Desperate volunteers with Peterborough’s renowned The Green Backyard are in a race against time to raise £750,000 to save their home.
Peterborough City Council, which owns the 2.3 acre London Road site, has announced the land is on the market – and the price tag is expected to be in the region of £750,000.
Now volunteers at the project have been told they have just six weeks to express their interest in buying the land and to outline a realistic fundraising programme.
If the financial plan satisfies council chiefs the volunteers will have another six months to raise the money.
Have your say: Do you support The Green Backyard’s bid to keep its site? - vote closes 17 September.
Sophie Antonelli, one of the founders of the Green Backyard, which is a community growing project created five years ago, said: “We are confident we can put a plan in place within six weeks and we can raise the money.
“It will not be easy but we are confident we can do it. We have been working behind the scenes for some time on this.
“Our volunteers have put in hundreds of thousands of hours for free at the Green Backyard and we owe it to them to try to preserve it.”
The sale of the land was first proposed about two years ago and an alternative site at allotments in Nab Lane, in Dogsthorpe, was proposed at the same rent of £500 a year.
But Ms Antonelli said: “The proposed site would be difficult to access for 50 per cent of our volunteers. We have spent a lot of time drawing up a vision for the Green Backyard, which includes the creation of a community cafe, learning centre and social enterprise units. The Green Backyard is in a central location and is visible and accessible - features that are ideal for a city that aims to be the UK’s Environment Capital.”
Support for the Green Backyard remaining in its current home has already come from Lee Clarke, chef patron at Clarke’s restaurant in Queen Street, Peterborough, who said: “It is a great benefit to the city It was very supportive of us when we opened, supplying locally grown produce.I will definitely be helping the Green Backyard in any way I can.”
Jonathan Lewis, the council’s assistant director for corporate property, said: “We have always been honest with the Green Backyard of our intention to sell the site and its access has only ever been short-term.
“Land like this is potentially worth a lot of money to the council, and ultimately taxpayers. We are about to officially inform the Green Backyard of our intention to sell the land on London Road and it will then have six weeks to express an interest to purchase. After this date the land will be put up for general sale.
“If the Green Backyard is not able to buy the site we will ask the project to honour its commitment to relocate to another suitable site in the city.
“The site we have offered is of a similar size, with terms similar to those at London Road. We have also offered a contribution to help with the move.
“Peterborough aims to be the UK’s Environment Capital and the past few years have shown that the Green Backyard is a very important part of this aspiration.”
“The community benefit of the project has always been clear to the council, demonstrated by their educational environmental courses, employer community projects and opportunities for school children to contribute and learn.”
More about The Green Backyard.
Peterborough’s Green Backyard a ‘community asset’, 26 June 2013