Urban planning is about managing and developing urban areas in order to protect and best serve present and future generations. All planning issues deal with conflicting demands; it is the role of the planner to analyse and evaluate these demands and advise on the best options. Therefore, planners have to negotiate with diverse groups of people and to come up with solutions acceptable to all parties.
Most case studies about urban agriculture in the city show that the only way it can consolidate in cities is by generating profit and jobs. Therefore planning becomes key in making urban food growing spaces become part of the city’s food chain.
Sustain just published Good planning for good food : How the planning system in England can support healthy and sustainable food. This report explores how local authorities and communities can use planning policy and decisions to create more local and sustainable food systems. Click here to find out more and download the report
Key Elements in making Urban Agriculture work in city
Planning plays an important role in the creation and protection of growing spaces in urban areas. This task can prove difficult when planners have to work within existing planning systems and have to meet demands from several stakeholders.
USA: In the USA a zoning code is used to segregate different land uses, placing limitations on the specific type of development or activity that can occur. This system has been criticized for stripping property owners of their right to the free use of their land and for stifling creative development such as urban agriculture. A recent piece of legislation allows most types of agricultural activities in all parts of San Francisco. This could prove a precedent for future changes in legislation that would open up previously unavailable growing spaces. http://civileats.com/2011/04/14/san-francisco-passes-most-progressive-urban-agriculture-policy-in-u-s/
UK: A popular idea is that new urban development should include provision for new agricultural land, where there is demand for it. Plymouths’ green infrastructure delivery plan aims to establish a network of green and blue spaces that delivers natural services which provide a good quality of life for all. Part of this initiative includes the development of kitchen gardens in school grounds and more demonstration sites to both teach and spread knowledge of urban agriculture. More detail is available here.
USA: Urban planners can help create more sustainable food systems. By designing local land use policies based on data about the local food environment, they can ensure that communities have easy access to healthy food and local growers have a market to sell their produce. The American Planning Association has established a Food Interest Group (FIG) with the aim of actively engaging in food system planning at the local level. Visit http://www.planning.org/nationalcenters/health/food.htm for further information.
UK: London Food Link are promoting how important the availability of fresh food is in local development plans. Planning incentives such as rates holidays and congestion charge concessions are being suggested as ways to ensure that retailers selling fresh produce are easily accessible to locals. For more information go to http://www.sustainweb.org/news/response_to_the_london_plan/.
Germany: With the price of water expected to increase in the future, cheaper ways of securing this essential resource for urban agriculture are becoming more popular. Germany leads the way in Europe regarding rainwater harvesting. As well as incentives to install harvesting equipment a rain tax has also been put in place. Here taxes are collected relevant to the amount of impervious surface cover on a property that generates runoff directed to the local storm sewer.
Australia: In Australia legislation designed by a number of state Governments has taken active steps to ensure that new houses are designed and built with the latest water efficient designs and products. More information relating to both these countries policies are available from http://www.rainwaterharvesting.org/Policy/Legislation_international.htm
USA: In Colorado rainwater harvesting used to be illegal and seen as stealing from downstream water right users but there is now a movement towards the practice being encouraged. http://www.nytimes.com/2009/06/29/us/29rain.html
In LA there are plans for law to be passed requiring all local residents to participate in rainwater harvesting. http://www.waterconservationusa.org/articles/138-la-locals-may-be-required-to-harvest-rainwater.html.
UK: Recent figures suggest that a third of all food is thrown away. In the UK targets are in place to reduce the amount of biodegradable rubbish that reaches landfills to 35% of 1995 levels by 2020. Along with reducing the amount of food waste produced composting can play a key role in reaching this goal.
Community groups based in the UK wishing to take part in the small scale composting should register for the new T23 exemption by 1st October 2011. This will allow them to store or treat up to 80 tonnes of waste for composting at its place of production or 60 tonnes of waste being brought from other places. Find out more at http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Business/T23_exemption.pdf.
Those who wish to treat up to 6 tonnes of kitchen waste in a wormery must apply for a T26 exemption. http://www.environment-agency.gov.uk/static/documents/Business/T26_exemption.pdf.
USA: In the USA each state assumes the lead role in regulating composting facilities. For example, in Pennsylvania there is a focus on yard waste composting with backyard composting seminars being held to encourage the additional uptake. More information is available from http://www.portal.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/composting/14063/home/589525
Local government authorities are also making compost produced from collected yard waste available to local residents for free. This is becoming more of a wide scale practice with York County Council in the UK and Orange County landfill in Florida currently offering this service.
FAO- Food for Cities
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, based in Rome, leads international efforts to defeat hunger. Serving both developed and developing countries, FAO acts as a neutral forum where all nations meet as equals to negotiate agreements and debate policy. FAO is also a source of knowledge and information. They help developing countries and countries in transition modernize and improve agriculture, forestry and fisheries practices and ensure good nutrition for all.
As the world becomes increasingly urbanized, FAO has become more interested in how cities can feed themselves. Therefore they have created a network called “Food for Cities.” For more information on the Food for Cities network visit http://www.fao.org/fcit/fcit-home/en/
Book club: Urban Ecosystem Ecology
Local ecology is the key to making urban agriculture work. ‘Urban Ecosystem Ecology’ is a new book by the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America, and the Soil Science Society of America. It explores the condition of wildlife, vegetation and soil in urban settings. A review of the book can be found here
Urban Agriculture in Seattle
The local government in Seattle, Washington declared 2010 as “The Year of Urban Agriculture." This campaign was launched to raise urban agriculture opportunities in Seattle by acknowledging urban agriculture as a land use and changing planning policy to allow for urban agriculture to be practiced. You can find a full document of the changes proposed by Seattle’s Department of Planning and Development, events, list of organisations supporting urban agriculture and their unique P-Patch programme on the city’s website.
Vertical Farming? Views from Ben Reynolds
In our September issue we asked our readers this question: Are vertical farms a real sustainable means of local food production? Ben Reynolds, Network Director at Sustain- the alliance for better food and farming, published his opinion in the Fresh Produce Journal, excerpt below:
“Urban agriculture is a hot topic, in particular the notion of vertical farming. Whether it’s a wall of salads or a skyscraper full of livestock, the defining features are not so much the urban environment, but the technological aspects of the systems being explored. There’s something very appealing to the human psyche about fixing problems with technology, the thrill of invention and taking a step forward for humanity. But let’s start by asking why we need this?”
International Conference on Urban Harvest and Sustainability
Lisbon, Portugal - 7 - 8 April 2011
The International Conference on Urban Harvest and Sustainability is taking place in the Municipal Auditorium of Seixal, Cultural Forum, in Lisbon, Portugal. The conference will focus on public policy making and planning for urban agriculture, food security in cities, case studies will be shared as well as main threats to the practice of urban agriculture. Click for more information including the full program, costs and logistics.