City gardens…

I never did History at school, at the time you had to choose between it and Geography. Looking back I regret that choice as I hated Geography (or was it that I hated the Welsh sadist at the front of the class?)

During lockdown I have been reading books – something that I usually save for holidays! My latest has been The Merchant of Prato by Iris Origo. It’s a story of a 13th Century trader who chronicled his life in thousands of letters which were rediscovered centuries later. It’s a fascinating insight into a man and his family. There was a particular passage which talks about the value proposition at the time,

Roughly speaking, the things that were produced locally were cheap and, anything that had to be imported, dear”.

I couldn’t help but wonder if this current pandemic might push us back towards buying local.

Then a good friend and colleague of mine at NTU, Paul Collins, shared a story titled, “Panic Hoarding Is Our Wakeup Call To Invest In Local And Regional Farming”. You can read it here. The take-away is;

Over the last century or so, city dwellers have become far removed from the sources of their food and thus exposed to uncontrollable disruptions in the supply chain.

Covid19 saw us hoard food again in a moment of panic buying. We were collectively worried that our imported mangoes and all-year-round strawberries might not be there. Madness really.

Perhaps it will be a moment in our history where we return to producing locally and buying local.

Then another story hit the headlines – the apparent halting of work on the Broadmarsh Shopping Centre redevelopment in Nottingham. The owners, INTU, have well-publicised financial difficulties and the current health crisis (effectively strangling their source of income) appears to have slammed the brakes on the work. The City has been waiting years for this development. “Wait some more” it seems will be the mantra.

But perhaps there can be a silver lining. A few years ago I had suggested that the shopping centre be remodelled to house the FE College. But as part of that the roof be used to grow ‘greens’. I had been inspired by Gotham Greens in the USA. The College now emerges to the East – so that horse has bolted. But we may be able to rescue the green roof project. Perhaps with another (non-retail) use inside. The locally grown product can remove some of the anxiety of supply, but the ‘food miles‘ is also reduced to around zero.

This would be a fantastic ‘first’ for Nottingham and rescue a basket-case development which has been flawed from the start.

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