Space to Grow – Edinburgh

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Just discovered this project, Space to Grow, working on the grounds of Lloyds bank in Edinburgh – blurb and more info below.

We are a group of colleagues with a mission to transform land across our company’s UK offices into working gardens that enhance community and environment.

Space to Grow aims to strengthen community connections and promote long term sustainable development and social impact by encouraging colleagues to work together to create valuable garden spaces through the use of responsible and sustainable methods. We will work with local communities to decide how each garden would create the greatest benefit.

Our first garden is well underway and will be in Edinburgh, with a second garden being developed in parallel in Copley.  We are also continuing to work on identifying local charitable and community organisations who can benefit from these and other sites in future.

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The Future of Urban Food Production and Why Land Reform Matters

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Article originally posted on Scottish Land Action Movement website here.

Recent news that Edinburgh City Council are planning to increase the rental prices of allotments by an average of 105% – and up to 500% for some renters – has caused serious backlash from the city’s allotment owners. This news comes at the same time that new research has shown city allotment soils are far healthier and more productive than much of the United Kingdom’s depleted farmland. Globally, around 30% of the world’s arable land has now been abandoned as poor farming practices leave soils depleted of nutrients and exposed to the risk of erosion.

Food security is one of the most serious concerns we currently face: from depleted soils, to the threat of climate change, to corporate agricultural practices that force small farmers from their land and leave the global food system vulnerable to market fluctuations. With over halfof the world’s population now residing in urban areas, food production in cities is an increasingly essential development if a population expected to reach 9 billion by 2050 is to be sufficiently nourished.

Edinburgh City Council’s plans to increase the rental prices of allotments pose a serious threat to the accessibility of land that city dwellers can use to produce their own food and build the skills and capability needed to survive an increasingly unstable food system – not to mention the educational, nutritional and health (both mental and physical) benefits that come from growing food. People on low incomes, such as those more likely to live in housing where there is no garden access (particularly in tenement-dominated Edinburgh), will once again be those who are priced out of the means to create a sustainable lifestyle for themselves.

However, allotments are not the end of the story for urban food production and land access. Allotments themselves were originally created following the Enclosures Acts which forced many people off the common land which they had worked for centuries – they were an offering to the poor who were suffering from lack of access to productive land for food production. Today, however, allotment provision is simply not enough – a system created to placate people following the Enclosures is not a system that will ever create a radically different, community-focused form of urban land ownership. Not only can the waiting time for an allotment be anything from 4 to 10 years in Edinburgh, the very nature of individual plot ownership means that anybody who is short on time, physical health or even just gardening confidence makes allotments a luxury that are increasingly available only to the middle class, and not to those most in need of healthy, accessible, free food.

It is clear that a radical shift in urban agricultural land access patterns must therefore take place to create food-growing systems in cities that are accessible and egalitarian. In Edinburgh and throughout the UK, one way in which this is taking place is through the creation of community allotments such as The Grove at Fountainbridge, or Granton Community Gardens. Community food production such as these sites allow people to contribute as much time and skills as they are able without the pressure of being solely responsible for caring for the plants themselves. They act as sites of knowledge and skills exchange, friendship and community-building, and of course provide their members with food.

In cities where residents are denied access to land through the system of housing provision itself, priced out of access to allotments, and detached from food production systems, increasing the amount of land available to community groups must be a key tenet of any strategy looking to increase the resilience of cities against climate change, increasingly unstable global food markets, and urban poverty.

But this is a broader issue than food security or even an egalitarian land ideology. This is about maintaining – and in some cases, reviving – a direct connection with the land in an urban society where people are increasingly distanced from the soils they depend upon for life. If people are unable to access land, unable to experience the total dependence that we have on the soils and plants of the world to provide the means for continued survival, how can we really expect to foster a deep care for the earth in an age where disregard for planetary health has led humanity to the brink of a tipping point where our very survival hangs in the balance?

Miriam Dobson

Food Security in a Shrinking World

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Guest blog by Pete Ritchie on the Scottish Land Action Movement page – http://www.scottishlandactionmovement.org/slam-news/2015/1/23/food-security-in-a-shrinking-world

“In a shrinking world, if our land is not for feeding our people sustainably into the future, then what is it for?”  – access to land for food growing has to get easier, esp. for small communities.

Land Reform Review Group publish report

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Land Reform Review Group publish report

The Land Reform Review Group published a report today, commissioned by the Scottish Government, they set out 62 recommendations in 260 pages. One of which is that an upper limit on the amount of land held privately in Scotland should be introduced. It also calls for an increase in community ownership, ending the involvement of crown estate commissioners and an overhaul of the tax system.

I look forward to following what happens in the wake of these recommendations…. will they help solve this complex problem?

Full report here – http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/0045/00451087.pdf

Andy Wightman’s response here – http://www.andywightman.com/?p=3676

Whose Land is it Anyway?

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Whose Land is it Anyway?

An article linked to in the Community Land Scotland news bulletin. I haven’t read the whole thing but the title itself brings up a crucial question in the community ownership debate.

Also in the Community Land Scotland bulletin is the newly released ‘Community Land Ownership – Economic Indicators Report’.
This is a study of the economic impact of community land ownership in Scotland. The report demonstrates that community ownership can out-perform the past private ownership of the land in question. See summary here.