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COST Action: Urban Allotment Gardens in European Cities – Future Challenges and Lessons Learned
Client:European Commission, COST-Office
Partner(s):70 institutions from 31 EU countries and New Zealand as International Partner Country
Time frame:01/2012 – 12/2016

The main objective of the COST Action Urban Allotment Gardens in European cites was to study urban Allotment Gardens and their relevance for urban sustainable development by creating a scientific platform. During the last 20 years, due to densification of urban areas and increasing loss of green infrastructure, both a revival of interest in Allotment Gardens and simultaneous competition of other kind of land use occurred. The multi-character and partly contradictory nature of the Allotment Gardens makes it a relevant issue to be studied within different European urban contexts. Through selected case studies and in-depth research (into the areas of policy and urban development, sociology, ecology, urban design), focus of the Action was on both qualitative and quantitative studies to comprehend challenges and opportunities in areas of urban design, sociology, ecology and policy. The relevance and potential of Allotment Gardens for urban development so far has not been studied from a European perspective. The Action thus contributed to a better understanding of framework conditions for policy actions in different European countries and emphasizes to involve young researchers through well-organized networking practice.

The Action reached its main objective to create a research platform on which urban allotment gardens for the first time in Europe should be fully comprehended from different perspectives (learn more on www.urbanallotments.eu). It brought together researchers and practitioners from all over Europe who for the first ever time subject considered this subject in any detail and across a continent looking at policy and planning aspects, social benefits, ecological benefits and design aspects. This included a comprehensive review of research and academic and other literature and a collection of case studies around Europe through which it was possible to look at the wide range of different traditions and practices of allotment gardening and their challenges and opportunities across Europe, to bring together the most recent research, to discuss the latest evolution of this practice and to help to raise awareness and fill knowledge gaps about the subject. The multidisciplinary perspective, with many disciplines represented in the four working groups ranging from horticulture and soil science to ecology, sociology, planning and design contributed to these achievements as well as the excellent working atmosphere and cooperation in the working groups.

After the kick-off meeting in 2013 in Brussel in which Runrid Fox-Kämper, head of research group Built Environment at ILS was elected as Chair , the Action has quickly grown to 31 European participating countries plus New Zealand as international partner country with 171 members from more than 70 higher education institutions. So far, the level of participation by signatory countries was notable and allowed to learn lessons from each case and to understand the status of urban allotment gardens in different regions in Europe. The approach was performed by bi-annual events comprised of management committee and working group meetings in Dortmund, Poznan, Lisbon, Riga, Nicosia, Birmingham and Thessaloniki which were planned with the intention to cover all geographical regions of Europe.Carefully edited event reports with summaries of all presentations and minutes of working group meeting where produced and published on the Action´s website, available also for the broad public (link). Three training schools in Salzburg, Ljubljana and Warsawa as well as a relevant number of funded so-called short term scientific missions involved early-stage researchers.

The local awareness of the situation of urban gardening in the countries where the events (meetings and training schools) took place was raised significantly as local advocates joined the events, gave presentations and are following the Action’s activities through its website. It can be assumed that authorities in countries with poor tradition of urban gardening, such Greece, Malta or Cyprus or in those without any regulations, such as Latvia or Estonia, where incentivised to consider improvements in governance regimes related to allotment gardens and allocation of land.

The Action has reached significant outputs:

  • The Final Action Book ´Urban Allotment Gardens in Europe´ published in 2016 (link), providing a multidisciplinary perspective, including insights from horticulture and soil science, ecology, sociology, urban geography, landscape, planning and design. The themes are underpinned by case studies from a number of European countries which supply a wide range of examples to illustrate different key issues

  • a Special Issue to be published in due course in 2017,

  • the final conference "Growing in Cities" in Basel, where contributors from all over the world increased the awareness or the topic and the network activities (link),

  • a set of factsheets for policy-makers and urban gardening practitioners available in fourteen languages (link)

  • and an informative website with relevant information to persist after the Action has ended (www.urbanallotments.eu).

The Action´s network managed to raise the attention for the relevance of the topic of urban gardening in European cities significantly in both the science community and by policy-makers in many countries in Europe and on different levels (country and city).


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