29 April 2014

Council’s food growing project is an inspiration

An innovative project to encourage designers to incorporate food growing in new development proposals for Brighton & Hove, is being used to inspire other local authorities.

Brighton & Hove City Council’s ‘Food Growing and Development Planning Advice Note (PAN) has been featured in guidance by national Food Policy organisation Sustain.

The information can be found on the ‘Sustainable Food Cities Network’ pages on the Sustain website, as a guide for councils looking to adopt similar policies in their areas.

The council is the first local authority in the country to produce a ‘Planning Advice Note’ to urge developers to include space for growing food in new development proposals.

The document was written jointly by Food Matters* and planning officers from Brighton & Hove City Council.

“Food Matters is proud to have written the growing advice in collaboration with the City Council and that it has had such a great response - both here in Brighton & Hove and further afield,” said Clare Devereux from Food Matters. “The planning system can be instrumental in supporting a better food system for health and the environment as these awards show.”

The council believes that all residents, visitors and people who work in the city should have greater opportunities to experience, be involved in and have access to food growing activity and enjoy the social, environmental and health benefits.

The PAN urges developers to explore ways to incorporate food growing in their proposals. This could range from small scale landscaping with herbs, and planting fruit trees, to providing allotment space in residential developments. 

Roofs, balconies and walls all offer opportunities for growing produce and landscaping can feature edible plants and fruit bushes rather than ornamental trees and shrubs.

Since it was adopted in 2011, the Food Growing PAN has resulted in a huge increase in the number of applications incorporating food growing as part of development proposals. Numbers of approved applications proposing food growing have soared from 1% to 38%.

The plan has already been put to good use in projects across the city and residents will soon be reaping the benefits.

A community orchard has been incorporated at The Keep - Brighton’s new historic archive centre at Woollards Field. The council worked closely with East Sussex County Council to secure land management agreements, and with two community organisations - Moulsecoomb Forest Garden and Brighton Permaculture Trust to manage the project. The orchard was planted in December.

Students will be involved in the care of the orchard and are already planning events such as ‘Apple Days.’

Earlier this year the council also approved plans to develop student residential halls at the former Co-op Department store in London Road - plans which include an offsite community garden.

Jason Kitcat, Brighton & Hove City Council Leader, said: “Since it was adopted, PAN has resulted in a huge increase in the number of development projects coming forward that include food growing. 

“Food growing helps reduce the city’s carbon footprint and producing food on our doorstep has the potential to result in a massive reduction in food miles. Growing food locally increases biodiversity, creates a greener urban landscape and really can promote a greater sense of well-being.”

Vic Borrill, Director, Brighton & Hove Food Partnership added: ‘Who would have thought that planning guidance could taste good! The PAN is an innovative way for the planning process to support urban food growing from edible landscapes, to mini allotments and orchards. I hope that other places follow the city’s lead in adopting planning guidance like this.

Last year, the scheme won a Regional RTPI Award for Innovative use of the planning process,  went on to be shortlisted for the National Royal Town Planning Awards for Planning Excellence and was recently given an Honourable Mention UN Climate Convention Warsaw 2013.

The project was also selected as a finalist in the ‘innovation’ category of the ‘Construction Excellence’ awards - from SECBE.

Notes for editors

* Food matters is a not-for-profit national food policy and advocacy organisation working to create sustainable and fair food systems.

They have been instrumental in developing the City Food Strategy and the Brighton & Hove Food Partnership.