Land Use and Urban Food Security PING # 4

‘Ideal planning policy that supported local food production? A policy that integrates biodiversity increase with food production increase and comprehensively covers production, grower employment right through to supply chain and community needs’.

‘Biodiversity enhancement and local sustainable food growing should be an overarching priority in all local authority strategic policies, including local planning strategies’.

event banner

On 27 April 2022, 45 people from across local authorities, Food Partnerships, Growing Projects, academia and other urban food practitioners came together to explore the relationship between urban food security and land use planning. It has long been sensed that the planning system has a critical role to play in transforming our food system for the better. After all, food is a land-use issue, even in urban areas. However, our historic separation of urban communities from the land around and underneath them, from where their food comes from and from farming cultures and expertise has forced issues of agricultural and horticultural land use away from civic discourse and urban planning practices.

So how to make urban food a land use issue? What tools can local authorities use to leverage change for the purpose of increasing food security, nutritional security and a thriving local food economy? Not only that, but urban agroecology is all about tending the soil and a diversity of ecological life above and below ground, and therefore has a key role to play in meeting targets within climate and ecology emergency strategies. How dies this all fit together?

<<< Please watch the recording of the session

TIMINGS of presentations:

Gillian Morgan’s – Sustain 10.34 to 20.43…..Aryo Feldman 21.05 to 23.40…….Martin Elliot 27.22 to 44.02….Lucie Taylor 49.38 to 1hr 04.19……Simon Ruston 1hr 05.07 to 1hr 21.

In our policy drafting activity (after the presentations) we asked:

What would be in an ideal planning policy that supported local food production?

Here’s what people said:

Please use all of this as inspiration for your own work. It comes directly from people working in this field to facilitate change. You can download the results from here. Note: these are the comments prefixed with a ‘2’ in the second half of the doc.

A policy that integrates biodiversity increase with food production increase and comprehensively covers production, grower employment right through to supply chain and community needs.For planning to recognise and support all aspects of food production. E/g not just growing space for individuals, but space for communities, sites for processing local food locally, sites for turning food waste to compost etc…to keep it all local. Using something like CPUL (Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes) to help connect areas of work in a different way to local/national policy frameworks
Reference to planetary boundaries to ensure we grow and consume nutrient dense food within the doughnut (see Doughnut Economics – Kate Raworth)Linking to city region economic planning to demonstrate sum potential / impact of diverse local food production activitiesTalking to major landowners with open space e.g. hospitals and schools, about the use of their land
Educating officers in LA about different production systems, particularly agroecologyDeprived areas based on multiple deprivation indices to have food growing incorporated into new housing, parks and underused land.Reinvigorate Community Planning function of local authorities in Northern Ireland so that it does what it’s supposed to do, and maps all public land and makes that information publicly available.
A national requirement to uphold a right to a healthy food systems based predominantly on UK produced foodPolicy to prioritise food infrastructure – markets, food hubs and other retail modelsThe fact that all council depts should work together and there should be a gov policy on this for Northern Ireland as there is plenty of public space that can be used for various groups (NILGA)
Biodiversity net gain areas to include community food growing opportunities on site or adjacent. A requirement for councils in 2 tier authorities to work together to provide access to growing spaces and access to locally produced food for consumersIdeal policy would ‘require’ (not ‘encourage’) space for food growing or food growing opportunities to be provided in all new development. Needs to be a strong position. This would need to be on a scale relative to the development.
Biodiversity enhancement and local sustainable food growing should be an overarching priority in all local authority strategic policies, including local planning strategies.adopting soil based production, not vertical farming!Assess demand for spaces so as to de-risk investment
Permitted Development rights for small food producers (I think threshold in Scotland is 0.25 ha compared to 5ha in England & Wales)Employ a sustainable food coordinator to push the benefits of a land-use approach to food, tie in new processes for progressing enquiries for land with corp estates colleagues, and get feedback on the potential project impact first. Educating local authority officers about need for local AND nutrient dense food
Robust criteria for sale of Council Farms that prioritise benefits for local communitiesOne Planet Development type policies for other parts of the UK.Looking at food supply chains with a nutritional / health lens to improve population health and soil, plant and animal health.
Thinking about the use of local authority / public land in terms of food productionProvide landowner with a return on what otherwise may have been an underused parcel of land. Clarify that land suitable for food production will not get permission for housing (need evidence if landlord unwilling)Using permaculture to design agroecological / regenerative organic food growing spaces.
No Council farm/smallholding land to be sold / redesigned without reference to a local food security policy. More raised beds on roofs and concreted areasA requirement to include spaces for food growing in new housing developments to enable greater resilience and sufficiency for residents.
growing seasonal, traditional, perennial, nutrient dense varieties of fruit, veg, grains.educating officers in LA and in SBUHB about different production systems, particularly agroecology
need to introduce people who want to grow and those with land – matchmaking serviceadopting soil based production, not vertical farming!
Welsh food production and consumption prioritisedlook at Fringe Farming and farm start-ups. There is land on the gower, just need to access it.
educating local authority officers and people in SBUHB about need for local AND nutrient dense food

Our other question was…What’s one thing you’ve learnt / heard that will help you make policy progress or overcome a barrier or challenge in your place or in your work?

Better understanding of how the silos of Council interact / don’t interact. Create a vision for local food infrastructure in a 20 minute neighbourhood Masses of justification that this is an issue we must engage with. This helps reticent local authorities take important steps
Connected response is importantCommunity Empowerment Act (Scotland) as model for rest of the UKFood system thinking
I’ve made useful contacts with others. Examples of policies and case studiesBetter sense of legal issues relating to food and planning
Finding local supporters at the political scaleNeed Fringe Farming presentation in Swansea. Considering food as infrastructure
Ability to join conversations between operational officers, strategic directors and support new ways of working that address broader departmental considerations i/e inform new policy development, start with small changes to operational proceduresIn Sheffield, the Right to Food declaration includes an amendment for Urban Agriculture. This is part of renewed support from the city Council, which means we’re now in close discussions that are leading to us submitting plans for sites. Gaining visibility by creating a critical mass
20 minute n-hood framework and sharing slides with team of plannersGrowing food is an end in itself. It shouldn’t have to be justified in terms of planning regulations or even in terms of its impact on wellbeing or climate or biodiversity, Everyone needs good food and not nearly enough people are getting it.
Education of planning officers and people in local authorities about different types of agricultural approaches such as agroecology. Planning policy needs to integrate increasing food growing with increasing biodiversity and soil health through regenerative agriculture (not intensive agriculture which has decreased biodiversity)Need to ensure Council and other decision-makers understand the difference between high-tech agri and agroecological and the need to grow field crops not just lettuce leaves. Elected officials like sexy high tech projects but we need hands in the soil
The need for planning policies to support more pop-up uses – e.g. pop up moveable allotments, that meet the needs of people, perhaps renting etc that aren’t in one place to commit to a full allotment. A call for sitesInvestigating and understanding potential of the Community Infrastructure Levy for supporting local food.

If you have any follow up thoughts, ideas or asks, or you would like to get in touch with anyone at this session please email