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Developing Community Growing Spaces - Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Developing Community Growing Spaces

As a major social landlord, managing nearly 90,000 properties across numerous estates and 1,420 hectares of open space within these estates, and engaging directly with around four hundred community groups, NIHE views it as important to encourage involvement, diversity and social enterprise. NIHE recognises a number of benefits from food growing, including increased social contact resulting in increased social inclusion; appreciation of how food is produced, as part of encouraging a nutritious diet; improved access to healthy, affordable food supplies; regular outdoor activity leading to improved physical and mental health as well as new skills, and preservation of green space in urban area. The organisation sees itself as having an important role through its land asset, its links with local groups and its role in building healthy, sustainable communities.

Since 2009, over 20 sites for community growing have been provided on NIHE owned land across Northern Ireland, with a focus on disadvantaged areas. The management of these has varied from leasing land to a lead agency, through the creation of growing space with direct support from NIHE, including community led initiatives. Examples of the latter range from allotments to provision of raised beds within blocks of flats, where space is at a premium.

Results of the initiative have been very positive. Users of the growing spaces report developing new skills, making friends and also acquiring healthier eating habits. In many areas, residents have set up gardening clubs, which not only offer a social network, but also create opportunities for fundraising. Residents typically report raised pride in their area, and in many areas growing projects have been found to significantly strengthen local networks, increasing a sense of community.

More information

Northern Ireland Housing Executive