Growing the economy

OrganicLea runs Hawkwood Nursery in Chingford, supplying local organisations with organic food and running a popular veg box scheme
OrganicLea runs Hawkwood Nursery in Chingford, supplying local organisations with organic food and running a popular veg box scheme

OrganicLea given huge cash boost to help expand community food initiatives, reports James Cracknell

A food-growing co-operative in Chingford is one of two London nursery sites to receive £1.2m funding from City Hall as part of its ‘Market Garden City’ project.

The cash will create and expand opportunities for OrganicLea to help the local community engage in sustainable food growing, food distribution, healthy eating and cooking, as well as connections to nature via volunteering, training, employment and enterprise.

Capital investment will enable the development of flagship food growing community spaces at OrganicLea’s Hawkwood Nursery site and at Wolves Lane Centre, near Wood Green in Haringey. Facilities will be built using materials and construction techniques that have a “radically low” carbon footprint and the project aims to demonstrate a “replicable model of community market gardens” that can be drawn on for inspiration and learning across London.

OrganicLea has been running the Hawkwood site, a former Waltham Forest Council plant nursery, since 2009. Marlene Barrett, one of the directors of the co-op, told the Echo: “It is about more than food – we are trying to connect people with each other.

“We previously did a crowdfunder to build a woodland classroom, which is now in use, and that has given us a sense that we could be doing a lot more on this site. We want to support a wider group of people to be here and expand our facilities to be able to do that.

“We were in touch with the Greater London Authority (GLA) and told them that they could be more ambitious with their vision. This is about sustainable growth and the circular economy. We needed to expanded our facilities – it won’t be huge and glossy but it will be larger. It will allow us to do more training and learning and to host more events and community gatherings.

“Between us and the Wolves Lane site we have developed this Market Garden City concept that could be something you can replicate in every London borough – somewhere to come and be connected to nature.”

Architects Pedro Gil and Paloma Gormley have created plans for both sites using principles of community empowerment and ecology – utilising flexible construction methods to create buildings that are easily adapted, reused and dismantled. Instead of using concrete the buildings will be constructed using ‘hempcrete’ blocks, hemp panels and reclaimed glazing.

The £1.2m GLA funding comes from the mayor of London’s ‘Good Growth Fund’, which is investing £24m in innovative projects across the capital. Jules Pipe, deputy mayor for planning, regeneration and skills, said: “This is a great example of how Londoners can take a lead in shaping the future of the capital.”