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Food growing 'essential' for healthy communities

Words: Helen Bird
Vegetable patch

A report aiming to encourage planning authorities to use food growing as a way to build healthy communities has been published.

Planning sustainable cities for community food growing was released yesterday (24 April) by Sustain, the alliance for better food and farming.
It is designed as a guide to using planning policy to meet strategic objectives through community food growing.
The guide brings together examples of planning policies around the UK that support community food growing and of inspiring local community gardens.
It is aimed primarily at planning authorities to help them use food growing as a means of improving people's health and mental wellbeing, transforming derelict sites and creating green spaces for people and wildlife to thrive.
It follows the government's recent Planning Practice Guidance for the National Planning Policy Framework in England, which requires planners to support the provision of space for food growing as part of building a healthy community.
Dr Hugh Ellis of the Town and Country Planning Association, who wrote the foreword for the report, said: "Truly sustainable development can deliver multiple benefits, such as social housing, zero carbon design, sustainable transport and local food sourcing, and this report puts community food growing into this mix, showing how more planning authorities could easily be following suit and making this standard practice in their plan making and decision taking."
The report highlights the range of strategic objectives that community food growing contributes to, using examples of planning policies and decisions and projects to illustrate how more food growing spaces could be provided.
Sustain's Gillian Morgan, author of the report, said: "Local planning authorities implementing the government’s Planning Practice Guidance can use their planning powers to protect existing community food growing spaces, and encourage the creation of new ones, as an essential contribution to community health.

"This report will not only be useful to planning professionals, but also to those groups who want to work with the planning system to integrate community food growing into existing and future policies."

The report's recommendations for planners include the adoption of a strategic policy that supports food growing, to protect existing community food growing spaces and to provide new ones.
It also highlights that planners should influence provision of food growing space in new developments by setting targets for the amount of space to be provided.
Brighton and Hove is used as an example of how pioneering planning guidance has resulted in over a third of new developments now incorporating community food growing.