Londoners are growing more food, in private gardens, on allotments, in community spaces, on rooftops, on urban and peri-urban farms, and even at Overground railway stations.
Capital Growth, the food growing network set up by the Mayor of London, has supported over 2,500 food growing spaces, which have produced 40 tonnes of food. Food growing is not just about fruit and veg. Some farms are now providing fish, chickens and eggs.
Last week, I visited Sutton Community Farm, near Wallington, which grows around 150 types of organic vegetables, including aubergines, onions, tomatoes, courgettes, and potatoes. After being harvested most of the produce goes into veg boxes to provide people with fresh food. Some of it is supplied to a small number of restaurants.
All of these small food growing projects are fantastic for London. We should all be eating more food that is fresh and that is grown locally.
Yet when you look at what’s happening in housing construction across London, the idea of owners or tenants being able to grow their own food doesn’t seem to be one the planners or architects have given much thought to. Everywhere I go I see blocks of flats springing up. For example, they are building hundreds of them at Nine Elms. Over 1,000 flats have been recently built around Jamaica Road in Bermondsey. Pack ‘em and stack ‘em seems to be the thinking.
What Capital Growth is doing is brilliant. But there needs to be more joined up thinking at City Hall when it comes to the kind of housing being built in London. If we want more Londoners to grow their own food, then they need to be provided with space at home to do it. This, like the lack of affordable housing in London, is an issue Sadiq Khan needs to tackle.