How have you overcome food-growing challenges?

HW polled delegates at last week's London Parks & Green Spaces Forum.

"Our community garden on the White City estate in west London started off for school children but is now for all the local community.

"The school had set up the framework with pathways and raised beds but didn't have the horticultural knowledge. We are lucky in that the school pays for it, but we could always do with more money.

"It is more a time issue because so many people are interested - 40 were involved last year. That is the difference between allotments and community gardens, although we do have a fence around the site. Kids could climb over it but we've never had anything damaged."

Annette Birch, gardens manager, Hammersmith Community Gardens

"We have got 35 allotment sites in Hillingdon that are already run by management committees on behalf of the community.

"At the moment we have no plans to create new sites because we still have vacant lots in the south of the borough, but there are pressures from people in the north of the borough so we need to think about new ways of doing it.

"There is the idea of temporary sites, but the practicalities of long-term maintenance are an issue because you have still got to maintain infrastructure with facilities such as water."

Nick Porter, allotments officer, London Borough of Hillingdon

 "The Bankside Open Spaces Trust maintains spaces in north Southwark and we have experimented with food-growing in parks but we have come to the conclusion we have a lot of problems with theft.

"We would be heavily against fencing areas off for food growing because it is taking the space out of wider public use. But we have now started planting fruit trees and herbs so that it doesn't matter if people take something away.

"Polluted soil is a problem but you can build upwards and create raised beds, and we hope to do a lot of that on housing land."

Helen Firminger, director, Bankside Open Spaces Trust

 "Hackney is carrying out a review at the moment and the big question we are trying to find out is what is the council's stance on allotments and community gardening?

"With allotments you have got more active engagement but a smaller group of people, so what can be done about the community growing aspect? Growing food in parks is probably not the best thing and we need to consider how the council can support food growing at no extra cost.

"We will put together proposals and may make recommendations to (the borough council's housing arm) Hackney Homes."

Matt Clack, overview and scrutiny officer, London Borough of Hackney.

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