Shropshire Star

Dig For Victory-style food-growing scheme receives backing amid soaring prices

A grow your own food campaign has been backed as prices soar amid the cost of living crisis.

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Councillors voted unanimously in favour of a motion calling for small plots of land to be made available for community food growing at a Shropshire Council meeting.

The proposal resembles the Second World War campaign by the British Ministry of Agriculture, when men and women across the country were encouraged to grow their own food in times of harsh rationing.

Councillor Rosemary Dartnall put forward the motion. She said: “Shropshire communities face a perfect storm of escalating prices for food, for energy just as the evidence for the climate crisis is unfolding before our eyes. This motion requests the council to make available small plots of public land for community food growing.

“This initiative seeks to help Shropshire neighbourhoods become more sustainable and increase resilience by making it easier for community groups to grow more food for local people on underused, or unused, public land, on plots as small as four to five sq m. Even contaminated land could be used for composting or bee-keeping.

“Under current rules, it can be complex and costly to access such land – for example, residents can request to take on responsibility for sections of road margin but this includes provision of public liability insurance and includes the obligation for costly tree and hedge management, if any are present.

"However, there are great examples of groups that have pushed on with community growing despite the challenges, such as the Street Allotment Project in Shrewsbury, Incredible Edible groups in Ludlow and Wem and Bridgnorth Community Garden Project, and this shows what can be achieved.

"The Shropshire Good Food Partnership is set up to support communities across the county to access the skills and resources they need to get started and sustain community growing activities. However, more small lots are needed to take this excellent initiative forward and get more fresh food to more Shropshire people.

“The Right to Grow Food will help communities help themselves in really difficult times. Successful projects have potential for even more benefits than nourishment.

“Through common purpose, improved mental and physical health, reduced loneliness and isolation and more connected and supportive communities can be achieved and this comes with economic benefits far beyond helping out with shopping bills. This is linked to a national initiative on the Right to Grow Food with a proposed Community Food and Land Bill at Westminster.”

The council resolved to expand the group that considers Community Asset Transfer requests to receive Expressions Of Interest from town and parish councils on behalf of their residents and/or local community groups who have identified small parcels of land suitable for food cultivation.

If the identified land is deemed to be appropriate, and is supported by local people within the parish/town council area for the purpose of food production, a license to operate on the land covering insurance, risk, ground investigation surveys, tree impact assessment, will be negotiated on a case by case basis with the town or parish council.