The project covers three case study cities: London and Reading (UK), and Almere (NL). The case study cities have been selected because they possess a number of Community Food Enterprises, their city councils have ambitions concerning the greening of their cities and the development of urban agriculture, and the Cities on the Grow team possess a well developed network within each of these regions.
London is made up of 33 boroughs each with it’s own council. Each borough is sub-divided into electoral wards for the purpose of electing local councilors. The majority of local services are provided by these borough councils which come under the strategic umbrella of the city-wide Greater London Authority (GLA). The city possesses its own food strategy, which was developed under former mayor Livingstone in 2006. This has been carried forward by Mayor Johnson, who appointed Rosie Boycott as the Chair of London Food Board, subsequently linking the GLA and a number of civil society organisations focused upon growing and supporting London’s local food networks. This has resulted in a number of collaborative ventures between the GLA and these civil society groups such as Capital Growth and Urban Food Routes. There is now evidence of considerable momentum behind London’s local food movement, in no small part due to the efforts of the London Food Board, which includes our partners at Sustain.
Reading is a large town situated on the Western tip of the London commuter belt and is directly comparable in terms of population size to one of London’s outer boroughs. Reading possesses a single unitary authority, Reading Borough Council, which boasts both a climate change and waste management strategy but as yet has no clearly defined strategy for food. Reading also possesses a number of Community Food Enterprises ranging from growers and retailers, to farmers markets and food co-ops. There is subsequently an increasing enthusiasm within the town for local food. However, Reading can only lay claim to a small area of green space with the M4 motorway to the South and the Oxfordshire border just to the north of the river Thames. As such, space for growing within the borough is significantly restricted and allotments are over subscribed.
The city of Almere is situated to the east of the Amsterdam metropolitan area in the province of Flevoland. The city was inaugurated in 1976 and has since become one of the fastest growing cities in Europe with an estimated 200,000 residents. The city is governed by the municipal council (elected) and the municipal executive (administration) and, like many other areas of the Netherlands, it is situated on land reclaimed from the sea. The city retains a reputation for adaptation and innovation, which many attribute to the ‘can-do’ spirit that was required to bring the city into existence. Almere was originally conceptualized as a garden city with 25% of the city either green or blue with multiple centers possessing their own residential districts and services. The vast green spaces between these districts have proved to be the foundation for a burgeoning urban agricultural movement and, whilst much of this land remains under the control of the municipal authorities, opportunities have been made available to urban growers for temporary land use. Citizens and entrepreneurs, entrusted with this land, are challenged by the municipality to develop best practices of feeding, greening and energizing the city. Whilst the temporal nature of these agreements can entail certain complications, it serves as an example of the extent to which cooperation between the city authorities and Almere’s grassroots food movement is burgeoning. The city authorities have been outspoken in their desire to position Almere as an example for green cities worldwide, and recently has announced it will host the world horticulture exhibition “Floriade” in 2022. However, whilst Almere’s low-density planning model provides an interesting case study, it does not necessarily reflect the common high density urban experience of the global majority.