By: Rob Hopkins
From: Transition Culture
New Initiative Places Food at the Centre of Healthcare Revolution
A new initiative which would offer a groundbreaking approach to health promotion and food growing in the town’s back gardens has been unveiled. The initiative, Totnes Healthy Futures, is proposed for a site in central Totnes which Devon County Council will be selling this week. It is the result of an innovative partnership between Transition Town Totnes, the Totnes Development Trust, University of Plymouth and the Leatside Surgery.
With obesity and preventable illness top of the Government’s list of health priorities, it is widely agreed that new approaches are needed for promoting exercise, healthy eating and for reconnecting people with good, locally grown affordable food. The Totnes Health Futures centre will combine an low carbon building built using mainly local materials, which incorporates a public cafe, a large space for various events, as well as smaller rooms and a covered greenhouse/growing area. The rest of the site will be dedicated to a model urban food garden, featuring raised beds, soft fruit and medicinal herbs, designed so as to be a powerful educational resource, showing in varied ways the potential productivity of urban spaces.
Following the recent appearance of the Transition Town Totnes Garden Share scheme on Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s ‘River Cottage’ programme, a feature which inspired River Cottage’s ‘Landshare’ campaign, the Healthy Futures initiative aims to keep the town at the forefront of the idea of encouraging more people to grow and cook their own food, something being promoted by a spectrum as diverse as the Mayor of London (who is striving to get 2012 food-producing gardens in London in time for the Olympics), and Blue Peter, who recently dug out the famous Blue Peter garden to replace it with vegetable beds.
The project has identified a number of potential sites, but has formally applied to Devon County Council for the former lorry depot on Babbage Road, which directly adjoins the Leatside Surgery and which goes for sale by formal tender on December 3rd. The coalition of organisations behind the proposal is adamant that a site of such strategic importance to the community ought not merely be sold to the highest bidder. Rather, it is asking that Devon County Council use its powers to choose lower bids in the case of proposals with a demonstrable community benefit.
“The exciting thing about this site”, says Rob Hopkins, TTT founder, “is that it is somewhere many people pass by on a daily basis, yet often don’t notice. We feel that one of the great challenges of the next 10 years will be the art of turning the vast expanses of land we have surrendered to concrete back to more productive uses. The precedent created by this initiative will be very important, transforming a barren concrete wasteland into an oasis of abundance and diversity where one least expects it”.
TV gardening guru Monty Don has been very supportive of the initiative. He writes “I enthusiastically endorse the proposal for the Totnes Healthy Futures Centre and believe it to be a profound inspiration that will set a standard for the rest of the country. All my experience shows that a close connection with the soil, particularly through growing and eating organic fruit and vegetables improves personal physical and mental health as well as the health of the community. This is an inspired and important scheme that will have profound and lasting benefits to the community and I sincerely hope that it will be supported and encouraged by all, and if invited I look forward to attending the opening!”
The project is designed so as to act as a tremendous catalyst. Doctors and nurses working in Totnes are excited by the possibilities of the project, which will bring benefits to the community by encouraging healthier diets and increased exercise. The project will complement the work already taking place in GP surgeries by providing resources for peopel with long term health problems as well as promoting healthy living to families with young children. The £¾m project will be funded through a mixture of grants and private funding, and is designed to be self financing from the start. The deadline for bids for the site is December 3rd, with a decision expected from the Council by the following week.
Transition Town Totnes