Fearnley-Whittingstall's Landshare scheme shuts

Food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, who founded the Landshare website in 2009 to help people without gardens or allotments borrow spare plots to grow fruit and vegetables, has closed down the scheme, highlighting the shift in fashion from grow your own to new "foodie" campaigns.

Landshare: helped people to borrow spare plots of land
Landshare: helped people to borrow spare plots of land

He formed the scheme at the height of the grow your own boom, when allotment waiting lists reached 150,000 and the credit crunch was peaking. Staff at the Landshare site have moved on to website Crowdfunder.co.uk, which asks the public to back social enterprise projects. Allotment waiting lists fell from 57 to 52 people per 100 plots between 2011 and 2013.

Some 22,000 people signed up to Landshare within weeks of its launch to offer spare land to frustrated gardeners. But it lost momentum, with its last Facebook post before the announcement of its closure being almost two years ago.

Croatian garden fan Danijel Balaban posted on the Landshare Facebook site this week: "Too bad to see such a great project go offline. I've emailed three times about starting one in my country, to which I never got a response."

A Landshare representative said: "Sadly, after seven years, we've decided to close the Landshare website. Launched on Channel 4 in 2009, the website tapped into the big surge in interest in grow-your-own and a shortage of allotments. Since then more than 75,000 people have signed up to food campaigner Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's scheme, which was first unveiled on Channel 4 during River Cottage's Summer's Here series.

"We're extremely proud of our achievements, but we're afraid it's the end of the road. The website hasn't been supported for some time and it's beginning to show. Unfortunately there's nobody waiting in the wings to take over so we've arrived at this difficult decision. But it's been a wonderful journey and we've achieved some amazing things.

"We will be closing the website on Wednesday 24 February. The core team behind Landshare and River Cottage's other campaigns, such as Chicken Out and Hugh's Fish Fight, are currently working on Crowdfunder.co.uk, the fastest-growing crowdfunding platform in the UK. Hundreds of new community projects are added daily, with thousands of exciting new ideas turned into reality each year." The scheme's Facebook page remains live.

Horticulture Channel founder Sean James Cameron said: "This is just another example of how celebrities jump on and off bandwagons rather than supporting the true nature of a venture such as grow your own. For many people grow your own is necessary and not just for fashionable reasons.

"With the increase in food bank use, what is needed is for industry to get behind the GYO movement with accessible education, using social media to its full potential rather than having a presence just for the sake of it. Councils also need to operate fast turnaround of disused allotment plots. The movement has always gone through peaks and dips - it's those who stay with it during the dips that are the real champions."

Gardening columnist John Paul Breslin said: "A land-sharing scheme started by Fearnley-Whittingstall has been shut down. Such a shame." Horticulture careers campaigner Charlie Bloom added: "Perhaps Hugh could have done the admin himself, after reaping huge media attention."

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