Growing food in disused green spaces
Space for Food Growing, a new guide from the Department for Communities and Local Government, aims to help communities make use of disused green spaces in their local area for food growing, with potential benefits for health, skills, social cohesion and the environment.
Accessing green space
The guidance offers practical advice on new ways to get access to less conventional sources of land and green space to grow food as well as suggestions for wider community involvement, information on how to get funding and examples of projects already in bloom.
New ways to revive derelict sites and powers to preserve local green spaces for the greater community good are examples of how the Government is helping communities to take greater control of their local area. Measures in the Localism Act such as using new Neighbourhood Planning powers and Community Right to Bid give communities a way to takeover unmaintained public land or badly run allotments themselves.
Guiding communities, individuals and voluntary groups
This guide is aimed both at community groups, which might be looking for land to start their food growing project or trying to find new ways to encourage people to get involved in an existing scheme, and at individuals who might be interested in growing their own food but are not sure whether to wait for a local authority allotment or continue their search elsewhere.
The guidance may also be used by voluntary groups trying to decide what activities might suit their client base or by individuals who have yet to be convinced that food growing is really for them.
Eric Pickles welcomed the new guidance:
“The practical advice we have published today can really help plant the seeds of garden growing and turn disused land into thriving green areas for the whole community. With so many people looking to grow their own food there’s lots of great tips to help people look outside the allotment and spot a plot in more unconventional places to start community gardens.
“Our Localism Act powers can really help all those with budding green fingers to find a way to grow a bumper crop for their family, win at the summer fete or create new community gardens up and down the country.”
A recent survey commissioned by the City of London found that just under a third are growing their own food while nearly two thirds of adults want to.
Unfortunately it is increasingly difficult as local authority allotments are significantly oversubscribed – with waiting lists over ten times longer than those in 1996. Surveys by West Kirby Transition Town in conjunction with the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners show that 57 people are waiting for every 100 allotment plots managed by local authorities.
Community groups can work to transform their local areas while bring many other benefits to local people, as described by Groundwork, which has been supporting communities to improve their local environment and their own health and well-being for 30 years:
“Groundwork has been supporting communities to improve their local environment and their own health and well-being for 30 years. Food growing is an activity which can bring communities together but which can also create skills and nurture enterprise. We know that more and more people want to get active and grow and welcome the additional support and guidance being provided.”
Examples of community groups that have already undertaken growing initiatives include:
- The Ebury Bridge Gardening Club in Pimlico, London is run by local residents. Their hard work and efforts have rejuvenated a disused run-down area into a unique award winning community garden for the estate’s community.
- Stewarts Road Adventure Playground in Lambeth, London was deemed unsafe. With the support of Groundwork London, volunteers revived the area to include a vegetable garden, chicken houses, beehives, pond and relaxation area. What started as a few simple raised beds quickly became a thriving food growing project. The project continues to give to the community with workshops for young people to learn about food growing.
- Arkwright Meadows Community Gardens in Nottingham has become an oasis for local residents and other visitors to enjoy after local residents used funding from the Big Lottery Fund to transform a disused playing field. The site is now a thriving part of the local community providing mini-plots for local residents to grow their own food, after-school gardening clubs, and a tyre garden – utilising recycled truck and tractor tyres as raised beds, used by local schools to learn about food growing.
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