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 today.
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.
Notes to editors
The Community Orchards: How to guide can be found here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/orchardshowto.
Get the green space you want: How the Government can help (www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/greenspacehelp) outlines the full range of measures that the Government has in place to support communities who want to get more involved in their local community and get access to the space they need.
Potential funding for community green spaces (www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/greenspacefunding) sets out the potential funding available to community and voluntary organisations for community green space initiatives. The aim is to identify the different grant schemes open to local groups, green spaces, allotment organisations or trusts, and also where to go to get help when looking for funding.
- A wide range of organisations with an interest in promoting and preserving orchards and local green spaces have expressed their support for the ‘how to’ guide being published today.
Phil Barton, Chair of the Green Flag Plus Partnership, Chief Executive of Keep Britain Tidy:
Green spaces play a vital role in improving the quality of life in local communities. They provide an important opportunity for voluntary action and many residents are actively involved in the improvement and management of their local green space, such as community orchards. We welcome this new community orchard guide as it helps encourage the growing of local foods as well as improving parks and open spaces.
Peter Wilkinson, Chair of the GreenSpace National Forum, GreenSpace:
Having access to quality green space should always be a high priority for local people. Community orchards being promoted through this ‘how to’ guide is just one of the many ways for local people to get engaged and help maintain local green space of significant importance. Green sector organisations working at the local level can offer the support people need, with this guide helping to encourage and jump-start the process.
Neil Canham, BTCV England Director:
Community orchards are a great way to get involved in your local community through volunteering. BTCV’s association with joint running the Green Flag Award scheme has seen a year-on-year increase in the amount of community managed sites being awarded a Green Flag. Community Orchards are just one way people can take part in their local communities and I hope this guide encourages even more people to volunteer.
Rebecca Thompson, Website Producer at Landshare:
Britain has historically grown a wide range of wonderful varieties of apple and other tree fruit, and yet many people find themselves restricted to just a handful of supermarket-friendly varieties which have often travelled from as far away as New Zealand. Community orchards have an important role to play in preserving our natural heritage, and also bringing communities together to enjoy healthy, home-grown fruit. There is land out there, and we’d like to see more communities getting the opportunity to turn unused land into productive orchards for everyone to enjoy.
Jeremy Iles, Chief Executive of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens:
Community orchards can create a unique environment, both for wildlife and for the people who spend time in them. FCFCG has been a long term supporter of community orchards - as we are of all types of community green space - and we are heartened to know that support for them is growing across the country. We hope to see many more community orchards being created over the coming years: providing a wealth of new fruit trees, delivering opportunities for people to manage their local green space, helping to preserve heritage fruit varieties, encouraging people to grow their own food and creating opportunities for volunteering and learning new skills.
Annemarie Naylor, Head of Assets, Locality:
Community orchards are local assets that people are keen to establish and enjoy maintaining. This guide can help put people in contact with the organisations that provide advice about community asset transfer, ownership and enterprise development in relation to such exciting community ventures.
- Horfield Organic Community Orchard, Bristol
Started in response to the loss of traditional orchards and apple varieties, and the wish of members of the Federation of City Farms and Community Gardens to grow and eat local and organic fruit, this orchard was established by local residents on an overgrown allotment in 1998. The orchard now contains over 100 apple, pear, plum and nut trees plus soft fruit and is a haven for both local people and local wildlife.
The group organises public events such as Wassail, training workshops, and an annual Apple Day celebration in October that brings in more than 300 local people. Orchard members enjoy an agreed share of the harvest, learn specialist fruit-growing skills, and have the pleasure of working and socialising with others in a green oasis in a densely populated area. The wider community benefits through open days and at events - where they can learn about growing fruit using organic methods in ways suited to urban gardens and allotments, and buy local produce.
Information about other successful community run orchards can be found here: www.communities.gov.uk/publications/communities/orchardscasestudies.
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