The Central Nursery is just outside my ward, next to Watergate Park in Gateshead. Until recently, it produced the vast majority of the bedding plants for the borough. It is now closed and Labour are very keen for this greenbelt site to be used for house-building. There is an on-going battle to ensure this area remains greenbelt in the Local Plan. Whether or not it is used for housing, the site is secure as a horticultural centre for the next five year as the environmental charity Groundwork has been granted a lease until 2018.
The charity contacted me last week and invited me to visit the site and talk to them about ideas for promoting local food production, gardening and allotments. It was another event at which I was wearing more my allotment guru hat than that of local councillor.
It was a useful visit. We discussed a range of ideas and I suggested renting out parts of the greenhouses and polytunnels on the site in the way allotments are rented out to local residents. I also suggested they get someone to put beehives on the site, look at setting up craft and food markets and set up a herb garden.
Groundwork are keen to talk to anyone with ideas on how the Central Nursery could be used for horticultural activities. The person to talk to is Geoff Dawson and he can be contacted on Geoff.Dawson@groundwork.org.uk.