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The new West Lothian Food Growing Strategy 2020- 2025 launched by West Lothian Council chimes with the positive aspirations of cutting food miles and carbon emissions, and also brings hope to keen growers and gardeners across the county who have long waited for their own allotment.
The council’s Executive has approved the strategy, which identifies sites that can be considered for different kinds of food growing, promotes community involvement and will help the council to plan for potential future growing sites.
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As part of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, each local authority is required to prepare a Food Growing Strategy and review it every five years.
The West Lothian strategy highlights the benefits of food growing, lists all the potential methods of community growing, and provides a summary of the existing community food production including council owned and privately runs gardens and allotments.
It also highlights the current barriers to food growing and outlines key actions to make it easier for people in West Lothian to grow their own food in a way that is most suitable for them.
The council held workshops for interested individuals. For more than half the participants, the main barrier was a lack of a suitable growing space. Also identified was a lack of time and lack of volunteers to help set-up growing sites and projects. For those answering an on-line survey, a lack of confidence, skills and lack of time were the main barriers.
The council plans to work with interested groups to identify potential growing sites and also work in partnership with existing allotment associations and community growing groups. There are already Open Space officers ready to look at proposals, which could include areas of council parks. Community Regeneration teams in all of the council wards are also keen to work with community groups on growing projects.
Other areas the council can provide help with include help with soil testing and planning application costs, and addressing access issues where possible; supporting the formation of groups; helping them to access funding to manage sites and provide training, facilitate knowledge-sharing and peer-learning .
A recent example was the development of a community garden in Whitburn which is being organised by the town’s Community Development Trust.
The strategy was put together with substantial input from local people, food growing groups and local organisations, who have a fundamental role to play in bringing the strategy to life and sustaining food growing initiatives throughout the area.
Executive councillor for the environment Tom Conn said: “Community growing has huge benefits to our society, including keeping people active, social mixing and of course, producing healthy food on our doorstep.
“It also sets out the processes for setting up new growing sites where there is demand, with council services working together to support potential new locations.”
For more details of community food growing in West Lothian, including allotment sites, community gardens and contacts, please visit https://www.westlothian.gov.uk/foodgrowing