London fights urban agriculture’s peskiest pest: Red tape


Urban farms offer cities a multitude of benefits, but municipal bylaws have long hindered them. London councillors are hoping to change that with a new strategy

Published on May 25, 2017

They wanted to grow food in the city and supply small local processors and soup kitchens with fresh vegetables — but when four would-be urban farmers in London found an ideal stretch of unoccupied land in the east end, the city told them they couldn’t lease it.

“We were literally not allowed to bid on that land because we were not going to develop it into houses,” says Richie Bloomfield, co-owner of Urban Roots London, the farming outfit in need of farmland. “That was kind of shocking to us.”

Urban agriculture is gaining popularity fast, but for farmers just getting started, often the biggest challenge isn’t learning how to till soil or keep pests at bay — rather, it’s the tangle of municipal rules and bylaws that either don’t take farming into account or actively discourage it.


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