Community Space for Growing Food

In recent years there has been a renaissance in ‘grow-your-own’ gardening, as people have become more aware of the health and environmental benefits that come with growing food locally. The health benefits are not just linked to diet but also to the positive mental benefits of community cohesion.

The escalating popularity of ‘grow-your-own’ has meant that waiting lists for allotment plots have risen. The National Allotment Society estimates there are approximately 330,000 allotment plots in the UK, but that at least 90,000 additional plots are needed to meet current demand. 

The personal, environmental and economic benefits of community food-growing include:

  • Mental and physical health benefits from eating more fresh food and being physically active outdoors.
  • Community cohesion, because food-growing sites can bring diverse groups of people together around a common interest.
  • The potential for economic development through learning new skills and exploring commercial options.
  • Enhanced biodiversity and local awareness of nature.
  • Support for schools and educational opportunities.
  • Reduced food miles and damage to the environment from production, transportation, packaging and disposal.
  • Aesthetic improvements to the local environment.

Assuming these benefits are increasingly recognised, it is possible that demand for open spaces flexible enough to accommodate a variety of different activities will grow. Including flexible and temporary-use spaces in new developments is one response to the uncertainties of the future, although this is challenging for urban sites where land is limited and profitability is the key driver. Some potential solutions to this challenge are listed below.

According to the Public Health England (PHE)/Town and Country Planning Association (TCPA) report ‘Planning Healthy Weight Environments’ (2014), green infrastructure strategies can help to identify flexible spaces in a local area to which creators of smaller-scale developments can contribute, and which can be managed by Community Trusts responsive to local needs.

Options for providing land that may be available for growing food are:

  • Allotment plots
  • Land within larger community spaces
  • Waste ground and derelict sites, land awaiting development – ‘meanwhile spaces’
  • Rooftops
  • Green walls
  • Balconies
  • Grounds of community facilities and public buildings
  • Internal atriums and courtyards

Page updated: 8/01/2018

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