What are Plotlands?

The term plotland is used to describe an informal, alternative, and at times anarchistic model of settlements that were established from the late 1800s and up to the Second World War. They were characterised by their simplicity and temporary appearance, and were chiefly built on unused and unwanted land that came to offer an isolated, rural, and Arcadian alternative to the conditions of the UK’s industrialising cities.

Despite growing complaints by the political establishment of the day, plot land settlements expanded rapidly during the interwar decades until the onset of process of systematic oppression driven by the UK Town and Country Planning Act of 1947. Today, examples of plotlander housing communities have been lost, abandoned, destroyed, and gentrified in varying proportions.

The story and continued existence of Plotland communities reflect a human desire to own a piece of land, no matter how small. This desire can also be seen as a rejection of many of the assumptions and conventions of ‘modern life’, offering instead the contrasting proposition of a simple life.

The sense of plotlands being alien, alternative, and anarchistic to modern life in the UK is itself a representative of the degree to which neoliberal politics and capitalist economics have damaged the ability for humanity to aspire to simple and humble lives.

In the face of contemporary housing economics, global environment damage, de-industrialisation, and the continued rise of urbanisation the story of plotland housing suggests the opportunity and necessity to look at alternative, affordable, and sustainable ways of living that touch lightly on the earth.