A community garden manifesto launched last month has attracted over 50 signatures from growers across the borough – and Hackney Council has offered to meet with the organisers to discuss a way forward.
Gardening groups Cordwainers Grow, Dalston Curve and Daubeney Fields Forever unveiled their six-point plan to protect community spaces from development at an event in Dalston on 28 July.
The manifesto includes pledges to map all of Hackney’s community gardens, help set up new ones, and lobby both the council and the Greater London Authority to designate them as protected spaces.
Speaking after the launch, Cordwainers Grow’s Kate Poland said: “It’s wonderful to see the great enthusiasm and support people have for looking after Hackney’s beautiful (and sometimes not so beautiful) green spaces.
“We hope that this is the start of a journey to promote, protect and connect community gardens and other green spaces around Hackney.
“We’d love more people to enjoy the benefits, as we do, of being in nature, which means that the good that they do for people and the environment needs to be recognised by the council and developers – as well as residents – and kept safe for the future.”
The group has set up a petition on its website for anyone who did not have a chance to sign up in person at the launch.
A Town Hall spokesperson said: “The council has not had the opportunity to see this manifesto but would welcome a meeting to discuss it in more detail and work to safeguard green spaces for local people.”
They added: “The council has for many years championed the importance of, and protected, green and open spaces in Hackney and intends to do so into the future.”
The Town Hall agrees with the manifesto organisers that these spaces “bring huge health and social benefits to our communities”.
The spokesperson says the council’s new draft Local Plan (LP33) seeks to protect all designated open spaces in the borough – and confirmed that the popular Dalston Eastern Curve Garden will be safeguarded as such.
For gardens that are not designated as open spaces, such as Daubeney, the Town Hall says it will try to provide alternative sites.
Daubeney Community Garden was created on council land loaned temporarily to local residents, and the Town Hall, trying to tackle a 13,000-strong waiting list for housing, recently approved plans for 11 affordable homes on the site.
The council has earmarked a plot on nearby Redwald Road as a permanent site for the garden, but the move has not been enough to satisfy campaigners, who are currently considering legal action over the decision.
Responding to the council’s offer of a meeting, Poland said: “We are pleased that Hackney Council recognises how community gardens and green spaces benefit communities and welcome its warm response to our manifesto.
“Hackney’s soaring population is putting enormous pressure on the borough’s open spaces. The council is identifying more sites for development and the borough’s community gardens and green spaces will remain vulnerable unless they are protected.
“We welcome the council’s commitments to protect the Dalston Eastern Curve Garden and provide alternative facilities for temporary community gardens. But more needs to be done.”
She said national planning policy allows communities to identify places that are important to them because of their tranquility, beauty, wildlife or other qualities, and local authorities can then designate them as green spaces to protect them from development.
Poland added: “We will make a map of Hackney’s community gardens and an audit of what they can offer residents and talk with the council about how they can get the support, security and sustainability they need.
“We will work with gardening and community groups to identify open spaces of significance to local communities. And we will lobby for those special places to be designated as protected green spaces when the new Local Plan is put out for consultation.
“We also think that it’s important that by signing the manifesto, community gardens and green spaces will have a louder and more respected voice in the borough.”