Food Growers meet Scrutiny Councillors

Monday evening saw the final meeting (before spring elections) of the Living in Hackney Scrutiny Commission (an oversight body of the Council but lacking budgetary and policy decision making powers which are confined to Cabinet Members). Lack of political support for local food growing was indicated by the failure of Nargis Khan (Lab – cabinet member responsible for green space) to attend, as commented upon by chair Cllr Havey Odze (Con). Nevertheless local food growers were well represented by Growing Communities, Hackney Community Tree Nursery and Forest Garden, Hackney Allotments Society, Get Growing, Robin Hood Community Garden, Hackney City Farm, Somerford Grove Estate Gardening Club, Open Dalston/Eastern Curve and the Castle Climbing Centre. Also present were John Wade (LBH Head of Green Space) and Jackie Loftus (Hackney Homes), Cllrs Mischa Borris (Green Party), Cllr Kemp (Lab), Cllr Williams (Lab) and Sarah Williams from Capital Growth. Unfortunately the discussion was dominated by John Wade and Jackie Loftus singing their own praises and claiming credit for all this good, community voices were left to last. However it was remarkable to gather so many players in Hackney food growing in one pace and to hear how much is going on. Clearly interest in local food growing is huge and expanding in Hackney. Most initiatives are small scale and bottom up, a factor lost on Ms. Loftus and Mr. Wade. A disturbing fact made clear to the Commission was the very real threat to land used by the Tree Nursery and Growing Communities. Hackney Tree Nursery is threatened with loosing about 25% of its land because consultants employed by the Parks Dept failed to notice the large East London Community Recycling Project (ELCRP) facility on South Marsh. Now parks want to squeeze in more car parking so ELCRP have to move and the Tree Nursery is threatened. So too Growing Communities. Having temporarily lost 40% of their growing land to the Clissold Lottery rebuild parks now want to 'redevelop' their Springfield Park site and refuse to answer GC's concerns about their growing security. John Wades comments to the Commission offered no reassurance. Meanwhile Lordship North Estate's builder's bags food garden is threatened by a Hackney Homes demand for £3.5k for a tap! So despite grand words both Hackney Homes and the parks department are actively inhibiting and damaging local food growing. Hopefully Cllr Odze and his colleagues having taken note!

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