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Thursday, 8 January 2009

Politics of food growing in the city

From Cllr Kim Brom
Hi Simon, The Ward Committee is on Wednesday, 21 January, 2009 at 1930 hours, at Welford Primary School, Welford Road. Awaiting confirmation of attendance. Regards Kim
From Simon
Dear Cllr Brom. Since I can't be there, I wonder if it would be OK if on 21 January at the ward committee our ally from the Friends of the Earth had an opportunity to say a little about city-wide support for the VJA project? I am well aware that you and Cllr Hussain are as well acquainted as anyone and committed to resolving this issue, but it would be good to have a minute showing support from outside the ward. FoE plan to put something in their newsletter towards the end of Jan start of Feb 09. This is not about a speech ­ just an expression of support and possibly a query to Alan Orr. Can you ensure there’s a place on the 21 Jan agenda for this? Charles and Glynis told me they plan to ask questions about the VJA S106A that evening. I wish we could get Cliff Nixon from Persimmon Homes along too but I doubt that would be possible even though he doesn’t live so far away. Kindest regards, Simon. Handsworth Allotments Information Group (HAIG)
From Karen, Friends of the Earth, to me Subject: Re: Victoria Jubilee Allotments - date and place of next ward meeting:
Ferry has been booked for the 22nd - hooray - so I can attend on evening of 21st. Karen
Me to Karen:
That’s brilliant, Karen. We can perhaps chat by phone. I’m just going over some of the things about current government policy on allotments that I got from a meeting in London just before Christmas with my friend Richard Wiltshire – co-author of the Local Government Association’s report on Growing in the Community (with David Crouch and Joe Sempik) - and someone who’s followed the progress of our campaign re the VJA. One of the questions he asked me was what exactly were the design criteria for the new allotments. I had no idea beyond the 8o plots shown on the developer’s application map of April 2004. Richard said there were elements that we should press for, drawing on latest thinking about laying out allotments as well as matters like where’s the water supply and will there be concrete paths between rows of plots. Richard mentioned Longbarrow in Bournemouth as a model prize-winning site. I guess we ought to draw attention to such things, even though the greatest concern relates to Persimmon Homes intentions and capacity regarding the implementation of the S106A. My impression from Richard is that London is leading on releasing land for food growing with a number of initiatives based on the assumption that inner city land comes at high premium, that the government now acknowledges that there is not only demand, but that if it is to fulfil the 1908 Smallholders and Allotments Act 'requirement to provide' they are facing a loss of slack in the system – unprecedented since the second world war. Allotments are full up in many places especially in the capital, where waiting lists are growing. There's the Allotments Regeneration Initiative, but the government's policy of trying to get people into work could mean pushing policies that favour younger people’s employment at the expense of a growing population of old people. Someone has already coined the slogan 'vegetate or grow vegetables'. Urban food growing which, as you will know, is attracting many more younger people, is also seen as a part of policy relating to quality of life for an ageing population. Another more worrying element here is that the 1908 default dimension for plots (effectively 250 square metres) might be too large, The 1908 dimensions were supposed to feed a family – but average family sizes have halved in the last century, so.... That suggests one way to help solve problems of scarcity and I suspect some allotment sites have done this already. I’d like to know if Birmingham’s Big City Plan has any plans for allotments other than those that exist. In London Rosie Boycott is stumping for London Food. There's a policy initiative in London called Capital Growth ('2,012 new food growing spaces for London by 2012') focused on identifying new growing spaces for London which includes allotments (also city farms) but is also looking at the use of waste land and interestingly at domestic gardens – talking of short term leasing and other legal arrangements right through to compulsory purchase. Urgent terms like peak oil and the coming famine are circulating. Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy at City University (advising DEFRA) is pushing a policy in London of reduced food miles. The Greater London Authority has published a report on the waiting lists problem (scroll down to 'A lot to lose'). There is talk even in the city centre, where land prices are astronomic, for finding temporary ‘meanwhile’ gardens – very popular in New York in the 1980s – growing food on properties taken over by the city in lieu of unpaid taxes by landowners in financial difficulties. There is a politics of food growing in London for which we need a Birmingham equivalent. one on which FoE and its allies could have a say. I’d really like to see one of Birmingham’s Scrutiny Committees having a look at this. There was a debate in Westminster Hall on 5 November 08 where the government said they would not impose time scales on local authorities regarding the duty to provide, on the basis they are already being accused of not allowing LAs enough autonomy. I hope this is helpful. I’m not suggesting any of this gets raised on January 21 at the Ward Committee but it’s very useful policy background. I’d really like to use some of it in responding to the invitation to comment (between 12/12/08-06/02/09) on Birmingham’s Big City Plan – emails to If I could say that a response by HAIG was endorsed by FoE and other groups that would be good too. I realise the immediate concern is the delayed S106A on the VJA. Best Simon [11/01/09 See UK town embraces urban farming on a massive scale, and the map of Middlesborough posted with many other exciting projects on David Barrie's blog] (See The Edible Town]
From me to Kim Brom cc: Karen Subject: Victoria Jubilee Allotments - ward meeting 21 Jan 09 at Welford School
Dear Kim. Karen Leach from Friends of the Earth is able to come to this meeting in my absence. FoE have been supportive of earlier campaigning for the VJA and Karen is well appraised with the issues. Kind regards Simon
From Councillor Kim Brom
Alan Orr has confirmed attendance and will ask Persimmon Homes. Sent from my BlackBerry Wireless Handheld
* * * The long expected Greek cabinet reshuffle was reported in Kathimerini on Thursday. Stavros Lygeros' commentary doubts the PM can recover from his government's current poll position. His final sentence:
...While Samaras may not hold much sway within the government, he does have political clout, and this will become of significance should Karamanlis decide to step down either before or after elections, because his supporters and those who remain unaligned will either stand back and watch Dora Bakoyannis’s ascent to the party’s leadership or will seek out the one person around whom they can rally to prevent that from happening
* * *Crossing the Drumochter watershed by the head of Loch Garry SUSTRANS cycle path running beside the railway
The Sow of Atholl and the Boar of Badenoch, Drumochter Pass
I left Brin Croft this morning and caught the morning train to Glasgow and on to Birmingham where Lin met me and Oscar after 6pm. Drumochter Pass is the transition point between the Highlands and the rest of Scotland, something that's marked my journeys for fifty years. In the old days two steam trains were used to get up the gradient on what is still a single track line. It's rare but if heavy enough snow falls it will be Drumochter that will be the first part of the route between Inverness and the south to become unpassable. Looking out of the window you see a river flowing north. Moments later, past the watershed, you see another, flowing south. * * * A late night, early morning exchange, with Johnny Prodromous on an forum On the Greek Riots. I wrote:
“The world’s at war with tyrants, shall I crouch?” I’m not an alias for Fontas (Fontas Varidakis, an engineer based in the UK, on the same thread who had been challenging the obfuscatory writing of 'anarchists' and been momentarily confused with me - described as similarly 'deranged'), though I concur with just about everything he says and especially respect his profession. I too can give you my name and address though I’m sure you have it already from my blog ‘democracystreet’ whose URL I always aim to leave. Thanks for respecting me with your ready reply Johnny B4 the Road. You’re up late, watchkeeper. I appreciate the possibility that I’m deranged. Indeed it sounds like a compliment given your feelings about sanity or worse, normality. I’m not ignorant of the history of Anglo-Hellenic relations. Our Lord Byron gave his life for Greek freedom - ‘The dead have been awakened - shall I sleep? The World’s at war with tyrants - shall I crouch?’ (19 June 1823) but see this extract from his journal, as he and his companions waited in Cephalonia, ten months before his death at Missolonghi in April:
As I did not come here to join a faction but a nation, and to deal with honest men and not with speculators or peculators, (charges bandied about daily by the Greeks of each other) it will require much circumspection to avoid the character of a partizan, and I perceive it to be the more difficult as I have already received invitations from more than one of the contending parties, always under the pretext that they are the ‘real Simon Pure’. After all, one should not despair, though all the foreigners that I have hitherto met with from amongst the Greeks are going or gone back disgusted. Whoever goes into Greece at present should do it as Mrs Fry went into Newgate - not in the expectation of meeting with any especial indication of existing probity, but in the hope that time and better treatment will reclaim the present burglarious and larcenous tendencies which have followed this General Gaol delivery. When the limbs of the Greeks are a little less stiff from the shackles of four centuries, they will not march so much ‘as if they had gyves on their legs’. At present the Chains are broken indeed; but the links are still clanking, and the Saturnalia is still too recent to have converted the Slave into a sober Citizen. The worst of them is that (to use a coarse but the only expression that will not fall short of the truth) they are such damned liars; there never was such an incapacity for veracity shown since Eve lived in Paradise. One of them found fault the other day with the English language, because it had so few shades of a Negative, whereas a Greek can so modify a ‘No’ to a ‘Yes’, and vice versa, by the slippery qualities of his language, that prevarication may be carried to any extent and still leave a loop-hole through which perjury may slip without being perceived. This was the Gentleman’s own talk, and is only to be doubted because in the words of the Syllogism ‘Now Epimenides was a Cretan’. But they may be mended by and bye. (28 Sept 1823 from Cephalonia)
It is one of the core characteristics of Philhellenic sentiment that Greece - classical and modern - is so much in our psychological DNA that we cannot easily separate that in us which is Greek and that which is British.
Friday, January 9, 2009 at 3:57 am. Johnny B4 the Road - Pro-dromos - wrote:
SIMON Thank you too for this almost poetical glimpse into your thoughts, “well spoken phile”, I might add as my regular cliche. At least I reckon we have you inspired. With god’s speed sir.
From Fontas Varidakis
Simon. Greetings. You have articulated your concerns in the most eloquent and relevant way, i.e. by reminding us all how the struggles of today and tomorrow are the same as the struggles of yesterday. It never ceases to amaze me when I learn of, or come across, genuine Philellenes whose core is more ‘Hellenic’ than that of many of our citizens will ever be. As you rightly pointed out, the influences in thought and far beyond (architecture, science, drama, etc.) of the ancients are all around one who walks the streets of London and any European polis. It makes me proud more often than not to see that we modern Greeks have maintained a lot of the political nous of our forefathers…for better and for worse. The Brits are worthy friends and adversaries for the Greeks and I am always amazed at how similar English humour is to the zany Cretan variety. As to who is sane and who is crazy…well, normality is a concept of the majority so you can never win, and what is the point anyway?

1 comment:

  1. The edible town


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Simon Baddeley