Agenda item

Greenspace, Biodiversity and Food Growing

Presentation from:

·       Gareth Roberts, Regather

·       Fran Halsall, Regather

·       Jock Stevenson, Gleadless valley Foodbank

·       James Musgrave, SCC Allotments




The panel discussion was introduced by Councillor Marianne Elliot who advised that the topic under discussion would be food, and sustainable food systems.  She introduced the panel who were Gareth Roberts and Fran Halsall of Regather, Jock Stevenson of Gleadless Valley Food Bank and James Musgrave of Sheffield City Council Allotments Service.



Jock Stevenson stated that demand at Gleadless Valley Food Bank had risen recently, and food donations could not keep up with demand so food had to be purchased. 


The Food Bank which was in an area of high deprivation, had a variety of customers, some of whom experienced difficulties with their mental health.  Mr Stevenson advised that contrary to popular myth the customers were not people who were earning good wages, they were those struggling to make ends meet and were often people awaiting benefits.   He hoped that there would be a time eventually when the Food Bank was no longer needed.


There were 35 volunteers who helped to run the Food Bank, most of whom had previously been customers.



A presentation entitled “Building a Sustainable Food Future in South Sheffield, Gleadless Valley and Moss Valley”, subsequently published on the Council’s website, was delivered by Gareth Roberts and Fran Halsall of Regather. 


The presentation set out the cooperative and sustainable systems used by the company which produced, sold and delivered organic food in Sheffield.



A presentation, entitled “The Allotments Service” subsequently published on the Council’s website was delivered by James Musgrave of Sheffield City Council Allotments Service.  This outlined the role of the Service and gave details of the supply and waiting list of allotments in Sheffield.



A question and answer session with panellists followed, where the following additional information was provided;


James Musgrave advised that:


  • The Allotments Service was working with colleagues in the Parks and Countryside Team to find new sites and was undertaking community consultation for areas including Totley Brook and Graves Park.
  • The Urban Nature Parks scheme could potentially be re-started to look for further sites within parks.
  • There were allotment plots which were currently unlettable, but which could be bought back into use.
  • Climate Change mitigation schemes for Planning developments could include allotments.


Gareth Roberts advised that:


  • Regather were looking at the disused Newfield Playground for food production.  The intention was for the school to grow fruit trees.  This would help to address the national horticultural skills crisis.  The glass houses, which had been state of the art at the time they were built, would be brought back into use.
  • Making organic food produced in Sheffield affordable and accessible for all rather than a privileged few was a question which did not have a single answer but was what Regather was aiming to achieve.  A significant barrier to this was the current system for changing uses of land.  Local food production at scale was the aim.  Questions needed to be asked about the role of supermarkets and how to compete with them.  It was important to build local economic stability and it was household income that was the most important factor in this.
  • It was also important to consider the market and how it currently operates e.g. how to address and coordinate supermarket food waste. A centralised food distribution system might not be what people really wanted.
  • The purpose of growing organic rather than conventionally farmed food was to support nature.
  • The Council’s waste collection contract with Veolia currently prevented food waste collection.  This offered an opportunity to establish infrastructure in the city to process food waste locally and repurpose it for horticulture and agriculture thus creating local jobs, rather than contracting the process out to a multi-national.


Jock Stevenson advised that:

  • Food Bank customers did not have the resources to participate in Regather services or Allotments.  He believed that making land available in the local area and enabling people to informally tend it themselves was an alternative.  This would teach people how to provide for themselves.
  • In his view the City Council could do more to provide land for food production and there was currently too much red tape.


Points raised by members of the public in attendance included that:


  • It was problems in the economic system that brought people to food banks, not problems in the food production system.  Many people did not have access to cooking facilities- e.g. they might only have a kettle, so growing more food locally would not necessarily stop people going to food banks.
  • Not everybody was able to cook with raw ingredients or able to cope with the work and planning involved.  Additionally, they may not be able to afford the necessary gas/electric.
  • Many refugees and immigrants were struggling in addition to local people.
  • Allotment holders could produce food for people in need, but this would require coordination and then feedback as to of how the produce had been used. A representative from Food Works offered to assist with this.
  • Could temporary use of land which was waiting to be developed, for food production, be addressed in the council’s Local Plan?


Councillor Mohammed Mahroof stated that huge swathes of land were owned by the City Council and the priority order of how it was used needed to be addressed.  He would talk to the Council’s Property Department about potentially available sites. He added that under legislation, if a group of people declare that they want allotments the Local Authority has a duty to address this.



Councillor Marianne Elliot thanked the panellists.




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