January 1, 2010

Creating Greenspaces on the NHS Lothian Estate

City of Edinburgh, Midlothian, West Lothian
Community Growing, Employment & Training, Vacant & Derelict Land
CSGN Development Fund
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Lead Partners:
Edinburgh Cyrenians
Scottish Natural Heritage, NHS Lothian, Forestry Commission Scotland
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In recent years there has been an increased interest in developing communal growing spaces such as allotments, community gardens and community orchards. These spaces provide a number of benefits for local communities. For example, they contribute to improved physical and mental health, they encourage healthy eating, and they support community cohesion.

Project background

NHS Lothian embraces a holistic approach to health promotion which recognises the long term benefits of community gardening to health and wellbeing. Edinburgh Cyrenians shares this view, and in 2010, these organisations formed a steering group to explore opportunities for the establishment of community gardens on NHS land.

How the project was delivered

Edinburgh Cyrenians engaged a landscape architect to evaluate seven sites and GIS mapping was used to identify the areas with the greatest social need. Negotiations were held with key stakeholders and community consultation events were used to measured public support for the project.

A site adjacent to the Royal Edinburgh Hospital was selected as the location for the first community garden, and a Development Partnership Group was created to encourage community groups, hospital patients and staff, and volunteers to participate in the design and development of the site.

Between January 2010 and June 2011, 50 regular volunteers contributed almost 10,000 volunteer hours to the project. They cleared weeds from the site, constructed raised beds and planted trees, thus transforming the site from an overgrown wasteland into a thriving community garden. The development of the land was undertaken with the existing fauna and flora in mind, and organic and permaculture methodologies were employed where possible.

The Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens are open three days a week and feature woodlands, communal vegetable plots and a community orchard. The site has also been developed as a hub for learning and personal development, and workshops delivered on the site have included tree and plant identification, fruit tree planting, soil enrichment training, green woodworking, and an introduction to permaculture.

In 2011, Edinburgh Cyrenians commissioned a landscape architect to develop plans for a second community garden at Midlothian Community Hospital. This new garden was designed to be accessible to wheelchair users and people with limited mobility. For example, the raised beds were placed on hardstanding and set at three different heights so as to allow access for people with a variety of mobility barriers. The main path was designed be 1.5m wide and three passing spaces were created to facilitate access for wheelchair users. Three benches were also located along the path to allow people to take rest breaks and the path was designed in a figure eight configuration suitable for people with Alzheimer's and dementia.

Project outcomes

This project facilitates social inclusion. It provides a shared greenspace where people with mental health issues, people living with disability, and those living in poverty can enjoy and learn about nature.

The fruit and vegetable plots at the community gardens increase access to locally grown food and support good dietary health. The project also promotes active lifestyles by encouraging people to participate in gardening projects.

Volunteers are given the opportunity to learn new skills and the training opportunities provided enabled participants to gain the confidence and work experience necessary to secure employment in today's ultra-competitive labour market.

Quotes from participants and beneficiaries

"I am delighted with the use of NHS Lothian land for community gardens as an important part of health promotion."

Dr Charles Winstanley, Chair, NHS Lothian

"Receiving CSGN development funding has really helped move this project forward. We used it not only to start developing the second NHS community garden, but also to identify other NHS sites where the RECG model could be used to great effect."

Hillary Vipond, RECG Development Officer, Edinburgh Cyrenians

"We are glad to support this project. Volunteering is a well-known way of contributing to the local community but perhaps less well-known is the benefit people themselves get out of doing it. Improving your own health, both physical and mental, meeting new friends, enjoying nature and being out doors are just some of the benefits of joining a project like this."

John O'Keefe, Scottish Natural Heritage


Highly Commended, Best Community Woodlands Category, Scotland’s Finest Woods Awards 2011

CSGN Support and Learning

Supported by the CSGN Development Fund, this project has delivered safe, accessible and well-run greenspaces for community use. The Royal Edinburgh Community Gardens are financially self-sufficient and provided a transferrable model that can be applied to other NHS Lothian projects and beyond.

Future development of project

In 2012, Edinburgh Cyrenians secured funding to create a third community garden at St John’s Hospital in West Lothian. Access to the site has been discussed with NHS Estates and design work has been commissioned. Edinburgh Cyrenians is now seeking planning permission for the construction of site infrastructure and, once this has been approved, the plans will go out to the community for consultation.

Edinburgh Cyrenians is also supporting local community groups as they work to develop two further NHS Lothian Community Gardens in Haddington and Dunbar. Staff have provided advice on costs and the types of material required, as well as information about available funding streams.

Funding Details:

Year Fund Value
2010 CSGN Development Fund 39,743
2011 CSGN Development Fund 24,120
2012 CSGN Development Fund 61,000

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