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The Grove Community Garden

The story so far: At the time of writing, we look after two sites, one site a semi-permanent agreement with the City of Edinburgh Council in an underused car park with an adjacent small orchard, and the other- on private land earmarked for housing development next year. The Grove Community Garden began in March 2013 as a mobile garden on land awaiting development. A group of local people, Fountainbridge Canalside Initiative (FCI), did not want to see the land lying vacant and called a meeting to gauge interest in gardening. Growing opportunities, with long allotment waiting times, were limited, and local enthusiasm for growing was high.

We approached landowners initially under the umbrella of FCI, the local interest group. It was a direct approach, and they were amenable to the request, recognising the benefits of the land being put to use and keen to help the community. They provided shipping containers, soil, a starter pack of fruiting bushes and a design for the initial plot. After our first growing season, the City of Edinburgh Council offered us a part of another development site close by, increasing our growing space and membership. Our ethos is as much about the community as it is about gardening.

A committee runs the gardens, all enthusiastic gardeners we welcome new members all the time. We have a weekly communal gardening session where we learn from each other and teach new gardeners new skills. All growing takes place in moveable boxes, which can be moved to a new site. We have moved four times in almost ten years of existence, and we will have to move one garden again next spring. The search for a more permanent space continues. We’ve been integral in ‘greening’ the local area and building community connections in a central, mixed-use area of the city. Recently we have been supporting the developer with designing growing spaces in their new housing development where we once grew in boxes!

Whose land: Privately owned and Council land

Land agreement: Initially, we were on private developer’s land with a licence to occupy on a month-by-month basis with a 2-month notice period. We paid no fee, but the landowner did stipulate we had to have 2,000,000 public liability insurance cover. When the land changed hands during our tenancy, the new owners were happy to accept us as their tenants using the same terms and conditions. We’ve had a very good relationship with the developers and contractors developing the land around us. When they couldn’t accommodate us any longer, they helped us move. On council land, we have a rolling tenancy agreement for a peppercorn rent.

Advice to others looking to secure land?: Once the garden was established, the idea of its mobility became easier to explain to other potential site owners. Looking for new sites has been a constant for us; it has been hard work and a huge commitment, but it has been worth it. We ask our local councillors for help, and the CEC parks department is enormously supportive. We have also used the council ‘Vacant and Derelict land’ register. We walk around the area, looking through fencing and contacting agents from ‘For Sale’ boards. We have turned down several offers of strips of land that we felt weren’t suitable. When approaching a landowner, look for shared values.

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Winchburgh Community Growing Group

The Story So far: It started with wood and some vision…
The Winchburgh Community Growing Group (WCGG) was formed in 2018- a group of residents got together to use growing to connect and build a new community. Winchburgh Development Limited (WDL) had permission to build over 3,500 homes on the edge of this former West Lothian mining village. From the outset, the growing group and developers recognised how they could work in partnership to make Winchburgh a welcoming, attractive and greener place. The Growing Group were initially donated wood to build 50 planters scattered throughout the community. Local volunteers and businesses were encouraged to adopt and care for herbs or food planters under the banner “Food that is right up your street”. Other projects have included fruit tree planting with local schools in the village park, bulb planting throughout the village, tree planting in the new Auldcathie Community Woodland area, a regular high profile at village events and during the lockdown, the start of Winchburgh Wombles!
The Wombles, contracted quarterly by Winchburgh Developments, keep the village litter free. In exchange, volunteers earn vouchers to spend with local businesses and monies to support the WCCG finances. In September 2021, the group moved onto their 1.5-acre community growing site, a repurposed landfill site. The growing area has been capped and fenced, forming part of Auldcathie Park. WDL has paid for planning permission for the garden portacabin and polytunnel. The group: encompassing a diverse range of members with a broad range of skills, have begun regular work sessions to plan, develop and grow their new garden space together.

Land Agreement: No formal land agreement. The land, as a former landfill site, can’t be used for anything else. The garden next to the new play park and part of the new Auldcathie Park has helped integrate the growing area into community life. Families accessing the park stop and ask questions.

Advice to other groups:
“Don’t be scared to ask. If you don’t ask, you won’t get it! We have worked hard with Winchburgh Development Limited to develop mutual trust. Right from the start of our working relationship with WDL, we were promised a larger piece of land if we proved demand for it and proved ourselves. Key to our success has been developing and maintaining a high profile across community life.”

Read more about the Winchburgh approach.

Grow-West-Fife

Grow West Fife

The story so far: Just before the first Covid lockdown, founding members Pamela and Dean Nelson, newly relocated to West Fife, came across an overgrown walled garden on the Blair Castle Estate and began to dream about its potential for growing local vegetables for distribution to those in need through local charitable projects.
“By the end of the first growing season, with a 6 month land agreement in place, we’d delivered potatoes, courgettes, tomatoes, beetroot, salad leaves, spinach, carrots, beans and apples to three local community pantries in former mining villages every week throughout the harvest season.”
Two and a half years on Grow West Fife, with invaluable support from the Scottish Mineworkers Convalescent Trust, is an established SCIO, managing various funding streams to develop and restore the garden, and has set up an ‘In-stant Raised Bed’ outreach growing programme for people on low incomes. Sessional gardeners work alongside a growing team of volunteers to turn an underused walled garden once again into a productive and inspirational example of mutual community endeavour.

Whose land? Scottish Mineworkers Convalescent Trust (SMCT)

Land agreement? In stages-initial land agreement for 6 months to pilot and develop our vision. We have subsequently extended this to a 5-year lease and have recently negotiated a 21-year lease enabling us to raise money to repair garden walls and develop site infrastructure further.

Advice to others looking to secure land?– Taking a partnership approach with the SMCT has been essential in developing trust and a mutual understanding of how reviving the garden can meet both organisations shared vision to address inequality in our local community. Having a robust land agreement and access to technical expertise through the Community Land Advisory Service has been invaluable, giving us the long-term security we need to achieve our mission and secure investment for our volunteers to continue their amazing work.

For more information on the work of Grow West Fife see their Facebook page.

Forres

Forres Friends of Woods and Fields

The story so far: Forres Friends of Woods and Fields (FFWF) manages 8-acres of woodland as well as a field with a Community Garden (including space for a dedicated children’s garden) and another field in which they intend to plant an orchard, with woodland maintenance and growing activities underway. However, to allow wider community uses such as events, children’s activities, and therapeutic gardening, planning permission is currently being sought for a change of use of part of the land from agricultural to community use, along with the erection of a polytunnel, potting shed, tool store, and compost toilet on this land at the same time. In addition, there is a need to erect deer fencing, but it has been established that this can be done under permitted development rights, so it is not necessary to apply for planning permission for the fencing.

Whose land? The land is currently owned by two of FFWF’s trustees but is in the process of being transferred to the Biodynamic Land Trust, which will then own it in perpetuity.

Land agreement? Once the land has been transferred to the Biodynamic Land Trust, the intention is for FFWF to be granted a long-term lease of this from them. The bigger challenge faced by FFWF in establishing their project has though been the need for planning permission, with the group initially having been advised by the local planning authority that they needed planning permission for a change of use of all the land required for this, the application fee for which would have been prohibitively expensive. However, following further discussion with the planning authority, it was established that there is no need for planning permission for those parts of the project which purely involve planting, growing and harvesting produce, including the orchard. Rather, planning permission is only needed for the land on which wider community uses would be carried out and the structures to be erected on this. This then reduced the fee significantly, in addition to which it was possible to reduce this further by having the planning application submitted by the Community Council on FFWF’s behalf (the fee payable by a Community Council being half the standard fee), and FFWF have now been granted planning permission.

Advice to others looking to secure land? To be aware of what does and doesn’t need planning permission and where planning permission is needed, explore the potential for an application to be made by the Community Council rather than by the group directly.

More information is available on FFWF’s website.

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Kirriemuir Community Garden at St Mary’s Field

The story so far: Land gifted to St Mary’s Church in the 1930s for the purpose of food growing and cultivated for many years as a market garden is once again under cultivation as a thriving community garden. The one-acre site tucked away in the centre of Kirriemuir has become a key area of local action for Sustainable Kirriemuir- a community group established in 2019 with local food, climate and community at its heart.

Sustainable Kirriemuir took on the land in 2020 with support from the church to develop the garden into an inclusive, nature-abundant haven with a focus on learning and sharing through local food production. The garden welcomes volunteers from all walks of life, facilitating sessions three times a week to grow fresh, affordable food for distribution throughout the town. Garden produce is sold directly from the gate and through the zero-waste shop at less than the market rate. It is also sometimes available through the local food hub. All volunteers are also encouraged to share in
the harvest, ensuring that everybody can access locally grown food regardless of income. Integral to the running of the garden is an ethos of collective ownership, collaboration and everyone taking part in a way that suits them. This year the garden hosted a Bio Blitz session to explore the gardens’ wide range of species from pollinators to fungi, lichens, and herpetofauna. They also welcome “young legs” by hosting rural skills school curriculum activities. In a relatively short time, the garden has become a cherished and well-supported part of Kirriemuir life.

Whose land: St. Mary’s Episcopal Church

Land agreement: ‘While a longer lease would enable better future planning and open up more funding opportunities, the church has a longstanding policy of committing to 3-year leases.’

Advice to others looking to secure land: “We’ve been extraordinarily lucky; we started with optimism
and ideas and little more. The community has rallied round and the team behind the vestry at St.
Mary’s Church has been very supportive of our goals: to grow good food in a biodiverse setting,
and to get that fresh produce into the community.”

More info on the Field and the wider work of Sustainable Kirriemuir can be found on their website.