Public space, urban agriculture and the grassroots creation of new Commons: Lessons and challenges for policy makers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


This chapter is based on academic-activist research into grassroots urban agricultural initiatives which are experimenting – with different degree of legality – with new and convivial ways of sharing urban spaces while producing food. Some of these initiatives start and evolve within marginal/liminal urban spaces while others are seeking a more systematic dialogue with local institutions. Nonetheless, it seems that the ability of local and regional institutions to respond to these new demands are limited and constrained by planning traditions that have not been permeable to emerging urban cultures and their needs, failing to create flexible or more adaptable public spaces which reflect the fluidity of society. As a result, short term satisfaction to these needs is found in the possibilities left open by ‘loose spaces’ or ad-hoc negotiations between grassroots groups and local councils, but none of these go beyond the status of emergency or residual practices. Looking in particular at four Leeds based projects – Landshare, Urban Harvest, Headingley Community Orchard and Edible Public Space – this chapter aims to present and discuss the challenges that these practices pose to the political and planning agenda of urban public space managers and designers, and the potential lessons we can draw from them to inform responsive policy-making in times of energy and financial scarcity.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationSustainable Food Planning
Subtitle of host publicationEvolving Theory and Practice
EditorsHan Wiskerke, Andre Viljoen
Place of PublicationWageningen
PublisherWageningen Academic Publishers
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)978-90-8686-826-1
ISBN (Print)978-90-8686-187-3
Publication statusPublished - 12 Feb 2012


  • community activism
  • food growing
  • urban harvest
  • relational approach
  • policy making

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