Introduction and History:
Shettleston Community Growing Project (SCGP) was set up in 2009 by local people who wished to grow food for themselves and their families. With assistance from Shettleston Housing Association and Glasgow City Council, a suitable site was identified. Funding was secured from the Scottish Government’s Climate Challenge Fund to turn a derelict and unloved space into an attractive and productive community allotment. In March 2011, the Shettleston Community Growing Project opened its gates for the first time to aspiring growers. In 2014 the SCGP became a Company Limited by Guarantee and a Scottish Charity.
The SCGP’s site is located in the Shettleston area of Glasgow in West Central Scotland. The project welcomes people of all ages and abilities from the local area. The core of the project is the food growing area, which is situated on a former derelict site which was previously used for storing building materials. Because of the likelihood of contamination, the construction of raised beds was necessary and this allowed new soil to be transported onto the site for growing vegetables and other produce.
The group who run the site is comprised entirely of volunteers. The project is overseen by a committee of local people who meet monthly to discuss how the project is progressing and to discuss any matters arising. Without such a high degree of local commitment, the project would not exist in its present form.
They consult closely with the wider community of Shettleston on the types of activities that they deliver and the services that they provide. In particular, the group recognises the wider benefits of working with other organisations. They have well established links and working partnerships with many different local organisations, including schools and youth groups, local authorities, housing associations and support agencies.
The land itself is owned by Glasgow City Council and Shettleston Housing Association. The site is rented by group for a nominal fee, reflecting the social benefits of the project for the wider community. Shettleston Housing Association have also provided office space, payroll support and guidance and support since the inception of project.
Community Food Growing:
The food growing area consists of over 50 raised bed growing spaces. Individuals, families and groups rent a growing space and use it to grow various types vegetables and fruit. The size and the raised bed configuration of the growing spaces makes them ideal for gardening novices, children, older people and people with disabilities.
Alongside the raised beds, there is a soft fruit area, a herb garden, a polytunnel area and a composting toilet. Participants can also enjoy the benefits of a fully equipped kitchen complete with electricity and running water to produce food from recently harvested produce. Volunteers, who help to maintain the site, are encouraged to participate from March till September each year. They help to make a huge difference within their local community.
Other Activities on Site:
The Shettleston initiative has continued to grow year upon year. In addition to the food growing areas, the site now also incorporates a community garden and wild area, complete with a pond which attracts a large amount of biodiversity, from wild flowers to newts and hedgehogs.
The large community garden is used as an activity space by local nursery schools, Girl Guide groups, volunteers and carers groups for events and exercise sessions. The space is also used by the “Smelly Welly Club”, the SCGP’s own dedicated club for young people aged between 7 and 12 which runs from Easter to Halloween each year. This involvement from an early age ensures a healthy bunch of budding recruits for the project from the next generation. Most importantly, all activities that SCGP undertakes are FREE for the local community and to provide local benefit.
The group also hosts a “Family Fun Day” in the garden which every year attracts over 450 visitors. There are volunteering sessions on Tuesdays and Thursdays to help undertake maintenance, weeding, grass cutting, planting and many other tasks on the site. Corporate Groups are also encouraged to lend a hand and help to carry out volunteering tasks throughout the year.
The Bigger Picture – Vacant and Derelict Land in Scotland:
The activities of the Shettleston Group have increasingly received attention and notoriety from further afield, with the SCGP providing support and guidance to projects throughout Britain. They also welcome students from many horticultural and architectural universities within Scotland to visit the site.
Influential Government bodies such as the Scottish Land Commission, are particularly interested in the Shettleston Community Growing Project as providing an innovative blueprint for dealing with Scotland’s challenging problems of vacant and derelict land within urban areas. This is particularly an issue in the former industrial areas of the Central Belt and overall there have been over 3,700 vacant and derelict sites recorded across Scotland
In the most deprived parts of Scotland, 3 out of 5 people live within 500m of a vacant and derelict site. The Shettleston projects shows that such sites can offer enormous potential for providing important sustainable uses for such land whilst supporting the development of the social economy and fulfilling local needs. It is a key goal of the Scottish Land Commission to tackle the wider issues of derelict land in terms of supporting policy, legislation and further action on the ground across Scotland.
Key learning points - In summary:
The project shows how the practical action of a grass roots community organisation can bring about substantial local transformation which also has wider implications for urban land use policy across Scotland. In particular, tangible benefits of the project include:
Transformation of a vacant and derelict site though innovative, bottom-up approaches. The project can also be seen as a blueprint for tackling the wider challenges of vacant and derelict land on a national scale.
Shows how local, grass-roots community action can help to rebuild community cohesion and develop self confidence in post-industrial cities.
The effectiveness of partnership working and the role of established mentoring organisations to deliver multifunctional benefits and sustainable development goals.
The importance of involving the whole community in the project from inception and through involving and integrating established local players and groups.
The potential to provide access to locally grown and healthy food to tackle diet and heath inequalities in West Central Scotland.