Guest blog: Suzanne Lestrade-Orji (Founder and Director of www.rentmygarden.co.uk)
Three years ago, the Communities and Local Government website reported that new homes built on previously residential land – (including building on previously owned back gardens) had risen to 25%. Shocking isn’t it? Gardens and land are being forfeited in the UK but at what cost?
Apart from the actual loss of residential land, gardens are beginning to lose their appeal on many levels and therefore natural green spaces that are privately or publically owned are beginning to lose their value and so get discarded or evolve into other uses. But the question is why?
Has the UK become so insular, relying on one online pursuits and escapism on the internet or on holidays abroad that it has forgotten how to appreciate its natural green habitat? Have those who have gardens forgotten the beauty and privilege of having one? Unless you are house proud or a member of the RHS/Gardeners World, it seems like residents of the UK really do not appreciate growing flowers, plants, and food or spending time in the garden with friends and family as much as the same residents of 35/40 years ago. Has the love of the garden been thrown out in this new ‘download’ generation? Have family values declined so much that a garden is seen as a mere extension of the shed of garage and a dumping ground?
Conversely,those without garden space are desperately seeking allotments to grow food. The trusty allotment that used to be the backdrop for the old working dad or grandad with his shed for escapism, is no one of the most sought after spaces for people of all ages. With waiting lists of two years or more and Royal Parks such as St James’ Park Allotment three years ago (and more currently in Regents Park and Kensington Gardens) holding plots to encourage locals to grow their own food at home, it’s clear to see there is a demand. http://www.royalparks.org.uk/about/allotments.cfm
With high-rise apartments being built for sale more than houses by developers, council blocks being developed to tackle the housing crisis and landlords re-developing existing houses and turning them into flats (thus losing the garden space), thousand of people lack any form of garden space at all. People are desperate for space to relax in, entertain in, hold events in and generally to be outdoors.
So how can we bridge the divide between communities that want garden space for social purposes and do not have it and those that have it and waste it? How do we bring back a sense of pride in the home garden for all generations young and old, for nature, for growing plants and flowers and food? How do we shorten allotment waiting times? How do we bring back a love of nature and the outdoors locally and within the community that has been lost to a virtual reality, escapism to holidays abroad?
Perhaps the answer lies in bringing back a sense of community engagement and bringing back a sense of trust and sharing in our local communities. Perhaps it should start with us helping ourselves and each other and whilst the economy is on a spiralling downturn, make some money from it too. Collaborative Consumption is the buzz phrase of today and with so many businesses enabling the general public to use space wisely and economically under this bracket, it’s no surprise that these businesses are now seen as the future for how we use our unused or underused space.