Community organisations and residents in Hull will be allowed to use neglected council land to grow food after a vote by the city council.
Councillors unanimously passed a motion that will see the authority produce a map of suitable land it owns and offer help with practical issues like insurance and water supply. The plan will now go before a council scrutiny committee.
The scheme, the first citywide project of its kind in the UK, will allow community groups – including co-ops and CICs – charities and small groups of neighbours to grow fruit and veg on suitable sites, in a bid to improve health and wellbeing, tackle the cost-of-living crisis and improve the local environment.
Potential spaces for cultivation include inner-city pocket parks, grass verges, open public spaces and planters in council car parks.
The right to grow scheme has been gathering strength in recent years, following pioneering work by Incredible Edible, a network of local community benefit societies which began life cultivating neglected spaces, such as the verges along the canal path, in Todmorden, west Yorkshire.
Since it was formed in 2012 in response to the Todmorden project’s success, the network has soared from 25 groups to more than 100.
Welcoming Hull’s decision, Pru Elliott of Incredible Edible told the Guardian: “We need to see a change of rules and a change in the way land is used. If communities are given a right to grow they will use it. We just need to get rid of the red tape.
“If Hull can bring this to life I hope it will be an example for councils around the country that it’s something really tangible that they can run with. It’s about letting go of control a bit and trusting communities.”
Incredible Edible has long been campaigning for legal reforms to remove barriers to land use. At last year’s Co-op Party conference, the organisation’s Pam Warhurst called for a national legislation that says we have a right to grow food and improve the environment in the public realm. We have the right to think for ourselves what we do on our public land, paid for by our taxes.”
The campaign has received cross-party and cross-sector support in the Commons and has been debated as an amendment to the Levelling up Bill in the Lords.
Last month, the concept received support in a report from think tank Create Streets – although Incredible Edible criticised a lack of recognition for local grassroots and council initiatives.
“If we are to change our local environments and create spaces abundant with nature and food that genuinely level-up deprived communities,”, it said, “this cannot be brought to life from a top-down approach.
“Powerful London-based think tanks must work with people on the ground delivering the reality of a right to grow, and recognise the grinding and unfunded work these communities have devoted to the cause of growing in deprived urban environments.”