A report issued this month by the London Assembly (Cultivating the Capital: Food growing and the planning system in London) suggests that London could significantly increase its food production, particularly on underutilized agricultural land in the city’s Green Belt, if current planning obstacles were lifted. The report calls on Mayor Boris Johnson to make the following key changes to the London Plan, and local planning policies, to encourage the growth of urban food production:
— Ensure that London’s Green Belt Policy explicitly encourages food growing as one of the most beneficial land uses in the Green Belt. Research by the Assembly found that commercial farmers faced pressure from housing development and were often hindered in their efforts to expand their farming infrastructure or to diversify through the construction of on-farm retail facilities by planning policies designed to minimize development in the Green Belt.
— Require boroughs to give added weight to urban agriculture in their Local Development Framework plans.
— Direct the Metropolitan Police Service to examine annual data on farm related crimes by ward and borough in London with a focus on the Green Belt, and appoint a farm crime officer for London if there is evidence that urban farms suffer disproportionate losses from crime. Urban farms in the UK lose an estimated 15% more to crimes than rural counterparts.
— Adopt a proposed policy that supports street and farmers markets in public spaces. London’s Town Centre supplementary planning guidance document should include detailed guidance on how to build farmers markets and other forms of local food distribution networks into planning and development projects.
— Encourage through the London Plan the temporary use of vacant public and private land for urban agriculture (and push the Boroughs to include similar policies in their Local Development Frameworks). This should include spaces for growing food in housing developments, on rooftops, and in other non-traditional growing spaces.
— Amend the draft London Plan Policy on contaminated land (i.e., Brownfields) to include food growing in raised beds as a temporary alternative to soil remediation.
— Assess sites owned by the Greater London Authority for their potential to be used for short or long-term urban agriculture, including commercial and community growing opportunities, and encourage boroughs to produce the same kind of inventory for Council owned land and existing brownfield sites.
— Integrate urban agriculture into the city’s waste, water and energy policies.
— Ensure that the London Plan is consistent with and is more closely linked to the existing policies of the London Food Strategy.