Case Study: Incredible Edible, Todmorden

Incredible Edible Todmorden

Who are the landowners? Various, including the local authority, the local fire service and police service, a housing association, schools, British Waterways, Network Rail and the Church of England.

Describe the site/scheme: Todmorden is a market town within the Metropolitan Borough of Calderdale, in West Yorkshire. It has a population of 15,000. The impetus for this initiative came from frustration at the shortage of allotment sites in the town in the 1990s. As a result of their activities Incredible Edible Todmorden (IET) has gained access to land for community orchards (there are over 500 trees that have been planted by volunteers) and many 'adopted' raised beds around town which grow food to share, for example outside police station, railway station, community college, old peoples' home, primary schools.

Another way IET has gained access to land is by building a partnership with the local High School and the Green Business Network. The school has agreed to put part of its site into community ownership, which will be transformed into a food hub, with aquaponics unit, polytunnels and chickens.

What changes have been made? Concerned about sustainability issues and a desire to make the town more self-sufficient in food production, Incredible Edible Todmorden began with several small community gardens and a seed exchange.

It has now blossomed into a much larger project with a wide array of different schemes in the town. IET sees it role as creating opportunities in the form of micro-finance, investment, training and employment and engaging local communities through food growing and related activities. The project operates almost entirely through volunteer effort and with some support from charitable trusts.

What activities take place? Planting schemes include cemeteries, herb gardens at bus-stops, vegetable beds around a local health centre, and orchards.  The organisation is experimenting with an aquaponics scheme, involving the combination of hydroponic vegetable production and fish-farming. In addition, IET has initiated a scheme encouraging the production and consumption of local eggs and has managed to get every school in the town involved in growing food. The high school site mentioned above will supply school dinners, and the wider community, with fresh local organic food. The school will become an integral part of the food supply chain and the wider community. The project has mostly been funded by the Big Lottery.

What is the land transaction status? By working with all sectors and different types of local organisation, Incredible Edible Todmorden has accessed land in a variety of ways. The philosophy is keep governance structures as simple as possible, don't rely on being able to raise lots of money, and use existing resources rather than create new ones. As a result there have been offers of land and local businesses donating things for free. IET is also looking at scaling up and replicating the Incredible Edible model, through a company called Incredible Edible Ltd, which is currently developing toolkits and research to help others.

Incredible Edible Todmorden negotiated early on with Calderdale Council to obtain a template growing licence which can be found at the Incredible Edible website. For each site, a separate licence is needed. It can be used to negotiate access to any piece of land, and there are seperate terms for community orchards, container growing, and plots of land. There are certain standards of maintenance and the agreement can be terminated at one month's notice. The Council also carried out a scoping study to identify land that was not strategic.

Any land-based issues? Temporary access could be seen as an issue, but it has not been a problem yet, as containers can simply be moved and raised beds can easily be created from scratch in new locations. There would be a cost in terms of labour, deconstructing and removing beds and soil, etc if permission was removed. However in the past tractors, soils, labour etc have been donated free. In implementing the growing licence (see above), the problems have been the high costs of public liability insurance which is required, and dealing with different departments in the council, not all of whom are familiar with the growing licence.


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