Planning to Make Space for Growing

Last update: 10.02.17 First posted: 10.02.17 by in

Most towns and cities in the UK have on their outskirts housing estates that were erected by local councils between 1920 to1950. My grandparents lived on this type of estate and Grandpa Herbert helped sustain his family in a garden that was specifically designed to be large enough to provide space for both recreation and the growing of food.

Herbert Hardwick and Bob in their vegetable garden
Herbert Hardwick and Bob in their vegetable garden
Much of the inspiration for the design of these social housing schemes came from the work of the town planner Raymond Unwin. As well as being the designer responsible for the model village of New Earswick in York, and the ‘garden cities’ of Letchworth and Welwyn, he also wrote a book in 1919 called ‘Town Planning in Practice’. In this hugely influential tome he set out the principles for laying out new places, ’with a co-operative society it is safe to count also on the common enjoyment of much of the garden space … to arrange some degree of associated use of garden space (and) to hope that with co-operation there may be introduced that sense of the outward expression of an orderly community of people having intimate relations with the other’. Whilst our understanding of the phrase ‘having intimate relations’ may have changed in the last 100 years, the value of providing communal growing space in new developments has not.

This eminently sensible idea has been acknowledged in the draft of a ‘Local Plan’ currently being proposed by Calderdale Council, the local authority within which Incredible Edible Todmorden resides. In their new plan they are proposing to adopt the following policy, ‘All new residential developments with the exception of apartments and specialist accommodation shall include gardens or communal areas of adequate size, commensurate in scale with the development, to support household food production.

Furthermore, all developers will be encouraged to explore ways to incorporate food growing into landscaping schemes and the spaces around their developments.’

A Community Garden in Boleyn Road, Newham, London
A Community Garden in Boleyn Road, Newham, London
Whilst this important local plan might not go as far as the fantastic innovations in this field by Brighton Council see bhfood.org.uk/Grow-Food, it follows on from IET having worked with Calderdale in setting up a simple, straightforward licensing agreement enabling the residents on estates to grow food on existing communal spaces.
Imagine if this policy was adopted nationwide, by central government and all local planning authorities. As Grandpa Herbert would have said, “there’s now’t new in this world”. Good ideas remain good ideas. Back to the future indeed.

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