Campaigners aiming to create the world’s largest edible garden believe Hackney council are now taking them “seriously” as their petition has collected more than 1,200 signatures.
Mabley Green Users Group, who are responsible for the initiative, reacted to reaching the achievement on their petition website: “Over 1200 signatures have been collected. This means that the council are really taking the edible park seriously now. That’s down to you and we thank you.”
The organisation’s Chairman, Damian Rafferty, explained: “The edible garden project is not for an allotment where people cultivate a patch of land; it would be somewhere where anyone could wander in and pick an apple or nectarine.”
The world’s current largest edible park is in Seattle, but with a space of five acres, this could easily be beaten using the plot available in Mabley Green off Homerton Road.
The plot’s potential to become an edible park first became a reality after Mabley Green received £100,000 of council funding, set aside for regeneration of the parkland following London’s Olympics in 2012.
The money has yet to be allocated for any specific project, but Rafferty hopes to win over councillors’ votes and use it to cover the set up of the garden.
Despite its many supporters, the group’s fight for the park is not guaranteed to win. Hackney council have expressed concerns over the long-term maintenance of the project.
Councillor Jonathan McShane, cabinet member for health, social care and culture, said of the project: “Building the world’s largest edible park would mean losing sports pitches and taking away facilities used by young people.”
When questioned about the councillor’s reservations, Rafferty explained that there are two other projects for Mabley Green that have their own funding.
He said: “The first is a new all-weather football pitch in addition to the existing one which will cost around £600,000 from the football foundation. The other is a plan to create a children’s play area particularly focused on children with special needs, funded partly by the NHS.”
The Mabley Green Users Group would welcome the children’s playground and the respite it would provide for parents and carers of special needs children, but believe that the idea for a football pitch is just a “money spinner for the council.”
Rafferty suggested that an edible park would provide the area with a “whole series of social benefits.”
He explained that the garden would “improve the health choices of locals while working as a community network to look at the ways we can turn the activities in the park into skills and those skills into jobs.”