this present climate would we want to be shutting somebody down who’s trying to present a possible solution? It’s just barmy, absolutely barmy.’

A vocal supporter of Dan has been Daphne Caine, MHK for Garff and new chair of the climate change transformation board.

She said: ’I want DEFA to consider giving him a licence to stay.

’They might have proved the case in law about possession of the land, but a little compassion and understanding and appreciation of what Dan’s done, [is what I’d like to see] and consideration of a better way forward [than] to make him homeless.

’Obviously we can’t have everybody setting up homes in glens, but it’s not a very much frequented glen and he’s improved the area. He loves nature and there must be a better way forward for DEFA than eviction.’

When asked whether he thinks he can successfully appeal for DEFA to allow him to stay, Dan was hopeful he could establish a better relationship with the new DEFA minister going forward.

He said: ’I would imagine and I would expect the new minister to want to basically gather the facts.

’And I would expect them in that process - the process of considering what path they’re going to take - in that fact gathering process, I would expect them to want to talk to all the parties and make a site visit.

’So I would expect a new minister to come up here and for us to have a chat.’

We went to speak to Dan on Friday morning, just before the new Chief Minister Alfred Cannan unveiled the island’s new Council of Ministers, including new DEFA minister Clare Barber.

Following her appointment, we asked her whether her stance on Dan’s situation would be different than her predecessor.

She said: ’I want to understand more about that, there’s some elements I know from conversations with colleagues who have been in DEFA previously.

’But it wouldn’t be right for me to comment at this point.’

She added: ’But I’m absolutely keen to engage with people who have been involved with that and understand the bigger issue as well.

’At this point I can’t confirm one way or the other, but I think there is something around that ability for people to live in more of a eco-environment, and look at how we develop and nurture that, but I think there has to be some structure around that.

’[It will] be something that I’m certainly very interested to explore in much more detail.’