In recent years there has been an increased interest in community growing. This has been, in part, triggered by the increasing cost of fruit and vegetables in supermarkets, concerns over 'food miles' and packaging, and the recognition that food growing spaces encourage physical activity and promote healthy eating. These and other notable drivers have meant that demand for land for food growing and horticultural activities has outstripped traditional sources of supply in recent years.
Extensive research by the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens (FCFCG) discovered widespread goodwill from landowners to turn unused land over for cultivation. It also revealed enthusiasm from local communities to find land, not just for food growing, but also for positive purposes such as therapy, education and creating havens for wildlife. Nevertheless, it was found that landowners were often cautious about letting community groups use their land and community groups often lacked technical skills and expertise to negotiate with landowners (e.g. around leases and other issues, including planning).
The initial research stage identified the need for a trusted intermediary to broker acceptable tenure terms and conditions between landowners and community gardening groups. With this in mind, the Community Land Advisory Service (CLAS) was established. CLAS aims to facilitate access to underused land for use by community gardening groups. It provides an online information resource via its website, as well as hands on technical help with issues such as lease agreements, planning applications and working with contaminated land.
On a strategic level, CLAS also collaborates with stakeholder organisations to influence policy and legislation.
Increased access to community land: More land will be made available for people to use and enjoy, for growing, relaxing, learning, encouraging wildlife, and community activities
Better health and well-being: From the physical labour involved in cultivation, healthier eating and improved diets from fresh, seasonal produce, and the convivial, inclusive, therapeutic community spirit that pervades the community growing sites
Stronger communities: Supports community groups to gain skills and self-confidence for engaging with landowners and the planning process. This often leads to other projects which can enrich the local community.
Barriers overcome: Creates opportunities for, and increases trust between, landowners and local community groups so they can work together on a mutually beneficial projects. A significant number of CLAS clients have struggled for months or years to achieve access to land prior to making progress with CLAS advice.
"CLAS has given us impartial technical advice and support which has allowed us to progress with issues concerning access to land."
Ewan Young, Community Development Officer, Ullapool Development Trust
"CLAS provides invaluable strategic and tactical advice for communities and landowners."
Linda Gillespie, Project Manager, Community Ownership Support Services
CLAS emerged from CSGN funded research conducted in Scotland in 2010. It reflects the CSGN's desire to promote community growing initiatives and to increase the available growing space across Central Scotland. Without funding from the CSGN the specifically Scottish issues facing landowners and community groups would not have been addressed.
The research for this project highlighted similarities between the work of the Development Trusts Association Scotland (DTAS) on Promoting Asset Transfer and the proposed work of the CLAS. Therefore, both organisations decided it would be sensible to work together to avoid duplication and to benefit from each other's expertise.
CLAS is continuing to develop its online information service. Recent additions to this resource have including a sample lease agreement and a guide for landowners on offering land for community use. CLAS is also contributing to current policy discussions around planning reform and the Community Empowerment and Renewal Bill.
|2010||CSGN Development Fund||13,050|