One of the issues we hear from groups is that they identify pieces of land and seek permission to utilise that land for the community, only to be refused as new development is happening.
Pressure on land is huge, as of course is the need for good, affordable housing and with that infrastructure to allow sustainable developments, but often it’s the spaces between the houses, the shops and the roads that are forgotten about and yet could be very valuable.
New developments tend to come with planting included at the front of houses and with grass at the back. Front gardens seem to have morphed into a parking space with a few small shrubs/grasses/perhaps a tree beside the parking space and the areas surrounding seem to often be surrounded by whips of what will become hedging if they survive. The whole thing tends to feel very much like amenity planting, not dissimilar to a supermarket carpark, and certainly is not personal or designed with anything other than amenity in mind. There’s often little thought for biodiversity, bringing nature into the development or the people who will live there and how they might come together as a community. Maintenance of communal areas is often forgotten about and any landscaping often feels like it was completed with virtually no budget and minimal thought. It’s as if developers are making developments, or what we used to know as estates, thinking no one is interested in the outdoor space or a space in which to meet with neighbours in order to create community.
Of course this is a challenge. Supporting new communities to come together is hard and when space and land are at a premium this kind of community led leadership on new developments is never going to be easy or straight forward. But it is worth commenting that in many new estates people buy houses and flats long before they are ready, or even before a foundation has been dug, so with some forward thinking and funding from the people leading the project, community assemblies could easily be brought together to make cooperative decisions about how the communal space is used. Whether wildlife corridors, orchards, spaces for growing, pollinator gardens, areas for seating, barbeques, firepits, or areas for play for both adults and children, or a mix of all the above, bringing a future community together to make decisions that will affect them for far longer than the builders are there, will start a process whereby community cooperative decision making becomes normal and sets a precedent for future decision making. Deciding on exciting things like outdoor space will create a community that will then find making decisions together easier, however difficult the subject, as trust is made, connections are made and people feel safe as part of a bigger group.
So how might this happen? Well perhaps we need to campaign for developers to have to look at their outside spaces and work to make them sustainable and planet friendly. And of course for real change to take place it would need legislation around the subject to ensure it happened as a part of the planning process. We’d love to think this would happen and edible landscape and Incredible Edible groups could be supported on all new developments!!