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'Grow your own' revolution receives major land boost

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'Grow your own' revolution receives major land boost

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Published by Jon Land for 24dash.com in Communities and also in Local Government

'Grow your own' revolution receives major land boost 'Grow your own' revolution receives major land boost

Plans to bring under-used and unloved land back into use so that communities and hundreds of keen would-be fruit and vegetable growers have somewhere to get digging, have been announced by Communities Secretary John Denham and Environment Secretary Hilary Benn.

There is a huge interest in 'growing your own' with people wanting to get more in touch with where their food comes from, as well as staying active and spending more time outdoors.

About 300,000 gardeners in England already have allotments but demand still outstrips supply and the Government is therefore determined to support new and novel ways of meeting people's desire to dig in.

Today, John Denham and Hilary Benn set out a package of measures to help gardeners in the community.

These include:

  • Working with the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to set up a new national community land bank which will act as a broker between land-holders and community groups who want somewhere to grow food. The Federation is in discussion with a number of local councils to pilot the scheme - including Brighton and Bristol. Local private and public sector landowners which could include councils, NHS, private developers will work with the Federation to identify possible sites and link them up with community groups looking for land. The scheme will offer support and advice to landowners and tenants over the purchase, sale or leasing of land.
  • Supporting proposals put forward by Brighton and Hove, Waltham Forest, Birmingham and Sheffield council under the Sustainable Communities Act. These include ensuring food doesn't go to waste by clarifying that there are no legal restrictions on gardeners selling genuine surplus produce to local markets and shops, making better use of existing powers around allotments and introducing new lease arrangements that will make it easier for people to take control of abandoned land.
  • Making it easier for local residents and organisations to set up growing spaces on land that is currently unused or waiting development including - stalled building sites or sites waiting for planning permission. The Government has commissioned the Development Trusts Association to prepare standardised mean-while 'leases' so that organisation can access land while its waiting to be used - while giving the landlord and tenants legal assurances. The idea has been inspired by meanwhile leases for empty shops which has enabled local residents and organisations to temporarily use vacant properties on the high street.
  • New good practice guidance to help local councils reduce the length of time a person has to wait before getting an allotment plot. The guidance - A Place To Grow - published by the Local Government Association, gives practical advice on making the most of existing statutory allotment sites including reducing plot sizes and managing waiting lists. It also includes advice on providing new allotments sites and what temporary options are available for people who are waiting for a plot to become available.

On a visit to King's Cross, in London, John Denham and Hilary Benn saw the way in which local charity Global Generation is using a temporary lease to create portable allotments in a series of construction skips, located on one of the capital's largest regeneration schemes.

The project has involved young people together with local businesses in the creation of ten bio-diverse food growing sites in the bustling heart of King's Cross - 'greening' the top of office buildings, school grounds and housing estates. During the last year Global Generation was granted leases for two temporary food growing sites, on the 67 acre development site.

The 'Skip Garden' project is enabling young people from local schools to grow, harvest and sell produce to local restaurants, whilst learning about team working and wider environmental issues. And the garden has a twist - being built in construction skips allows the garden to be portable, so as different parts of the site are brought forward for development the skips will be moved to new locations and continue to produce a rich harvest of herbs and vegetables.

Communities Secretary John Denham said: "From guerrilla gardeners to community growers there is a real keenness to combine 40's style frugality and 70's style good life ethics to meet 21st century demands for healthy living, cheaper meals and locally sourced food. More and more people want to grow their own but their efforts can be held up by a shortage of suitable land.

"We are making it easier for community groups and keen gardeners to access the hundreds of acres of un-used land.

"This will mean communities can grow their own food while brightening up the neighbourhood by turning unloved spaces into fragrant herb gardens and abundant vegetable or flower beds.

We also want to support local councils in meeting their duty to provide allotments and new guidance provides practical advice to local councils on how to get the best out of their allotments. We are also supporting proposals put forward as part of the Sustainable Communities Act for surplus food to be sold at local markets and shops."

Environment Secretary Hilary Benn said: "It doesn't matter if you have a large garden or if you live on the 20th floor - we can all have a slice of 'The Good Life'.

"Community food growing is a great way for people to get involved in the joys and trials of food production - and that is why we want to help more people grow their own and take it home."

Today's announcement, part of the Government's Food 2030 strategy, responds to a resurgence of interest in people growing their own food. The landbank and meanwhile leases add to wider Government-backed community initiatives such as:

  • The DirectGov 'Grow Your Own Revolution' website;
  • 'Growing schools' - helping school children learn about the food chain and develop skills to grow their own food;
  • The Eat Seasonably campaign, supported by the Government.

Welcoming today's announcement Jeremy Iles, Chief Executive of The Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens, said: "We work with thousands of community groups all over the UK, and we are getting a very strong message that people and groups are desperately seeking land for food growing - the Community Land Bank idea builds on many smaller scale initiatives, and we hope to bring about a sea-change in attitudes to land access, fostering cooperation and respect at a local level and allowing people to get to grips with growing their own food - it should be good for the wider community and the people involved."

Speaking about the King's Cross project Paul Richens, the garden's manager said: "These sites at King's Cross Central are important not only as a focus for community engagement but also as an extreme example of how to grow good healthy vegetables in difficult places in a city, in an organic and sustainable way."

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