Greenwich is facing the loss of an extraordinary and unique community resource – and yet virtually no one appears to know of its existence or of the threat to its existence.
Occupying two acres of former industrial land on the Greenwich peninsula is the Meantime Nursery. An offshoot of the wonderful (and much better-known) Greenwich Ecology Park, it features insect hotels, vertical gardens, living willow fencing and a series of raised nursery beds containing experimental turf seeded with wildflowers, aquatic plants and more.
Created by volunteers and opened with a little fanfare only in Spring 2011 (yes, 2011), it is now threatened with closure. The threat looming over it is that the land is to be turned over to a Dutch company to create a ‘glamping’ attraction (glamorous camping, with beds, wardrobes, internet and mood lighting), decked out in lurid orange, for mostly Dutch tourists, and planned to be operational in time for the Olympics and a tall ships sail-past next year.
The Meantime Nursery, just a few months ago, was being hailed as a wonderful new local resource for conservation and biodiversity, benefiting community groups and local schools. It would be an educational resource, help to cut carbon and host food-growing projects. At the time of the nursery’s opening, attended by a government minister, the landowner, the Homes and Communities Agency, said: “This is a really fantastic project and we are proud to be involved. As well as providing the land rent-free we have undertaken the essential enabling works on site to ensure that this land can be put to good use immediately.”
So what has changed? How and why did the HCA’s proud commitment to this project evaporate? It is time local people realised that this wonderful site is under their noses, time that it was publicised and opened up to the public more widely, and time that the community demands answers from the HCA and from Greenwich Council. An application for the ‘glamping’ site to have a licence for alcohol and music has run into trouble, so there may yet be time and opportunity to mobilise to save the Meantime Nursery.
I was lucky enough recently to get access to the site. I hope the photographs here will give a sense of what we face losing in the name of a profit-seeking, temporary, tourist jamboree.
Gavin McGregor lives in east Greenwich and is a member of the East Greenwich Pleasaunce orchard care group, a keen forager and a frustrated balcony veg-grower.
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