Edinburgh residents could get ‘right to grow’ fruit and veg on council land

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Edinburgh councillors pass motion calling on look at growing fruit and vegetables at public spaces

People in Edinburgh could be given the “right to grow” their own food on council-owned land under a new initiative.

Councillors passed a motion calling on officials to explore adopting a policy allowing fruit and vegetables to be grown in public spaces deemed “suitable for cultivation”. They agreed the cost of living crisis was impacting “the ability to afford good quality fresh food” whilst noting a shortage of allotments in the city.

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Cllr Hal Osler, who tabled the motion, said:“What this is about is looking at our city and basically, all of us know within our city there is some blank spaces not being utilised properly – and they could be utilised so much better.

Vegetable patches could be created on council land in Edinburgh. Image: Incredible Edibles.Vegetable patches could be created on council land in Edinburgh. Image: Incredible Edibles.
Vegetable patches could be created on council land in Edinburgh. Image: Incredible Edibles.

“There’s large expanses of just space that’s locked away, that’s got fences around it and it’s basically just neglected or abandoned. We are massively in a cost of living crisis, there are enormous problems with that of people being able to afford food.

“But also another aspect about growing food that’s really really important is people having a connection to it – actually understanding where your food comes from.

“In an urban city there area a large number of individuals that are very disconnected with their food.”

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The Lib Dem councillor added: “It is very challenging, we are very behind on our allotment strategy, we know there’s a large desire for it. Allotment provision is fantastic but our list is so long for this and it’s not getting any shorter.

“It is about encouraging individuals who spotted a piece of land to come towards us and saying ‘can I do this here’ and trying to remove the barriers from that.”

This comes after Hull City Council became the first local authority in the UK to support the introduction of a right to grow.

Councillors there asked for a “map of all council-owned land suitable for community cultivation that is publicly available at no cost to residents, and actively promoted across all wards”.

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Campaign group Incredible Edibles welcomed the move and called on other councils to follow suit, and said: “Up and down the country public land is being left loved, costing our local authorities money to care for, and giving nothing back to the community in return.

“With a little TLC, these parcels of land can be turned into oases for food and wildlife. The biggest obstacle to more local food growing is the lack of available land close to people’s homes.

“The land is there across our public realm, from verges to unloved, often forgotten, sites. In the middle of the cost of living crisis unlocking local healthy food could be a life line for many communities offering practical hope for everyone.”

The motion agreed by Edinburgh Council’s Culture and Communities Committee on Thursday, December 7, requested officers to draft a report “looking into the possibility of whether Edinburgh could also adopt “a right to grow” policy on Council-owned land that is deemed suitable for cultivation”.