Responsibility for the planning and management of urban landscape falls under several different organisational remits. These include:
• local authority planning departments – a land – use remit.
• local authority or private sector landscape architects and urban designers – a design remit.
• local authority parks or landscape maintenance departments – a management remit.
• local authority Agenda 21 officers – a community remit.
• activities of special interest groups and community organisations – focused or single issue remits.
• private areas – a management remit with diverse objectives.
These remits overlap, yet rarely co-ordinate smoothly, especially around issues of control and ownership, and in consequence, funding. Still dominant in most urban areas is a top-down, conventional approach to land-use planning.
The successful models of urban food growing in the UK almost all rely on the energy of committed local groups, with help from a public sector starved of cash and time. Until local power sharing becomes embodied into land-use and open space strategies, and the aesthetic of food projects is more accepted, urban food growing will struggle to find anything but a marginal existence.
The key ingredient – people
Food growing projects have a huge power to bring people together and engender a lost sense of community. They act as a resource for learning, an opportunity for minority and special needs groups, and can contribute to local economic development. They help people to connect with and care for their local environment.
These projects help counter vandalism; increase the surveillance of urban areas; create real health benefits; and offer a cost-effective way in which to manage under-used spaces.
Resources are well spent where targeted to enable people to take control of their local environment. This may include educating people in food growing techniques and related activities such as cooking skills; and facilitating the design and implementation of landscape projects.
The landscapes which urban food growing generates are intrinsically embedded in their local context. Plants which are grown are those which will survive in the local microclimate; local varieties may still be used; seasonality is appreciated; plants grown may reflect cultural preferences.
Biodiversity is enhanced through the diversity of habitat and the concentration of growing activity.
Community-led projects are often inventive in their design and materials and work with recycled components from the local area.
The result can offer a new paradigm – a people – centred landscape contrasting with the blandness of municipal landscaping and juxtaposed with ‘designed’ urban landscape.
Urban agriculture initiatives take many forms. Most are typified by their changing appearance and finegrained, people-centred character. This characteristic challenges planning professionals to review their perceptions of what constitutes good urban design, so that they might encourage the development of food growing projects into the urban fabric. If this can be achieved, richer, more diverse town – scapes will emerge.