Local authorities called on to use meanwhile leases to green areas

Use of leases recommended for creating green spaces to revive derelict sites in urban areas.

Moveable Feast: temporary allotment set up on derelict housing site
Moveable Feast: temporary allotment set up on derelict housing site

A former CABE Space staff member who helped launch a community garden under a so-called "meanwhile lease" has prompted a call for councils to promote this method of creating green spaces.

Landscape architect Nicole Collomb helped start the Moveable Feast temporary allotment in St Leonards, East Sussex, after coaxing a local property developer to let her use derelict land earmarked for housing that it was mothballing until the economy picks up.

Impetus for the garden came from meanwhile leases, launched by Labour in 2009 as part of an initiative to help revive empty shops and sites to prevent further high-street decline. The policy makes it easier to change land use temporarily.

"Rather than set up a nice ladies' gardening club, let's take a derelict site and turn it into something positive for St Leonards," said Collomb. "There are no town-centre allotments, waiting lists for those further out are very long and many local people live in gardenless flats.

"There is no reason you can't do this elsewhere - the model can be replicated," said Collomb, who worked for design watchdog CABE Space until it was wound up in 2010. "Plant beds on pallets can be moved by forklift at three months' notice from the owner, Roost."

Green-space consultant Sid Sullivan said: "Local authorities should encourage meanwhile leases because they put pressure on owners to do something with land that otherwise can fester and spoil local communities."

He added that councils should publish lists each year showing the amount of land being held by developers, its current state and how long it has been empty. This would begin to raise awareness of what could be done to improve the local area, he said.

Other high-profile green spaces inspired by meanwhile leases include a community garden at the Queen Elizabeth Hall in London and Canary Wharf. Sullivan said talk of climate mitigation makes it "shameless" not to convert land into green spaces wherever possible.

Inside view

"A key need for our garden was to ensure that it was not tucked away. We wanted to maximise accessibility and there has been huge community engagement from people who used to walk by wearing hoodies and staring at the ground."

Sally Walton, co-founder, Moveable Feast Garden

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