green and red plant
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Challenging times call for radical policies. It is probably the most challenging time that many of us have experienced. Few of us have experienced rising energy prices, rising food prices, and wages falling to keep up with inflation all at the same time. Be under no illusion, Incredible Edible’s vision of a Citizens Right to Grow is a radical one.

For many years, demand for allotments has outstripped supply. Yet we are not short of land fit to grow food close to people’s homes, indeed, we are surrounded by land owned by the public sector which could be repurposed to better nurture our communities. The Incredible Edible model has shown what can be done when you give power to people to shape their communities, they create more sociable and more connected places.

And after the summer we have just had, greening cities is part of what we need to do to mitigate the effects of climate change, cooling urban areas in the summer, reducing pollution all year round, and encouraging wildlife to flourish.

There’s a missing piece to the jigsaw though. Communities don’t have a right to grow on public sector land. Incredible Edible is proposing is a new law which would allow people to transform those plots of land which could be permanently, or even just for a few years, made available for growing. It is an idea whose time has come.

This new law would create a legal duty on councils to publish a list of land held by all public authorities which is suitable for community cultivation or environmental enhancement. The most forward-looking councils are already mapping their green spaces.

It would create a right to cultivate land on the list through a certificate of lawful use. The community can apply for this certificate at any time and once issued by the local authority they can cultivate the land for the agreed period. There would be no change in the ownership of the land and no rental charge would be applied.

Communities would be able to nominate land for the list if they felt the council had missed an important asset. Public authorities would be able to refuse to include public sector land if they can show it is going to be used to for other public interest objectives.

No-one is suggesting that the proposed new law is a complete answer to climate change or to food insecurity or to any of the other profound challenges that we face. But I firmly believe that it’s part of the solution – Co-op Party members can find out more about the proposed new right at the Party’s Conference in October.