Bottom-up & top-down CPUL City Actions in Southwark, London
During London’s Covid-19 lockdown, it has been very evident how spaces immediately adjacent to homes started to be reclaimed and reused. As well as noticing people using the traditional deep window sills as places to sit, food growing has become evident. Taking a five-minute walk from our base in the London borough of Southwark, one is sure to come across new micro farms with tomatoes being particularly popular crops followed by courgettes and pumpkins!
Our CPUL City Actions – developed since 2010 and published, f.e., in the book Second Nature Urban Agriculture – advocate that bottom-up food-focused activities like these are most likely to succeed if supported by top-down activities to provide the guidance, encouragement and resources necessary to sustain individual initiatives. The extent to which this happens varies locally and depends on the activity type, but it is encouraging to see that, overall, simultanous “Up and Down” around food is becoming evident and seems to have increased since the beginning of Covid-19, especially in connection to food system thinking.
Within Southwark, the local authority hosts at least two webpages with helpful links to different local urban agriculture initiatives and more general nature conservation activities:
The Council’s Parks and open spaces website contains a dedicated link to “Gardening, growing and conservation” which describes those local projects and initiatives that make the borough part of a larger network of alternative urban space uses in relation to food. A more active page would, of course, be preferable…
The website Local offer ‘shows what’s available in the borough for children, young people and adults (aged 0-25) who have special educational needs and disabilities’. It hosts a page “Farms” with detailed information and links to the borough’s five urban farms.
In the post-pandemic future, a combination of rethinking wellbeing in more holistic terms and increased home working might provide a catalyst for local authorities to invest in more proactive strategies to incentivise micro home growing alongside higher-yielding commercial urban agriculture. To enable this will require a rethinking of how the return on land use is assessed and valued.
The London borough of Southwark’s webpage on “gardening, growing and conservation” can be found here.
The borough’s webpage on its “urban farms” can be found here.
For information on the CPUL City Actions see here.
Image: A “Covid-19 lockdown” micro rooftop farm in Southwark, South London (source: Bohn&Viljoen 2020)