Londoners urged to ‘dig for the environment’

In a scheme reminiscent of the wartime Dig for Victory campaign, residents in the capital are being encouraged to get the gardening bug and grow their own food.

Mayor Boris Johnson and Rosie Boycott, chair of London Food, launched the Capital Growth scheme, on Tuesday, which aims to turn 2,012 pieces of land into allotments by 2012.

The initiative will identify suitable patches of land around London and offer financial support to groups of gardeners or organisations who want to use it to grow food.

Mr Johnson said the scheme would not only benefit the environment, but could improve health, increase flood protection and put a few pounds back in Londoners’ pockets.

Boris Johnson said: “It will help to make London a greener, more pleasant place to live whilst providing healthy and affordable food.

“This will aid people to reconnect with where their fruit and veg comes from and cut the congestion and carbon emissions associated with the transportation of food from miles away.”

Ms Boycott added: “London has a good deal of green spaces – some derelict or underused – but not being used as well as they could be.”

It is hoped that local authorities, schools, hospitals and housing estates will be among the organisations that will open up land for Capital Growth.

Several organisations have already pledged land to scheme, including Blenheim Gardens housing estate in Brixton, and Latchmere House resettlement prison in Richmond.

Bonnie Hewson, a housing estate resident from Blenheim Gardens, said: “Residents on my estate are very excited about Capital Growth. Everyone from children to older people will be growing more of their own fresh food.”

The scheme will be run by London Food Link, part of the charity Sustain, and the pilot stage of the scheme, which will run until March 2009 is being funded by the London Development Agency at a cost of £87,000.

Beyond this date, Sustain will be looking for more funding to continue the scheme.

Kate Martin

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