Campaigners reveal giant banner in Westminster calling for land justice

'Living artwork' unfurled outside Levelling Up department highlighting food insecurity and climate concern

A 30-metre long ‘living artwork’ has been unfurled in Westminster calling on the government to tackle allotment waiting lists as a solution to land injustice and the climate crisis.

Positioned outside the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, artists and volunteers revealed the display this morning which is embedded with seeds and includes burnt ash from forests in the Amazon.

The banner read, “We the 174,183 demand allotments”, which reflects the amount of applications on local authority allotment waiting lists across Great Britain. With the figures in England being almost double those in 2011.

For campaigners, the long waiting list demonstrates a public desire to be part of a solution in tackling multiple crises the country faces right now related to the cost of living, climate, nature and health.

Artist and academic in urban gardening, JC Niala, said food had become an “embodiment of the troubles around us”.

“With the acceleration of climate change and the persistence of structural inequality within the UK and globally, food has become both an emblem and an embodiment of the troubles around us,” said Niala.

“Allotments quite literally provide a lifeline for some. They bring good local food back to people and take away the bad taste of the global industrial food system.”

Niala added: “Everyone has the legal right to request an allotment and councils are legally obliged to provide a sufficient number of allotments.”

In a letter addressed to Michael Gove the Secretary for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, campaigners highlighted the ‘opportunity’ allotments presented in addressing food insecurity and reducing reliance on environmentally harmful industrial agriculture.

Food inequality remains extremely high in the UK, with four million children unable to access nutritious food, whilst one in four people from an ethnic minority group experience food insecurity, nearly twice the rate for white people.

Average waiting times for an allotment are current at 3 years, with the longest at 15 years. Whilst 70% of the UK’s land is farmed, but just 15% used to grow food directly for people.

Campaigners are calling on the government to ‘take seriously’ their role in creating systematic and lasting change to the food system, as well as supporting councils to enable local access to land and nature.

Daniela Montalto, Greenpeace UK forests campaigner said the crucial steps include: “Proper support for farmers to transition to climate-, people- and nature-friendly farming as well as measures to reduce our climate footprint abroad including a ban on imports of soya and other agricultural commodities that drive deforestation in places like Brazil.”

She said: “Without access to land, the many benefits of community food growing to people, nature and the climate are being stifled.”

(Image credit: Elizabeth Dalziel / Greenpeace)

Hannah Davenport is news reporter at Left Foot Forward, focusing on trade unions and environmental issues

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