Growers demand protected space

Growers in Waltham Forest are leading calls for the new Mayor of London to create more space for community food projects in the capital. Local […]By Waltham Forest Echo

Brandon O’Reilly and Clare Joy at OrganicLea’s nursery in Chingford. Credit: Vibol Moeung

Growers in Waltham Forest are leading calls for the new Mayor of London to create more space for community food projects in the capital.

Local organisations, including Chingford-based workers’ co-operative OrganicLea, are demanding that the incoming mayor commits to protecting land already used for food growing, provides secure long-term leases for such land, and ensures all new housing developments incorporate community agriculture through schemes such as green roofs.

A new London-wide group called the Community Food Grower’s Network (CFGN) has been drawing up a new policy document which it intends to hand to the newly-elected mayor, Sadiq Khan, at City Hall.

The group has drawn significant support from within Waltham Forest, which is said to be one of the “leading lights” of food growing in the capital.

Martin Lofty, a former apprentice at OrganicLea and a CFGN member, told the Echo: “Waltham Forest is a good example of a food-growing borough. We are using the work done here as an example for other boroughs to follow.

“CFGN was started about a year ago, in partnership with [grassroots planning campaign] Just Space, and is writing the food growing element to a document which will make suggestions for the next London Plan that will be written by the new mayor.

“We would like to see a commitment to secure long-term tenancies for agricultural workers, such as the 30-year lease OrganicLea has at Hawkwood Nursery [in Chingford].

“We want all housing developments to incorporate growing space, and we want local authorities to identify land suitable for food growing.”

Several events being held in the borough this year are aimed at encouraging local horticulture. Waltham Forest Council is hosting its biggest-ever food-growing festival, Cultivate, while Artillery, organisers of the E17 Art Trail, launched a project focused on growing in small urban spaces.

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Last month two projects in Waltham Forest hosted events as part of the Big Dig urban growing initiative; Mission Grove Primary School in Walthamstow, which has its own wildlife garden, and Greenway Avenue Community Play Garden, near Wood Street. April also saw the launch of Leytonstone Food Assembly.

Three years ago OrganicLea launched a programme called Food Works, offering residents the chance to gain experience in horticulture with ongoing mentoring and support. Last year it also launched Farm Start, which involves supporting, co-ordinating and enabling the creation of new grow-to-sell food projects

Transition Leytonstone, meanwhile, continues to develop its community garden in Church Lane, where anyone is welcome to volunteer.

Theo Brown, a member of OrganicLea, told the Echo: “There is a progressive council in Waltham Forest which we work closely with.

“We are encouraging children in schools to learn about growing. In London it can be hard to relate to food and where it comes from, so it is great to be able to teach people about that.

“You could say Waltham Forest is a leading light on the food growing scene.”

To find out more about the Community Food Grower’s Network:


To sign the petition calling for protect food growing space in London:


To find out more about OrganicLea:


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