Of the many things people single out as factors making their town or city an attractive place to live, access to green space is always near the top of the list. As cities continue to grow and become more dense, the value of appealing green spaces, be it a garden square or public park, only increases. The recent global pandemic with its lockdowns, highlighted the degree to which urban populations depend on green space for their physical and mental wellbeing.

At Arup, we believe that beyond merely expanding the amount of green space available, developing urban agriculture is a more powerful way to achieve a range of improvements to the fabric of our towns and cities. Urban farming thus provides local authorities with a way to address many priorities at once, from meeting the goals of their climate action plans to urban regeneration, social cohesion and improved public realm.

Whether you’re a commercial developer or running a local authority, the demand is clearly there. Allotments of land (or ‘community gardens’) are incredibly popular in the many countries that offer them – in the UK alone there is a waiting list of over 157,000 people, according to the Guardian. Given the prevalence of apartment and shared living, the demand for a little green space in which to grow plants in the open air, is understandable.

How we tackle this issue

On a broader level, food production has always been an important factor connecting sustainability, health and the built environment. It’s also a high emission sector of the global economy, with the EU reckoning agriculture to be responsible for around 30% of all emissions annually (of which a fifth are so-called ‘food miles’). So there is much value to be gained by bringing town and country closer together. As a goal though, how appealing or scalable is urban farming?

Why develop urban food growing?

Listen to Eike Sindlinger, an Arup architect and urban designer, talk about the benefits of bringing food growing into cities.


Here are four reasons that urban agriculture is gaining traction as an appealing element of city and neighbourhood development:

  1. Nature – food growing is the most effective tool for people to engage with nature and natural cycles, with wide appeal to all age groups.
  2. Environmental impact – food growing increases an area’s green space, makes use of underutilised spaces, and enhances biodiversity.
  3. Community and social cohesion – food growing connects people of different backgrounds. Stronger communities are more appealing to developers and authorities alike.
  4. Placemaking and identity – urban agriculture can help people to connect with their surroundings can help to establish a distinct character and identity for a new place. It creates a stake in the neighbourhood.

Embedding urban farming in your masterplan 

There are a range of environmental, planning, governance, spatial and technical considerations that define what’s possible in a given location. But equally, there are many different ways to bring urban agriculture into the fabric of a town or city.

Urban Farming a toolkit of approaches video cover
Bringing agriculture into the urban environment is a masterplanning task