Groundwork has today responded to Lord Heseltine’s remarks at the RHS Chelsea Flower show on the potential for horticulture to benefit deprived communities.
In his speech, the former deputy Prime Minister warned that the ‘functional monopoly of Whitehall Departments’ resulted in ‘insufficient attention on the place based challenge of living in a deprived community’ and that ‘little attempt will be made to involve local people.’
Lord Heseltine, who was involved in the launch of Groundwork in 1981, also remarked that had he been elected to one the new mayoral authorities he would have established an effective coordinating body to tackle the concentrated challenges of deprivation, ranging from unemployment, lack of skills, low education attainment, obesity, loneliness and mental health issues.
Responding to Lord Heseltine’s comments, Groundwork’s national CEO, Graham Duxbury, said:
"Lord Heseltine is absolutely right to point out that community gardening can lead to great things. In the 35 years since Groundwork was established with Lord Heseltine’s support we have witnessed time and again the transformative impact that can come from communities being given the encouragement, support and tools to make their neighbourhoods greener.
"Working with friends and neighbours to grow food, improve parks or make green spaces safer and more accessible can help people manage health conditions, bring diverse communities together and unlock business support. We absolutely agree that a focus on place and supporting practical community action should be a priority for local leaders – including newly elected mayors."
Lord Heseltine’s observations echo those made by Groundwork in a recent open letter to newly elected city-region Mayors urging them to make good on the promise of ‘double devolution’ by ensuring that integrated planning and pooled budgets are used to equip and empower community organisations to lead the delivery of services and activities.
The recommendations are based on the findings of a five-year National Lottery Funded programme, ‘Communities Living Sustainably’ (CLS). CLS gave 12 local communities the tools and £1m funding to make their local area more resilient to the impacts of climate change while making their local area more sustainable. Over the course of programme, over 60,000 people engaged with the programme with more than 6,000 securing training placements or jobs and nearly 10,000 people supported to make greener choices in their homes or workplaces.
A ‘Learning Report’ setting out the findings of CLS in greater detail is also available.
Download the ‘Looking for Leaders’ learning report here.