Community allotment scheme transforms problem park site

The anti-social behaviour that alienated users from a north London park has been banished after a community took control of the site and transformed it into allotments.

King Henry's Walk Garden, which is owned by Islington Council, has been turned into an allotment site run by a local friends group.

Recently completed, the 70 allotments are this year providing residents with their first crops.

The council's public-realm division community-engagement officer, Sheena Gladding, has been involved with the project from the initial consultation stages in 2004, and said that it has been a real success story.

"People had stopped using the park and it was completely given over to people using it for anti-social behaviour," she said.

"There wasn't a sense of community here before but this garden has helped that.

"If you overlook a space, you've got a vested interest in making it look as good as it can. It can feel almost personal if someone drops litter or lets their dog foul."

The environmental charity Groundwork helped with creating a design for the allotment garden, and the construction work was carried out by BTCV and Acer Landscapes.

Work is currently underway to remodel and plant the pond area to create mini wildlife habitats.

"The processes have all been really transparent, so local people can get involved," added Gladding.

"Parks and open spaces with active community involvement are better and serve their communities on a much more comprehensive level."

BTCV uses part of the site for providing horticultural training to people with learning disabilities, while allotment holders tend their own 2m x 4m plots.

"Accessibility and sustainability have been the two driving forces behind the design for the area," explained Gladding.

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