Gardens 'foster social change' says Cardiff University study

Research shows that community gardens can produce a range of urban lifestyle transformations.

A thriving green space in east London's Tower Hamlets - image: Henry & Bragg
A thriving green space in east London's Tower Hamlets - image: Henry & Bragg

The development of community gardens in disadvantaged areas around the UK is creating significant social change, new research has revealed.

The study, undertaken by Professor Paul Milbourne at Cardiff University, looked at 18 projects in deprived areas of nine cities in England and Wales where communities had taken over once-neglected areas to grow food and flowers.

Projects were studied in London, Birmingham, Manchester, Cardiff, Salford, Southampton, Bristol, Newport and Nottingham.

The findings revealed five main reasons for setting up community gardens. Some were cultivated to improve the aesthetics of local public areas no longer cared for by local authorities.

Others were created to boost green spaces in highdensity neighbourhoods. A third motivation was as a response to local antisocial behaviour issues.

Projects were also developed to create new methods of cultural integration as well as to provide therapeutic forms of gardening.

Milbourne said the projects had produced an impressive range of socio-environmental transformations as well as new socio-ecological spaces.

"People do it because they feel nobody cares about the area they live in. Gardening is a catalyst that creates a new meeting place where they can think about doing other things together," he said.

The study highlighted the importance of the local environment and ordinary environmental actions within people's everyday senses of urban living, he added.

KEY STAT

Amount by which membership of Federation of City Farms & Community Gardens increased between 2006 and 2011 - 72%.


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