Sandy’s Garden ... Dig in Falkirk

Sandy Simpson
Sandy Simpson

I was visiting the Falkirk Community Trust’s office in Falkirk Stadium buying tickets for Hippfest – the silent film festival in Bo’ness Hippodrome between March 20 and March 24.

While I was there, my eye caught a generously-sized book entitled ‘Dig in Falkirk: Falkirk Council’s Community Food Growing Strategy (2019-2024).’ I confess that I had never heard of such a strategy, took a copy of the 64-page book … it’s free … and offer no apology at all for dedicating most of this column to publicising this book and its raison d’etre. So let’s start there; why does Falkirk Council need a Community Food Growing Strategy?

Part 9 of the Community Empowerment (Scotland) Act 2015, I learn, updates legislation on the provision and management of allotments, requiring local authorities to take reasonable steps to provide allotments if waiting lists exceed certain trigger points and strengthens the protection for allotments, an allotment being defined as ‘land owned or leased by the Council; that is leased or intended for lease by a person from the Council area to be used mainly for the cultivation of vegetables, fruit, herbs or flowers.’ The Council must prepare a food growing strategy for its area, identifying land that may be used as allotments and identifying other areas the community could use for cultivation, publishing relevant data and maintaining proper records. That’s the reason for ‘Dig in Falkirk.’ And, because I find that the executive summary is by far the best way to obtain an overview of any official, here, gentle reader, is the Executive Summary for ‘Dig In Falkirk.’

“Community growing is for everyone so Falkirk Council wants to make sure that anyone wishing to grow their own fruit or vegetables can access a range of opportunities to do just that. This draft strategy explains how Falkirk Council, partner organisations, business and communities can work together to support community growing across the Council area. It identifies land that could be used for allotments or more informal community growing, explains the permissions groups must get and how they can go about obtaining these, how barriers can be overcome to get projects off the ground and the types of support available to both aspiring and experienced community growers. The strategy will be supported by a series of Action Plans for the main types of community growing. These will detail how the Council and its partners can help groups set up and develop their projects, highlight resources required to make this happen and explain how progress against actions will be monitored and reviewed. This consultation is your opportunity to give us your views about our approach to community growing across the Falkirk Council area.”

If you are interested, copies of the draft strategy are available online and in local libraries, One Stop Shops and Council buildings. The ‘hard’ copies include many maps which are not found in the online edition. Falkirk Council’s intention … and hope …is that interested local residents will read the document and tell the Council if the suggested sites are in the right places to encourage community growing and allotment projects; if there are other sites which should be promoted for community growing or allotments, where are these and why should these be considered; if the right priority actions and approach have been chosen to encourage and support more community growing; and if the services offered by specialist groups or organisations to help people get growing have been properly explained. Informed comments can be submitted until 13th May by e-mail to: communitygrowing@falkirk.gov.uk; by mail to: Planning & Environment, Abbotsford House, David’s Loan, Falkirk, FK2 7YZ; or online at: www.falkirk.gov.uk/growing. End of Council message; now it’s over to you!