LOT - London's land bank

LOT enables citizens to become stewards of land patches in their local area and convert under used spaces into green micro-sites. We work with land owners to list tiny or big patches on our platform such that they can collaborate with their own citizens to maintain it for mutual benefit.
Francesco Cagnola
Astha Johri
Camden Council
Food Systems in Urban Planning
There is a rising interest in citizens for improving biodiversity in neighbourhoods and for better access to green spaces. This was evident when several Councils declared Climate Emergencies, including Camden. However, urbanisation has massively reduced space for such endeavours and impacted citizen interaction. Additionally, budget cuts led councils to put maintenance of green spaces on low priority. Authorities, doctors and academics reaffirm the benefits that green spaces provide in terms of resilience to climate change, food security and health and wellbeing for those who interact actively with them. With this in mind, our objective was to improve accessibility to green infrastructure and devise a system of co-maintaining and co-creating it in urban places. We have worked with the Sustainability and Green Spaces teams at Camden Council and Think & Do, a citizen-led initiative at Camden. Additionally, we co-created with a range of experts from Sustain, Arup, GEHL, Digital Catapult, Centre for London, etc.
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How we landed on 'Repurposing'
We closely interacted with 6 grassroot initiatives across London, that currently work in our area. Interviewing organisers and volunteers while also volunteering ourselves led to discovering systemic problems. From our visits to Think & Do, Company Drinks, Incredible Edible, and The Conservation Volunteers, we established that despite creating a high community engagement they still struggle to reach wider communities and we identified the barriers to entry. We invited representatives from the above communities to join a multi-stakeholder workshop with Camden officers, food entrepreneurs and academics to see how ground knowledge could be used to inform and shape institutional interventions. We tested 5 hypotheses by using provocations, opportunity mapping and future scenario mapping and narrowed our focus area to ‘Repurposing of Land.’ Running remote sessions with a range of experts, (architects, data-scientists, land developers etc), we co-ideated on ways of providing citizens legal access to land in their neighbourhood.

Whose land is it anyway?

We identified user archetypes for 3 key stakeholder layers: Local citizens, Local initiatives and Landlords, and further mapped their motivation and the roles they played in the landscape. Stories like Lou Downe’s dis-adventure with the Hackney Council (as described in her blog) where her vegetable garden is uprooted and the Bassett street incident in Camden where, a 10 year old food growing initiative, involving 80 people was taken down because 5 people from the neighbouring estate complained, highlighted 2 key problems. 1. Lack of transparency in land ownership and management models 2. The absence of ways to systematise the citizens' demand, causing conflictual views on use of such spaces. GLA's Environment Strategy reiterates this need for a new system: "The city must become greener whilst it also becomes denser and more compact, bringing under the spotlight the need for new ways to create and maintain green space"

This is common land!

LOT is a land management and co-maintenance platform that leads to de-centralized management and use of green infrastructure at the neighbourhood level. A public digital platform with geo-data of claimable land brings transparency in ownership and land use, thereby improving accessibility and making it inclusive for all digital literates. The platform has three main features: - Adopt a lot: Via a digital map, citizens can see the closest spot to them and claim it upon presentation of a deserving project plan. - A lot to do: On another map, citizens can view ongoing initiatives and find the right fit for them to volunteer. - A lot to say: A community forum to express your opinion about what's going on! Essentially, LOT does two things: - Helps landowners to manage urban land portfolios - Promotes community-led maintenance of micro-green-sites that can increase biodiversity in the local area and provide the possibility of growing food.
Bringing LOT to life
In the past 6 months, we have done concept evidencing via online interviews with 15 experts, an interest survey with 25 early adopters and run 5 remote digital prototyping sessions for user experience. We found that most people felt that local public land was underutilised and they would be willing to pay a minimal amount to adopt it, provided easy, safe and legal access to land and tools were available. We also tested their comfort with background checks, proposal plans, digital contracts and their roles as ‘stewards’ vs ‘co-stewards’ of land. Currently, we are planning to pilot LOT, with real land! We’ve worked closely with Camden Council to develop this proposition and are in conversation with the Green Spaces team to take LOT forward. We are supported by Think & Do, a participative democracy initiative led by Camden's citizens to reach the right communities in the neighbourhood.
As you sow, so shall you reap
Makes London greener A greener city not only increases property value and enhances air quality: experts widely agree on the mental and physical benefits it brings to citizens. This results in indirect savings for social care services such as the NHS. Fosters community stewardship of land Community stewards enable maintenance of neglected land or contractor managed land, bringing savings from ground maintenance and better used spaces. By establishing a framework to assign land, we hope to reduce conflicts arising from opposing views on usage of spaces. Fosters local food security COVID-19 and Brexit highlighted food security. While Urban food growing is not the solution to feed the whole of England, it certainly contributes to it. A recent report by Sheffield University has demonstrated how 15% of citizens could be provided with their five a day if 10% of Sheffield green spaces were converted into food growing spaces.
special thanks
We would like to thank our mentors, partners and experts for their help and guidance! Our mentors : Andrea Edmunds, Tutor at RCA and Claire Hartten, Tutor at School of Visual Arts, Newyork Camden Council : Carlos, Elena, Olive, James, Carrie-Ann Citizens-led Iniatitives : Debbie, Stephen and Jocelyn from Think & Do, Janie from Incredible Edible Lambeth, Alex from Alara Foods, Robert from UCL, Shaun and Alice from Company Drinks, Jane from Global Generation Experts: Carolyn Steel author of Hungry Cities, Anna Cura from Food Ethics Council, Maddie from Sustain, Helen from Open System Data Lab, Nicolas from Centre for London, Tim from Where about Maps, Sophie from GEHL, Mahivi and Ed from Arup, Anthony from UK RCKA, Christine from Thought for Food and all those who took time out to advise us and support us!
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