Food4Hull, the local food network, has an aim to increase access to sustainable, local food and reduce food miles.
Making Hull a food city
Project partners Food4Hull are thrilled at their success in getting food issues on the agenda in the new local plan for Hull. Back in 2014, Food4Hull responded to the consultation on Issues and Options for the future of the area & pointed out how local food growing contributes to the future vision for Hull especially as health is a key priority. Late in 2015 when the first draft plan was published they were disappointed no policies specifically mentioned food growing. They submitted a robust response and in June 2016, the (almost) final draft contained a whole new section on local food growing. By December 2016, the policies and text had been further edited and they could see the results of their efforts in getting food on the planning radar. http://www.hull.gov.uk/
The city is the third most deprived local authority area. Residents typically suffer from poorer health and lower levels of educational attainment than the national averages. So once the relevance of planning for food growing had been pointed out, the Council was amenable to using its planning powers to address this issue.
Food4Hull’s involvement in the emerging plan has enabled them to raise local food growing at an early stage of plan making to ensure it would be featured in the detail of the plan. Getting involved in plan making has needed a lot of patience. It took 3 years from the first consultation to the sight of the final draft plan. Now local organisations have a firm policy footing to raise awareness of the food system in Hull.
Hull Local Plan Timeline
May/June 2014 Issues & Options
The Issues and Options document published for consultation was a series of questions including a specific question on community food growing.
“Where do you think land could be best used for a community growing scheme?”
Food4Hull thought this was taking a very narrow view of food growing. The relationship of growing food & health is not just the eating of the food but the contribution of community greenspace projects to mental health & wellbeing - this seemed to be missing.
Food4Hull submitted a detailed response to the consultation looking at the wider benefits of growing food and in particular how the Council was missing an opportunity to address health inequalities. Promotion of local food could also address the council’s climate change priorities (reducing food miles, reducing urban heat island, increasing permeability of urban land).
The consultation also asked questions about housing.
Food 4 Hull suggested all new developments should have well-designed, usable open spaces that connect to the wider network of green infrastructure and provide space for residents to grow food close to where they live – this is not necessarily dedicated land for allotments but for community gardens embedded into the design of new communities.
The council has been very open and has published its own responses to the comments made by consultees. So Food4Hull could see who else was in agreement with them (& if anyone disagreed). This helps organisations to form alliances should the next draft of the plan not look good.
October/Nov 2015 Preferred Options
This consultation gave Food4Hull their first sight of proposed policies.
“Promoting healthy communities” had been given its own chapter raising its status as a topic to be addressed in planning.
The National Planning Policy Framework was quoted specifically, improving access to healthy food and reducing obesity. A paragraph then went on to cover access to affordable fresh food as an important consideration for planning, as it affects people’s ability to regularly make healthier lifestyle choices and eat well. The Council stated “In addition to encouraging community growing schemes, local plan policy can ensure all areas of Hull do not become 'food deserts'.”
This was all sounding great until Food4Hull looked for the planning policies that would make this happen and realised these well meaning aspirations were not followed through into policy. No policies specifically mentioned food growing.
They then went through all the policies chapter by chapter pointing out relevance of community food growing. “We even wrote a draft policy to save the council the trouble. This policy would have required new development to provide space suitable for food growing, encouraged temporary spaces and would protect existing spaces.”
Food4Hull shared their response with like minded organisations before the deadline.
In October 2015, the Report on Consultation on the Preferred Options informed that a new policy that supports using land for local food growing purposes would be added. And it was clear that other organisations also supported the inclusion of food and health.
July/Sept 2016 Publication Consultation Document
The Council added a new section on Local Food Growing and Policy 46 which supports space for local food growing as part of the design for new development.
The section on green infrastructure says all development proposals should consider how they can incorporate green features within their design and this includes allotments/community growing projects.
Unfortunately, the section on health was edited down, losing the references to food poverty.
December 2016 The Local Plan was submitted to the Planning Inspectorate
No further changes of relevance to food were made and there are no challenges to the local food growing policy, so it seems likely the policy would go through.
March - October 2017 Examination
The Inspector opened the public hearings into the plan in March 2017 and in October 2017 the inspector sent his report to the council with recommendations on modifications that should be made.
The Hull Local Plan 2016 to 2032 was adopted on the 23rd November 2017
The new policy
Local food growing
12.45 Giving people the opportunity to grow their own food offers multiple benefits, particularly to public health. It encourages healthy eating and physical activity; addresses food poverty; educates people about food production and thereby reduces food waste; and it fosters greater community cohesion by encouraging people to work together outdoors. The Council and other private providers offer a number of allotment sites across the city. These are popular, and there are waiting lists on many of the sites.
12.46 As an alternative to traditional allotments, community groups and organisations have sought out a number of vacant sites suitable for community growing projects, and the Council has been supportive of these. The Council will continue to support such schemes from a planning point of view, so long as they do not undermine other Local Plan objectives or land use priorities. Sites that have been allocated for development often remain vacant for a number of years, and it may be appropriate to permit community food growing on them in the interim. However, the temporary nature of any permission granted should be clearly understood by all parties, so that necessary development is not blocked at a later date.
12.47 Converting amenity green space and other open space types to food growing purposes may be acceptable so long as the land is demonstrated to be surplus to requirements using the criteria set out in Policy 42(3) Open Space Protection. Consideration should be given to the adopted set of open space standards, the local amenity value of the land, and the wider strategic value of the land.
12.48 In addition to requirements for on-site public open space (see Policy 42 and Table 12.5), developers may wish to incorporate opportunities for community food growing, or trees and plants that produce edible products, into the design of new development. These features may help make new developments more attractive as people seek out greener environments and more sustainable lifestyles. Such features will be encouraged where deemed appropriate.
Policy 46 Local food growing
1. The use of land and buildings as new allotments, orchards and for local food growing spaces and production will be supported, including the temporary use of vacant or derelict land or buildings and the use of amenity green space on housing estates and other open space areas, where this does not conflict with other policy objectives or land use priorities.
2. The incorporation of community gardens, allotments, orchards and innovative spaces for growing food, including green roofs, will be encouraged and supported in new development where possible and appropriate, particularly where there is demand for food growing space in the vicinity of the application site.
3. The inclusion of productive trees and plants in landscaping schemes will be encouraged where appropriate
Delight with the new section on Local Food Growing. Patience and watchfulness has paid off.
Reservations: The Council does not think it appropriate to make community growing space a requirement. They believe that in order for these spaces to be a success they need to be driven by local demand, otherwise it is not clear who will be responsible for their upkeep. The future maintenance of community spaces is, indeed, a relevant consideration. However, communities find it easier to start such initiatives if suitable space for potential future use is identified as part of the integral design of the development.
The Council stated they could consider preparing some more Hull specific guidance if it is deemed necessary in the form of an Supplementary Planning Document and this is something that could pursued perhaps using Brighton Council’s planning advice note as a model.
It has been helpful to be able to see what other respondents are saying. Hull has been very transparent in reporting back on the results of consultation.