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.