If spaces such as these could be appropriated for growing, it would have a manifold impact; Firstly it would see under-used spaces in the city obtain a level of public ownership, this in turn could eliminate the Local Authority maintenance requirements thereby reducing workload and budget. Secondly in allocating existing allotmenteers to these spaces would free up spaces on the existing sites. If carried out on a like for like basis this could enable a complete re-think of how allotments are provided across the city. Thirdly, by using public spaces for growing food it raises the profile of more sustainable methods of food production within the city, reduces food miles, reduces use of pesticides and GM crops, increases bio-diversity within the urban centre, enhances opportunities for demographic and ethnic mixing and cohesion and potentially has the capacity to increase CO2 absorption and carbon capture too.
The notion of re-considering the location of allotments within the city will have significant implications for those people who have held sites for many years and consider it to be part of their life and connection to the city. Uprooting some of these allotmenteers would have to be carefully considered, timetabled and managed to prevent any sense that people are being disenfranchised in any way. Case study cities & towns such a Berlin, Havanna, Chicago, Bankok, Todmorden, Rosario (Argentina) & Harare can provide exemplars of how such systems have been strategically implemented and managed to maximise benefits to the public and the municipality.
2 - Car parking
Across the city of Brighton & Hove there are a number of significant car parks which take up large land footprints and serve to encourage the use of Petrol & Diesel engined vehicles through their minimal offer of electric charging points or alternative fuel supplies etc. Car parking in the city is frequently cited as being one of the most contentious elements of public engagement for any local authority, both in terms of street based permit parking for residents, but equally with regard to the ever increasing cost of leaving a vehicle in the city for any duration of time.
Such considerations relating to the cost of parking cannot be separated from the increasing cost and viability of alternative and more sustainable transport systems such as buses, trains, cycling and walking. The implementation of sustainable transport routes for bicycles and buses in the city coupled with the reduced speed limits across the city have been met with high levels of anger with the principle complaint regarding the increased time it takes to drive a private car in and out of the city centre. It should be noted that there is no incentive for people to utilise public transport when it costs more than parking a car. Equally dis-incentivising is the limited provision of safe cycle routes covering the whole city. To properly encourage an increase in zero carbon transport such as cycling it is imperative to make it viable for all age groups, at present it is impossible to safely cycle across the city with young children and as such cycling cannot being fostered as a principle form of urban transport as has happened across cities in the Netherlands for instance.
Increasing opportunities for sustainable transport and in fact doing more to encourage it ultimately results in a reduced need for public car parking in the city. It will not be viable, or even preferable to eliminate it altogether, however it is possible to consider how it might better be integrated into new development across the city to free up the current parking sites for alternative uses such as housing. Many other cities across Europe utilise local planning policies to provide vehicle parking underground, below both existing and new developments. As a result streets are generally less occupied with vehicles, and there are less significantly sized parking developments taking up urban space. In Japan and other far Eastern countries where urban densities are extreme in contrast to here in the UK, below ground car parking is the norm and can be incredible in its ingenuity and scope.
If Brighton & Hove were to implement a local planning guidance which stipulated that all new commercial and residential development had to provide car parking below it’s street level, and of significantly higher numbers of spaces that the bare minimum then it would be possible to redevelop the existing multi-storey and open plan car parks across the city to provide the additional housing which is so needed.
3 - High rise development
Proponents of social housing will expertly argue that the issue of housing density, and in particular the elevation of housing density is inextricably linked to increased levels of social deprivation and decreased quality of life and opportunity for residents. It is also frequently argued that high rise developments offer far less safety for residents in the event of a fire as so recently and tragically exemplified at Grenfell Tower. It has also been successfully argued many times that high density housing is not only possible through high-rise, but it is equally viable through low rise, traditional terraced housing provision.(4)