Cllrs Lambert and Shaheen with children from Green Dragon School. It is hoped plots could be used in lessons about biodiversity and healthy eating
Acres of inaccessible land in the borough of Hounslow could be transformed into spaces to grow food to help families fight the cost-of-living crisis. The new council scheme will allow more residents to grow their own food, as well as encourage local schools to incorporate it into lessons.
The council has identified 27 acres of unused council land, most of which is inaccessible, across 18 different sites in the borough. On Tuesday, 15 November, councillors approved plans which will turn all the land into public growing spaces, whether that be allotments, orchards or community gardens.
The plans are the first of their kind in London, and it is hoped that schools will be linked with new growing spaces. Councillor Salman Shaheen, Cabinet Member for Parking, Parks & Leisure, said, “I want it to teach urban kids about healthy living, about where their food comes from, about biodiversity, about wildlife, and about reconnecting them with nature.
“Up to 100,000 children are missing out on free school meals in this country, there are hundreds of kids coming to school with mouldy bread or nothing at all. It is a scandal that in 21st-century Britain, children are going to school hungry and families are forced to choose between heating and eating.
“These kinds of projects could be used to support those kids in our borough. What our schools grow, they can donate to feed vulnerable children missing out on free school meals as the cost-of-living crisis bites.”
The 27 acres will create around 500 growing spaces, with the first expected to be open next summer once funding is secured. Councillor Shaheen told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that he expects each site to cost around £20,000 to create.
Councillor Lily Bath, Cabinet Member for Children, Learning & Employment, said that more schools are coming to the council with issues facing their pupils: “Hounslow is not that different from what is happening nationally, there is a huge amount of pressure on families right now. We are hearing from schools more and more that families are really struggling, kids are coming to school hungry or perhaps they just haven’t eaten properly.
“With free school meals, the eligibility is quite tight so even if you’re on universal credit you’re not necessarily entitled to free school meals. There are families who are on universal credit, who are working, but are in work poverty but not entitled to free school meals. If that eligibility was increased we would have a lot more families get free school meals.”
The ‘Growing for the Future’ project is part of a plan to make 45% of the borough green. This includes plans to plant 20,000 trees by 2026 and introduce rewilding projects.
Councillor Katherine Dunne, Deputy Leader of the Council, said, “It’s incredibly ambitious and really exciting to think we are increasing the amount of green infrastructure in our borough. It is about improving our borough and making it a much better place for people to live and enjoy, at the same time as doing our bit for the environment.”
It is hoped these new growing spaces will help tackle the waiting list for allotment space in the borough. There are currently 1,950 allotment plots in Hounslow, with 952 people waiting for a space to become available.
Megan Stanley - Local Democracy Reporter
November 18, 2022