Growing PlacE16 is the second of two community food growing spaces in the Canning Town area of London.
The space has been offered by the Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Programme as part of their regeneration strategy for vacant land. It will eventually become the new town centre when it is developed in 2012, but in the meantime it will provide a space for fruit, vegetables, cultural events and workshops.
Growing PlacE16 is the second of two community food growing spaces in the area. The first is a growing space for individual plot holders (a temporary allotment) called greEn16. The second is aimed at bringing together a wide range of community groups. There are 15 different community groups involved including, for example, a hostel for homeless adults, a residents association, the scouts, and a learning disabilities group.
Each group has been given a number of containers, which were donated by construction companies. The vacant land has been transformed into a sea of green, with tomatoes sprouting from care tyres and courgettes creeping across pallets! Growers work to the soundtrack of the A13 above, and in the distance you can see the Canary Wharf Skyline.
Why it was created:
Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Project aims to redevelop the area into a multi-tenure mixed community over the next fifteen years. This includes a new town centre development and demolishing some of the existing housing.
There are 20 development sites in the regeneration scheme and 12 are already demolished. These areas are expanses of vacant land surrounded by hoarding which severely affect the quality of the environment. The regeneration team has written a strategy for the use of vacant areas in the meanwhile as an attempt to mitigate the negative effects. In the absence of commercial interest, the team proposed using the vacant land for community benefit.
Temporary uses which benefit the community have a role to play in keeping the community together and changing the perception of derelict areas by creating a new identity for a place. The regeneration team wanted to manage the spaces whilst also initiating some activity to encourage community ownership which would start to inform what might happen in the long term. Allotment waiting lists were so long that they decided that ‘meanwhile’ growing spaces would be a good idea.
A list of Partners:
Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration team: Sarah Braithwaite and Sam Clark
Living Places: Anita Nadkarni, Consultant
University of East London (UEL)
London Borough of Newham Council:
Arts and Leisure
Community Leaders and Engagement
East London Business Alliance (ELBA)
…and 15 other community groups!
Points where the project looked threatened:
Despite being a meanwhile use, the project had to make a full planning application which took a long time but the planners were very supportive. Meanwhile use for a few growing containers and gatherings is equal to planning for a whole housing development. However the project had the expertise of a consultant who was able to write the application, which was very useful.
Capacity in terms of time, resources and volunteers is becoming a challenge. What all local authorities and community groups will struggle with is capacity, especially because it is trying to do something special and a little bit tangential to people’s job descriptions. Justifying time against it is quite hard for some people. The regeneration team has put in a large amount of time and effort to making it possible. Also, trying to find a suitable lease took a long time.
Processes which were time consuming were frustrating but did not threaten the project. The team found that everyone involved had plenty of ideas and enthusiasm to make it happen: the possibilities were endless. However, it is quite important to manage expectations because things don’t always happen overnight! It’s not long until the project will have to move so it will be interesting to see how much of a challenge moving a community garden will be….
The best story to come out of it (so far?):
The way that the space has brought people together. One user said that being involved in the growing space had made such a huge difference to his life.
The impacts of the project:
This is a pioneering project and could show how long term regeneration projects can incorporate meanwhile use of land for community benefit into their development strategies. It is really important that evidence is collected about the impacts that the project has had. It would be interesting to find out:
- Has it helped to lower crime by creating a presence in an otherwise empty space?
- Who has benefited from using the project?
- How have the users benefitted?
- Has the project created a new identity for the space?
- Are the groups working together?
- Will they move to the next site? Has the success of the project proved the need for longer term community growing or cultural events spaces?
- Has the project given groups the confidence to take on their own projects?
The team has collected information on funding, the number of people involved and crime figures for the area, but information on the impacts is only anecdotal. The team is collecting quotes from the users and feedback but they are hoping to collect qualitative evidence from the users about the experience and benefits.
The project has partly been funded by a grant that Core Arts has received to develop a nursery. The most costly element was leveling the ground and preparing it because it was covered in brick rubble. The project received funding from the Thames Gateway Development Corporation to prepare the site, and funding from the Capital Growth campaign for the set up of the project.
For more information, contact Sarah Braithwaite on Sarah.Braithwaite@newham.gov.uk
- Growing PlacE16, Canning Town, London
The site in Canning Town has been offered by the Canning Town and Custom House Regeneration Programme as part of their regeneration strategy for vacant land. It will eventually become the new town centre when it is developed in 2012, but in the meantime it provides a space for fruit, vegetables, cultural events and workshops.
Growing PlacE16 project
- 51.514673 0.0092202