New orchard planned for Woollard's Field

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Press release: Moulsecoomb Primary School

Assisted by Brighton Permaculture Trust, local schools and community members are planting an orchard on Woollard's Field, the site of The Keep development, which will provide a new archive centre for the county on the edge of Brighton.

The idea for an old fashioned community orchard on the site originally came from a local resident remembering fruit trees on the site after the Second World War where local people used to go scrumping.

School children and students from Moulsecoomb Primary School and Brighton Aldridge Community Academy will help plant the first trees on 12 December. Funding for the event has been provided by Infinity Foods.

Planting of a small orchard of heritage fruit trees and the sowing of a wildflower meadow around them will take place from this month until spring 2013. Local organisations will manage the planting and care of the orchard.

The rare local heritage varieties include the White Transparent apple, which dates back to 1800 and was formally grown at the Woollard's family nursery in Coldean Lane.

Councillor Pete West, chair of Brighton & Hove's environment committee, said: "So many of our native orchards have disappeared, so it is wonderful that we are able to put one back. This is a local community-led project which our council has helped to secure and is proud to support.

"It also echoes the purpose and ethos of The Keep which will bring local archives together in one place for people to discover the history and heritage of Brighton & Hove and surrounding area."

Local community campaigner and Parish Priest, Father John says:

"This orchard will primarily bring something beautiful to the community and I am so looking forward to seeing The Keep in a cloud of apple blossom in spring.  In some ways it will speak, I think, of the 'rootedness' of our community. I remember when there was an archaeological dig at Moulsecoomb Primary School where the diggers were going to plant 'finds' for the kids, but as they dug they found real stuff, both pre-historic and Roman. People often think of Moulsecoomb as an inter war and post war development, but our community goes much deeper than that. Moulsecoomb was initially built as 'Brighton Garden Suburb', so there are resonances with that too."

During construction of the new Archive Centre at The Keep, local community members proposed the planting of a community orchard on land at the southern end of the development site where a public access grassed area had been secured by Brighton & Hove’s planning committee through a Section 106 agreement.

Original plans involved woodland belt planting around the perimeter. Now, in addition to this, the proposal is to plant between 12 apple trees and incorporate a wildflower meadow.

Planning and City Parks officers from Brighton & Hove worked with East Sussex County Council and community groups Moulsecoomb Forest Garden, Brighton Permaculture Trust and Brighton & Hove Food Partnership which is providing support through the Harvest project, to make way for the orchard. This involved amending the legal agreement to hand management of the land back to City Parks five years early.

Vic Borril, Director of Brighton & Hove Food Partnership adds:

"Local people asked the Harvest partners if the landscape area around The Keep could be used as a productive landscape. Community food projects and the Council's planning team and CityParks have worked together to make this happen and this is a great example of the City Council’s planning policies to support food growing in action".