i10: Reclaim Abandoned Spaces for more Green Spaces

5 supporter (+ 2 potential)

Like every city, Hull has some abandoned spaces that could be reclaimed for public green spaces. Ian Shaw has recently turned an abandoned area in Harehills, Leeds into an urban farm growing vegetables for the local community. Ian has worked with a group of volunteers (9-17 years old) to build this urban farm from scratch (see here: https://www.leeds.ac.uk/main-index/news/article/4909/harvest-festival-at-inner-city-youth-farm). There are many such abandoned spaces across our city, which could be cleaned up and regenerated either for green spaces, creating new parks, urban woodlands, wildlife refugium or creating space for community urban farming such as the one mentioned above. A coordinated strategy and effort by the city council is needed.  

Rationale
Green Spaces are really important to our communities, they can serve as carbon sinks and air purifiers, help protect biodiversity, generate well-being and provide educational opportunities. Expanding green spaces can benefit the city by making use of (currently wasted) spaces to create a more liveable city. How an abandoned space should be used is context specific and should be ideally decided by both local authorities and local communities. Creating urban farms is great for health and educational benefits but would require greater commitment compared to creating new parks or rewilding.

Response to Suggestions:

  • Volunteers: This is an important point, particularly if abandoned spaces are used for urban farming. Ian managed to recruit young locals to volunteer, working together with local schools, so maybe that could be an approach? Also can you contact those on the waiting list and invite them to volunteer in a communal urban farm, pointing out the advantages over doing it on your own? Kevin also pointed out that sometimes a better solution could be community orchards as they need less volunteer time. 
  • Ownership: This has been raised twice, albeit in different contexts. It is true that often community allocated green space is later repurposed for housing development. I guess to prevent that it might be good to make the council commit that a certain share of area should be reserved for green spaces in the city and various city districts, so if a green space is then used for development a new, close-by green space needs to be made available or the development cannot go ahead. And it is important to get local communities involved and help them with advice to find the best solution for how to best utilise abandoned spaces. 
  • Rewilding/Biodiversity: It is also true that many "abandoned" spaces are actually already spaces where rewilding takes place, though that's not what I meant with abandoned. I rather meant spaces where rewilding cannot take place because they used to be building sites etc. Certainly some green spaces need to be reserved for rewilding and biodiversity conservation (native plants etc.)

Suggestions for improvement (5)

written and rated by the supportes of this initiative to improve the proposal and its reasons


Public land as community greenspace

collective rating: 
| implemented: 
Most underused urban greenspace owned by a local authority is designated as just that - greenspace - on their local plan. Yet this does not automatically protect it from develpment by that same local authority or anyoen else wishing to use the land for building on. When publci greenspace is notionally owned by a local community or group of residents their concerns are usually the last ot be considered. The use and 'ownership' of loca greenspace that becomes a communtiy greenspace is often uswed for the well being of the local residents and visitors. It is often, importantly, used for increasing biodiversity by being left for nature and managed with the lightest of touches. This then brings up the issue of how that greenspace is then perceived by the local authority and stakeholders. A piece of 'wasteland', as is now acknowledged, is often the site of great biodiversity and can fulfil numerouus roles - wildlife haven, aqua green, community play area, nature reserve, environmental action - yet it is still left as available for development and the residents and local population left bereft of their greenspace. Once these so called 'wastelands' are occupied and/or managed by local residents there should be an acknowledgement by their local authority that this is a valubale low cost resource for the citizens of that city. These urban greenspaces have multi functions that are inherently nature based solutions to bigger problems that exist in most urban areas.

Ownership issues

collective rating: 
| implemented: 
I think this is a great idea to get wasted land back into use for the community, but I wonder whether this might raise issues around ownership of the land/whether communities might need access to advice before embarking on any such initiative?

Orchards

collective rating: 
| implemented: 
I think community orchards require less volunteer care than gardens. I'm aware that there is land owned by the NHS that they have allowed the planting of fruit trees.

Gardens and Open Spaces Hull

collective rating: 
| implemented: 
As a founder member of Gardens and Open Spaces Hull, set up to do exactly what you've suggested, I wholeheartedly concur! And in all our discussions with councillors and members of the public, we have had 100% verbal support. We've even had offers of unused land to transform. But we are struggling to find people who want to do the actual work of establishing and caring for plots. GOSH was set up by a group of citizen/activists at the start of the pandemic. We were worried about food insecurity and poverty in our city, as well as the declining natural world around us. We are very committed, but like everyone else we have day jobs and families, etc. I would be really interested to hear how Ian in Leeds was able to recruit and retain the volunteers needed not only to sustain a community green space, but to ensure it thrives and inspires others. Most if not all the community allotments in Hull are desperate for volunteers, yet apparently we have a waiting list for people to have their own plots. How can we resolve this problem - any ideas?

Include rewilding

collective rating: 
| implemented: 
To expand this initiative to include rewilding sections of public green space and reintroduce native plants, reducing the amount of concrete in public areas/replacing with parks and plants. This would encourage biodiversity, but also provide more spaces that the community can use for wellbeing

Issue #10

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