Green light on The Limes Community GardenLast updated 31 July 2020
At a time when community spirit is thriving, Ashford Borough Council’s planning committee has approved a planning application that will see a local community continue to transform around a previously unloved piece of land in The Limes, South Ashford.
Behind ‘Belgic Court’, which comprises eight units of accommodation for young mothers, sits a patch of land that had sadly become overgrown and attracted flytipping. The land, just off Kingsnorth Road, which is owned by the council’s housing department, had been proposed to be turned into allotments but there was insufficient interest from the local community when the idea was floated.
Thanks to the vision of Cllr Heather Hayward, a new solution quickly came forward – that of the first community garden project in the Ashford area.
In approving the application at the second ‘virtual’ planning committee held since the coronavirus suspended normal working practices, Ashford Borough Council has approved the change of use for the land, the erection of a greenhouse, a wood cabin, tool and bike sheds on the land, together with the conversion of a container for toilets and a site office and landscaping. The permission also means that the council can lease the land to the registered Limes Community Garden Charity at a peppercorn rent.
The vision for the land at The Limes is to make it a space run by the community, for the community, and a place which will improve the health and wellbeing of those who visit and see it. The ambition is to grow produce which can be shared and to create an environment where new skills can be learnt and new friendships can be made.
Work has already begun. It took three trucks to clear the fly tipping from the land to begin with but the prospect of the garden has already brought many people together. It is not only for residents of The Limes but for the whole of South Ashford and Kingsnorth. Indeed, volunteers from Singleton and Kennington, as well as the Knights Park and The Limes areas have been working on the site. Before lockdown, community working parties with up to a dozen volunteers were held twice a month with everyone helping with preparatory work.
Over 100 pallets were recently donated, out of which volunteers have built wooden planters and, being careful to adhere to social distancing, work has continued in recent weeks with lockdown workshops giving households the chance to paint the planters and build bug hotels. Other donated items have included used paving slabs which will form the solid base for the bike and tool sheds. Financial help would be appreciated by the charity, but donations of specific items, such as sand, concrete, benches and sheds will also help to get the garden up and running. The Woodland Trust recently donated 60 saplings which have already been planted around the perimeter of the site.
Importantly, the planters have been built at a wheelchair accessible height, which is critical, as the first volunteer to sign up was a local resident, Stefan, who is a wheelchair user in The Limes, who wants to tend to the plants every day.
Cllr Heather Hayward, the borough councillor for Roman ward, said: “Stefan’s enthusiasm for the project is infectious and it has already made a huge difference to his life. I am really pleased that the planning permission has been granted as this will enable us to provide wheelchair access, subject to gaining funding for the pathway provision. As well as making the area look much better, it will reduce antisocial behaviour, promote health and wellbeing, and encourage environmental learning opportunities.
“It has taken some time to get here from when Belgic Court was first built but we are determined to make this space count now we have it. It has tremendous potential and I am so pleased to have been able to help this come forward and see the changes to date. I want this to be a space that residents are proud of, that everyone buys into and is an asset to South Ashford for years to come.”
Cllr Peter Feacey, Ashford Borough Council’s Portfolio Holder for Community Safety and Wellbeing, said: “I welcome planning committee’s decision to grant the change of use for this site. Heather has been determined from the outset to bring this project forward and she really has driven it through. It is heartening to know that South Ashford will benefit and the community are already backing the initiative and enjoying all the wellbeing benefits that such sites bring.”