Thursday, 21 October 2010

The Tenby Cottages Community Garden Group

Monday night (October 18th) saw the first meeting of the Tenby Cottages Community Garden Group, a community group based in Lozells who are planning on turning waste ground into a community growing space. The project was proposed by Friends of the Earth’s Tom Pointon, and has now been taken on by Sarah Royal of CSV Environment, and I was lucky enough to be in attendance for this first meeting.

The idea of the project is to convert an area of waste ground into a community grow site, where local residents can grow their own fruit and vegetables. The area chosen was once home to a set of cottages (the Tenby Cottages, of course), which were knocked down some years ago as part of a redevelopment scheme by the local council. As yet, however, nothing has been proposed for the site by the council, and thus Tom saw the opportunity to create something positive. Up until recently, the site, located just off Poplar Avenue in Lozells, has been the victim of fly tipping. However, work has been conducted in the past few months by CSV Environment, and the site has been flattened and covered in bark chippings ready to be transformed.

A grow site is an area of disused land (often in an area that attracts anti-social behaviour), which has been transformed to become a place where local residents are allocated a grow bed in which to grow their own food. It is different from an allotment because residents do not pay rent on the site, and everything grown must be for personal consumption. Each resident who holds a grow bed there is given a key to the site, so it is secure at all times. Projects such as this already exist across Birmingham, namely the GEML Project (Grow It, Eat It, Move It, Live It) which has had great success in Ladywood, and the Concrete to Coriander Project.

The meeting was largely an introductory session, allowing local residents to come and voice their opinions on the running of the site to Sarah Royal and Cynthia Cupido, who works for Birmingham City Council Housing. The originally proposed plans had 30 grow beds, measuring 1 metre by 2 metres, laid out in a fairly uniform pattern. However, residents seemed to prefer the idea of less beds and more space for benches to make the site more sociable. There was even talk of a barbeque area being built so residents would be able to eat their produce on site! Also on the site there will be composting bins, where locals will be able to bring their organic waste, as well as a shed in which to keep communal tools.

So what’s next? Once the residents have decided on the layout of the site, CSV Environment will get to work on making the raised grow beds for the site. The council will be investigating whether or not they are able to get a water supply to the site, to prevent any inevitable injuries caused by lugging huge tanks of water back and forth from home! It is then up to the residents to organise themselves into a constitution community group. This will give them access to funding which otherwise would not be available, particularly from “Awards for All”. Despite there not being a huge turnout for the first meeting, the residents who did attend were all enthusiastic about the project, and were keen to get more people involved. There was also talk of trying to get the local schools involved. If a local school was allocated one or two beds, the children there would be able to learn how to grow their own food, and the importance of doing so. It would also be beneficial to get local shopkeepers and businesses on board, as well as local councillors, to support the project.

I was very impressed with the enthusiasm of everyone involved at the meeting.
Sarah in particular was very passionate about getting the site up and running. I think grow sites are a great way of transforming a local eyesore into something which the community can be proud of and ultimately benefit from. Hopefully everything at the Tenby Cottages site will be ready by March next year, just in time for the new growing season! Keep your eyes peeled for pictures in the coming months as the site starts to take shape.

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