Community garden project plans quashed by Dartmoor National Park Authority
Local community garden project, MoreFood near Moretonhampstead, acquired conditional funding of £74,757 from the Lottery to provide the garden infrastructure and local employment. The project which would have provided volunteering opportunities, educational facilities with disabled access, and a garden share providing locally grown organic food for local people has been refused planning permission by the DNPA. At the funding stage, the principles of the project were backed by Teignbridge District Council, Devon County Council, Moretonhampstead Parish Council, Moretonhampstead Primary School, The Dartmoor Society and Moretonhampstead Association for Youth (amongst others).
The reason given for refusal was lack of detail but the MoreFood project has provided a detailed Business Plan with appendices adding up to 163 pages. This includes comprehensive descriptions, concept designs and artist impressions. This can be seen as part of the application on the DNPA website under planning reference 0207/12. The planning committee members were not clear as to what detail was missing.
The Business Plan provides sufficient detail to persuade the funders to back the project. Furthermore, the planning officers' recommendation for approval states that the project meets 13 relevant DNPA structural and development policies.
The official reason for refusal was also given that the garden would significantly change the character and appearance of this area. This runs counter to government guidance in the National Planning Policy Framework encouraging sustainable development (on an economic, social and environmental basis), the DNPA policies identified by the planning officers that this garden would meet, and the fact that this area has already been used as a garden for 12 years and otherwise is covered in poor quality scrub. What better could the land, which lies alongside the Wray Valley Trail, be used for than a community garden at this time of great need to mitigate the effects of climate change?
This is a great loss to the hundreds of people who would have benefited from the project over the years. We feel we would almost certainly be successful if we were to appeal the decision. Unfortunately, there is not enough time to do so and still fit in with the timescales expected by the funders. This means that unless we can find the funds from elsewhere, the project cannot go ahead.
Introducing the MoreFood community and demonstration garden project
The garden is planned to open in spring 2012. It will offer a free, public space, an educational venue and skill-sharing resource and will be easily accessible for low-income and mobility impaired individuals, families and groups. See artist's impressions of the MoreFood garden here. There is also a map showing the location of the project.
The project team have carried out research to identify community demands and areas of public interest and are liaising with partner organisations. MoreFood is endorsed by Teignbridge District Council, Moretonhampstead Primary School and the Dartmoor Society. It is informal partners with the national Permaculture Association and the Doccombe-based Natural Beekeeping Association.
The project is currently in the second stage of applying for Lottery funding, through the Local Food Fund.
The project is seeking organisations and individuals who wish form partnerships, or who may benefit from the project in some way (including just visiting). Supporters and potential partners and beneficiaries can help by writing a letter supporting the application. Please contact the MoreFood team if you are able to help in this way.
The garden will be based at a one acre site situated next to the A382, about a mile from Moretonhampstead. It is easy to find and the garden will be alongside the offroad Wray Valley Trail cycle and pedestrian path that opened in May 2011. It is set in woodland on Dartmoor and is adjacent to permissive and public footpaths.
Facilities at the garden are planned to include:
Wheelchair access between the off-road track and car-park, and throughout much of the garden
A demonstration forest garden, a Devon-variety orchard, innovative demonstration beehives, and demonstration of traditional and experimental food growing and gardening, including information boards
A covered area large enough for groups
A play area, picnic area, and sensory garden area
A wheelchair-accessible composting toilet
Venue for the sale of food plants and distribution of free seeds.
The objectives of the project include:
• To empower individuals and families to grow their own food using techniques that are relevant to their resources and scale
• To be accessible and enabling to those with limited mobility
• To be accessible to low-income families and individuals
• To be easily and safely accessible on foot and bicycle
• To demonstrate genuinely sustainable food growing that is applicable to the climate, soil and situation of Dartmoor and the South West
• To challenge social exclusion by offering free and low cost opportunities for skill-sharing and education that are not always open to all
• To educate and disseminate information about wildlife, the environmental consequences of food production and resource use in an interesting and experiential manner
• To accommodate groups and families
• To offer opportunities for volunteering, networking, and community building
• To demonstrate the potential of community involvement
• To enable communities on Dartmoor to mitigate, and adapt to, climate change.
The objectives meet a number of strategies at local and district level, including many of the updated Local Area Agreement priorities for Teignbridge and ambitions within the current Dartmoor National Park management plan.
If you are local to the area you can help by filling in the MoreFood questionnaire to let us know what you think.
Thank you for your time and support,
The MoreFood project team.
Any comments or thoughts? Please contact us to let us know! By phone: 01647 440233, by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by post at Steward Community Woodland, Moretonhampstead, Devon, TQ13 8SD
The MoreFood project is administrated by Affinity Woodland Worker's Cooperative, a not-for-profit limited company that has for ten years facilitated a living/working demonstration project, Steward Community Woodland. The MoreFood project will be separate from Steward Wood. For more information on Affinity's ten-year-old Steward Community Woodland, please see www.stewardwood.org.