Vacant Lots

Key Facts:

Project summary: Reactivation of underused and vacant spaces by the installation of low cost allotments and growing spaces.

Location: 19+ sites across London

Programme: Allotments

Initiator: What if Projects Ltd

Project Duration: Ongoing (initial site May 2007)

Lead in Time: Variable – initial project

Site Area: Combined total area to date: 8000m2

Client Team: LB Hackney, Camden & Islington and local residents

Project Team: Led by What-If with Groundwork

Funding Sources: Big Lottery, Islington Community Chest and housing associations working in the three boroughs

Project Costs (Build): unavailable

Project Costs (Operation): unavailable

Profitability/Loss: Not for Profit

Permissions / Permits: Spaces used with permission of landowners (either LA or housing association)

Local Links: Crops from the allotments go to the local community

Publicity/advertising: Local posters

Project Evaluation:

Site Details & Ownership:
Sites vary dramatically but all are underused spaces on housing estates, the owners are the local authority or housing association and the projects are delivered in partnership with them and the local residents

Project Reach / Visitors / Target Audience:
Aimed at engaging with the local community and to provide a place for education and healthy food.

Problems Encountered / Overcome:
Provision of power and water to a previously undeveloped site. The requirements of power were a major problem of the build. The legacy of the project is that the site has now had the utilities provision made permanent to enable future temporary projects to take place on the site.

Boat licensing required from British Waterways (BW), worked with BW directly to arrange required permits and licences.

Feedback from users / staff:
The first Vacant Lot allotment on a housing estate in Hoxton was realised as a temporary intervention featuring bulk bags as growing containers and has since through considerable media attention inspired many similar low budget communal projects. Since June 2007, this formerly inaccessible piece of land continues to be used as an allotment by the local community. Residents are carefully tending a spectacular array of vegetables, salads, fruit and flowers and in addition insects and birds have moved in and thrive in this new natural habitat. VACANT LOT has become a place for meeting neighbours, BBQs’, sitting in the sun, playing and gardening.
What If Projects

What next?
After the first vacant lot in 2007 What If projects formed a partnership and submitted a successful Big Lottery funding bid with match funding from 6 social housing landlords, this bid includes a 3 year programme of new vacant lot sites up to 2013.

In addition to the What-If projects spaces the simple but effective idea has been copied by a number of other residents associations.

Complementary Programmes:
Teaching and training spaces, cookery skills

Project Website / Further Info: