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Camden New Journal - LETTERS TO THE EDITOR
Published: 5 March 2009
The future is in fruit trees

JAMES Brander writes that trees are crucial in terms of mitigating air pollution and encouraging biodiversity (Trees a sign of society’s health, February 26).
He is right, but I would go further. Trees also extract carbon dioxide from the atmosphere thereby helping to reduce the greenhouse effect. They can also be a valuable source of food, which will become increasingly important after world oil production peaks and fossil fuel-powered supply chains become increasingly fragile. Peak oil is predicted to hit in the next five to ten years. It will mean dramatic energy price rises. That’s why we need to produce more food locally, and fruit and nut trees are part of the solution.
A senior politician in Camden recently told me she wouldn’t want her children eating fruit or vegetables grown in London’s pollution. But what is the difference between eating fruit that has been grown in London and fruit that has been grown in conventional chemical farms? Why is it that bees are disappearing all over the countryside but not in London? Because of conventional farming, because of the pesticides and chemical fertilisers, because the hedgerows have been dug up, because the earth is dead.
Two years ago I tried to persuade council officers to allow fruit trees to be planted whenever a tree had to be replaced. Not possible came the reply – it’s a health and safety issue. Fruit might fall in the streets, people might slip, children might climb trees and fall out, the council would be sued, youths might use the fruit as missiles and anyway the trees would be destroyed by vandals. What a depressing world some people inhabit.
If falling fruit is such a problem, then instead of condemning us to fragile, fossil fuel-powered supply chains that are destroying our chances of making it through to the end of this century, why not enter into discussions with groups like Transition Belsize (www.transitionbelsize. who would be more than happy to organise fruit-picking sessions at the first sign of ripeness and then either distribute the fruit to schools or turn it into jams or chutneys.
Some of you will have noticed trees being planted recently around the water feature outside the Swiss Cottage Leisure Centre. What a perfect place for fruit trees, I thought. “Sorry councillor, health and safety.”
Changing council policy is like turning an ocean liner. But perhaps the ship is turning on fruit trees. Since July, Camden has had a policy of encouraging food growing all over the borough and putting in fruit trees where appropriate.
That word “appropriate” is still a bit of a problem vis the new trees at Swiss Cottage. But we are due to get some fruit trees from the council on the Fellows Road estate in Belsize. And a trees officer in the planning department has agreed to try to persuade a householder to put in a walnut as a replacement for a tree whose roots had been accidentally destroyed by contractors.
In my world – Belsize in 10 years time – food is being grown on every window sill, every balcony, in every front garden and on every scrap of unused land. And fruit and nut trees are everywhere. And yes, children do climb them. And they eat the apples. And they are healthier. And they have more fun.
Chair, Camden
Sustainability Task Force

Plant now

• SO London mayor of Boris Johnson is championing of the use of disused British Waterways land to grow fresh food .
I part-own and manage The inSpiral Lounge, an organic, vegetarian restaurant, pioneering locally sourced, organic “fast-food”.
There is a large area of disused British Waterways land located next to Hawley Wharf and I would like to apply for permission to farm, tend and raise crops on this land, for future sale to our restaurant and have written a letter directly to the mayor, along with Councillor Alexis Rowell, head of Camden’s Sustainability Task force to see if they can assist me in cutting through the bureaucracy to plant on the land this year. 
I have a four-week holiday due and some friends eager to help and get involved. My company will sponsor purchase of the seeds and we can lead number of volunteers with spades to clean up and redevelop this land. By next week if we can obtain access!
Obviously the amount of bureaucracy involved in such a seemingly simple venture is likely to be considerable, but planting season is starting and I don’t want to see this land wasted this year.
We can transform one of the area’s worst eyesores into something the community can be proud of… and eat!
The inSpiral Lounge

Send your letters to: The Letters Editor, Camden New Journal, 40 Camden Road, London, NW1 9DR or email to The deadline for letters is midday Tuesday. The editor regrets that anonymous letters cannot be published, although names and addresses can be withheld. Please include a full name, postal address and telephone number. Letters may be edited for reasons of space.

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