Hounslow launches UK’s first policy to transform unused land to grow food and educate urban children on healthy living amid cost-of-living crisis

Hounslow Council today launched Grow for the Future – a first-of-its-kind policy to turn unused and unloved land across the borough into new allotment sites, community gardens, and orchards

Published: Wednesday, 16th November 2022

Cllr Salman Shaheen and Children from Green Dragon Primary at Watermans Park.

The announcement comes as people across the UK feel the harsh effects of the cost-of-living crisis. Hounslow’s new policy will enable local communities to grow food, as well as teaching urban children about healthy living.

The up to 27-acres of land identified in the first phase alone – much of which is currently inaccessible – will help tackle the enormous demand from Hounslow residents for allotments and growing spaces since the pandemic, allowing residents to cultivate their own fresh produce in the face of rocketing food costs.

For the first time ever in the UK, the Council will look to pair each new site with a local school and dedicate a portion of it to teach urban children in often deprived areas about where their food comes from, the importance of good nutrition, and how to live healthy lives.

The food grown by the schools can be donated to support children who are going hungry at a time when the cost of food is soaring, and over 100,000 children in England may be missing out on free school meals.

The initial phase of Grow for the Future will look at unused council-owned land, but subsequent phases will assess unused and inaccessible private land that could be leased or purchased by the Council and opened up to the public and schools as community spaces. 

The Council also plans to work with voluntary organisations in the community as part of plans to increase engagement with young people, and increase volunteering hours. Schools will be supported to upkeep their plots, and teachers helped to instruct kids on cultivating the land.

Cllr Salman Shaheen, Cabinet Member for Parking, Parks & Leisure on Hounslow Council, said:

“It is a scandal that in 21st century Britain, children are going to school hungry and families are forced to choose between heating and eating.

“Grow for the Future will provide hundreds of new growing spaces for Hounslow’s residents to put food on their plates. Land once going to waste will be repurposed to educate children on leading healthy lives and how to grow nutritious fruit and veg. And what our schools grow, they can donate to feed vulnerable children missing out on free school meals as the cost-of-living crisis bites. 

“I hope councils across Britain’s cities can look at similar opportunities to open up green space. I want to give everyone in urban environments, young and old, so often disconnected from nature, the opportunity to cultivate land they can all their own and understand where our food comes from. To learn, and grow, for their future.”

Hounslow has one of the largest portfolios of allotments in London with a total of around 1,950 plots. However, demand continues to outstrip supply, especially in the wake of the pandemic with an explosion of interest in healthy, sustainable living. Demand is particularly high among the many residents in flats who lack gardens and with the large number of new flat developments going up in the borough this is expected to increase. There are currently 952 residents on Hounslow Council’s allotments waiting list.

Grow for the Future will be used to offer residents and school children land to call their own and cultivate to support their mental and physical health.

The new green spaces opened up by Grow for the Future will also help the Council achieve its proposal to plant 20,000 trees by 2026, meet its ambitions to build a borough that is 45% green, and support biodiversity.

To find out more about Hounslow Council’s allotment strategy, please visit the allotments webpage.

To enquire about allotments in Hounslow, or have any questions, please contact allotments@hounslow.gov.uk

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