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Government backs Hounslow's plan to transform wasteland to grow food

Hounslow Council’s trailblazing new programme, Grow for the Future, has been allocated £165,000 from the UK Shared Prosperity Fund (UKSPF).

Grow for the Future is a first-of-its-kind policy in the UK to turn unused and unloved land across the borough into new allotment sites, community gardens and orchards to grow food in a cost-of-living crisis and teach urban children about healthy living, sustainability and biodiversity.

The UKSPF is part of the UK Government’s Levelling Up agenda, providing funding for local investment across the country and is supported in the capital by the Greater London Authority (GLA). The funds will help the council get the first sites identified as part of Grow for the Future off the ground before the programme is expanded more widely.

Hounslow Council now hopes that the government’s support for this grassroots policy to tackle the cost-of-living crisis and provide green educational spaces for urban children will encourage councils across the country to come forward with similar initiatives.

The up to 27-acres of wasteland identified in the first phase of Grow for the Future – much of which is currently inaccessible or in some cases used for little more than fly-tipping – will help tackle the enormous demand for allotments and growing spaces since the pandemic and allow residents to cultivate their own fresh produce in the face of rocketing food costs. For the first-time ever in the UK, the council will look to pair each new site with a local school and dedicate a portion of it to teach urban children in often deprived areas about where their food comes from, the importance of good nutrition, and how to live healthy lives.

The food grown by the schools can be donated to support children and their families who are going hungry.

The initial phase of Grow for the Future will look at unused council-owned land, but subsequent phases will assess unused and inaccessible private land that could be leased or purchased by the council and opened up to the public and schools as community growing spaces.

Hounslow Council expects to be able to create 500 new spaces for food growing from the first phase alone. It plans to bring online four new sites per year and expects the first sites to be ready this summer.

The council also plans to work with voluntary organisations in the community to help schools upkeep their plots and help teachers instruct kids on cultivating the land.

Cllr Salman Shaheen, Cabinet Member for Parking, Parks & Leisure on Hounslow Council, said: “Grow for the Future will provide hundreds of new growing spaces for Hounslow’s residents to put food on their plates as the cost-of-living crisis bites. We will take wasteland that has lain empty for years and put it to use equipping our children with vital life skills and educating them on biodiversity, sustainability and healthy living.

“I am delighted that the government and the GLA have given their backing to this unique new programme. I hope other councils across the country will be inspired to take unused land and open it up as a common treasury for all people.

“I want to give everyone in urban environments, young and old, so often disconnected from nature, the opportunity to cultivate land they can call their own and understand where our food comes from. To learn, and grow, for their future.”


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