ENVIRONMENT CAPITAL SERIES: Future is looking bright for Peterborough’s Green Backyard

Children pond dipping at the Green Backyard EMN-170831-160520009
Children pond dipping at the Green Backyard EMN-170831-160520009
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After a six year struggle September will finally see the future of Peterborough’s Green Backyard secured.

The popular community growing space situated on the corner of London Road and Oundle Road has had to fight to prevent Peterborough City Council from selling the land to developers, but after a change of heart from the authority the Green Backyard will this month sign a 12 year lease to stay where it is.

Sophie Antonelli EMN-170831-160454009

Sophie Antonelli EMN-170831-160454009

Sophie Antonelli, who co-founded the group alongside dad Renny, said: “We are completely overjoyed. In one way it’s the end of a very, very long process but in another sense it’s just the beginning.”

The Green Backyard opened in January 2009 on a three year lease. Sophie said: “Our vision was very much it’s a space where everyone was welcome. That was the most important part of it.”

The “turning point” for the community group, Sophie said, came when the council gave it an extension to raise money to buy the land. She explained: “It just gave us time to put the business plan together, put the research together to make our case and sit down with them and really explain the benefits of having our site on there.

“We are really happy they listened. Lots of people made their views known to say they supported our ambitions. That played a significant part in changing the council’s mind.”

The Green Backyard is open four days a week and has a small shop selling ethical and organic food. Groups who support people with mental health problems and additional learning needs also make use of the site.

The site was referred to as a ‘Garden of Eden’ by MP for Peterborough Fiona Onasanya and has received attention from former Green Party leader Natalie Bennett, Tim Smit - who founded the Eden Project in Cornwall - and The Guardian newspaper.

And the future, according to Sophie, “is about making the space even more accessible. We’re working with a brain injury charity to see how to make it more accessible to people with disabilities.”

Plans for a ‘sustainable building’ on the site for community events and as a meeting space are also being looked into.

This week has also seen the first two paid members of staff start at the Green Backyard.

They will help deliver business plans, provide more organisational support, fundraise and host events.

The community group also says the importance of its site to helping people with mental health problems cannot be understated.

Sophie added: “People said it’s changed their lives for the better - that’s pretty special. I’ve seen lots and lots of people making significant improvements whether it’s with health, careers or meeting new friends.”