Community garden to be created on land near tower blocks

Hundreds of residents living in tenements and high-rise tower blocks would be given access to their own community gardens at no cost, under a new project aimed at making better use of council land.

Green space in the Calders, Dumbryden, Murrayburn and Hailesland neighbourhoods, owned by Edinburgh City Council, would be turned over for use as garden hubs and private plots as part of the Edible Estates scheme.

Fifteen per cent of residents were door-knocked in both neighbourhoods during a study carried out by urban design agency Re:Solution last year to gauge interest for the initiative.

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Up to 120 households would benefit in the first year of the scheme.

A majority of participating residents would be able to see their plot from their own house, with the aim to have the first gardens running later this year.

The Wester Hailes Heath Agency has now applied for £300,000 in climate challenge funding to run the project. A decision on the application will be made next month.

The move has the backing of the city council, which stands to save thousands of pounds each year in reduced maintenance costs for green space.

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Linda Arthur, manager of Wester Hailes Health Agency, said residents had widely supported the chance to grow their own food.

She said: “People are going to be really hard up, those who are on benefits or low wages. There’s a lot of land in a lot of areas, not just Wester Hailes, that is just being put out to grass.

“There’s no biodiversity and it costs the council a lot of money to maintain. It would be using land not normally used and having sections for fruit and vegetables.”

Ms Arthur said residents would not be asked to rent their garden plot, adding: “There might even be opportunities to sell produce if it’s successful. There might be little mini-markets set up – that’s certainly the long-term plan.

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“There’s so many people who are isolated in their own homes. They have no hope and no money and no chance of ever getting employment. To have some kind of purpose to their day, to go out and start producing their own food could make a massive difference.”

Re:Solution director Greig Robertson said: “Murrayburn and Hailesland is one of the least well-off neighbourhoods in Scotland and really is in need of projects like this.”

A similar community garden hub started in Lochend last year has already been labelled a major success. Alexandra Hurcikova, community outreach worker for charity Carr Gomm, said the scheme could easily be rolled out across the Capital.

“Wester Hailes is similarly in the top five per cent most deprived areas in Scotland,” she said. “There are very few opportunities and I think it’d be fantastic to have something like this over there.”

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Murrayburn mother Kasia Banaszewska-Diaz said being able to grow her own fruit and vegetables would make a significant difference in light of increasing household costs. The 32-year-old added: “In our area most of the houses are in big block flats. There are not that many gardens available to residents. I think they’ll bring the community together.”

Council south-west environment forum chairman Gavin Corbett said: “There’s a really exciting opportunity here and I have already raised the possibility of a similar project in the Hutchison-Chesser area.

“Where there is, quite literally, local appetite for it, it would be fantastic to see pockets of space turned into areas for food growing.”

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