New guide to help community orchards blossom
By: Steve Ott
A new, simple 'how to' guide for communities wanting to start up, share or save their own community orchards that could help reverse the national decline in traditional orchards has been published by Communities and Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles.
The community orchards guide - part of a series of booklets being produced by Government in the coming months to cut out red tape and make it easier for people to get the information they need to get involved - brings together in one place practical advice and guidance for green fingered enthusiasts who want to make the most of green spaces in their area.
The guide outlines what new and existing support and powers are available for communities wanting to conserve or create community orchards. It provides links to expert organisations, information on where to go for funding and examples of communities across the country busy preparing to harvest their latest crop.
Ministers are also keen to see local authorities freeing up existing unused or under utilised land to communities. Successful community projects like the Todmorden Incredible Edible scheme have already shown how scrubland and verges too small to be used as allotments or open spaces can be 'greened up' by local people and transformed into growing space. Councils, by making land available, can help communities grow their own and improve sustainability whilst fostering a growing sense of community.
Eric Pickles, launching the new guide said:
"Community orchards are a brilliant way for communities to get together and grow their own. The powers we are putting in the hands of communities will make it easier to transform unloved corners of towns, cities and villages into thriving green spaces, help local people protect the orchards already there and access the land needed to establish new ones. Today's guide is about making all of that as simple and straightforward as possible and about giving a major boost to what is already a quiet revolution in promoting and preserving the nation's orchards."
The guide includes details of the new powers in the Localism Bill that will enshrine in law a package of powerful new rights for community and voluntary groups wanting to play a bigger role in their community or takeover and preserve local assets.
Under Right to Buy community groups will be first in line to bid for existing orchards or new green spaces if they come onto the market and will have the time they need to raise the necessary funds, whilst the Right to Challenge could see groups taking over the running of council owned green space used for community food growing. These major new powers sit alongside further reforms like the Community right to reclaim derelict land which could see fruit trees springing up on unloved, unused plots local plots and the new neighbourhood planning powers will give communities the means to protect existing orchards and identify new plots.
Sue Clifford, co-founder of charity Common Ground - an organisation championing community orchards - says:
"I very much welcome this guide. It will be an important tool to help people take the first steps towards reaping the benefits of creating a community orchard. Orchards offer local people the richness of playground and pleasure garden, meeting place and festive stage."
Information about successful community run orchards can be found here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/orchardscasestudies.
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