Amongst the residents of Hackbridge there has been ongoing interest in healthy initiatives and a number of Government and university research projects have focused on this community as an area of particular ‘hidden’ deprivation. In a number of consultations held in the neighbourhood, the development of green leisure space has been prominent. Since 2009 there have been several sketches showing potential concepts for the development of landscaping to create amenity space in the public realm and these are tied in conjunction with the Neighbourhood Development Plan drawn up by a group of locals.
The aim of the Social Orchard project was the planting of a “food forest” accessible to local residents along a walking route (the Wandle Trail) giving access into the forthcoming regional park – setting an exemplar of best practice for community food-growing, enhancing biodiversity, increasing ‘green’ space (carbon-fixing and slowing rainwater (stopping flooding)), creating an oasis of calm and community cohesion. This would provide free fruit for the community, raise profile of local work (especially with plans to grow hops – and brew beer!) and healthy exercise, linked into work of local partner organisations.