This was nearly a post in the “Amazing places that used to be car parks” series, but I realised that, although related, it didn’t quite meet the criteria. Anyway, spot the links. Yesterday, I walked to Hove Town Hall, new venue for Seedy Sunday. At the core of this increasingly popular event is a seed swap, a way to get round the bureaucracy of licensing restrictions that is reducing the diversity of Britain’s species bank. As well as the seed swapping, there are interesting stalls, a sort of subculture around permaculture, including Slow Food and, one of my favourites, Special Branch (a local tree nursery). There are also talks, one of which was by Richard Reynolds on guerrilla gardening, “the illicit cultivation of someone else’s land.” This was based on his experiences, which became a book on “gardening without boundaries.” Much of this gardening happens in marginal places in uncompromising urban environments. So far as I could tell, no car parks have yet been guerilla gardened (digging up tarmac isn’t really on the agenda). But there’s one example that comes pretty close here in Brighton: the site of a former Esso petrol station on Lewes Road, “Once a bland outpost of the CARbon economy….now transformed by the commitment, love and creativity of a random bunch of locals who dared 'imagine a garden' on the Lewes Road”: the Lewes Road Community Garden.
After the filling station closed down, the site was stripped and the land bought for development. It lay empty for a while and, before plans were announced, was guerrilla gardened, becoming a popular local amenity. And now planning permission has been applied for. And guess what? It’s going to be a new Tesco, aka Tescopoly. Just what we all need. Despite the fact that it is literally next door to an existing Co-Op supermarket. Almost directly opposite a Spar. And a few doors up from a Turkish grocer and a few doors down from an Indian grocers. I guess this is what politicians, the Office of Fair Trading, and the Competition Commission mean by “choice.” Of course, the irony in all this is that a key factor in the decline of filling stations has been the rise of supermarkets as fuel retailers. And nowadays, the fuel stations that remain are normally co-located with mini supermarkets. And guess who runs them? As with so many things in life, if you think that what you want is “cheap”, I’d say be really, really careful what you wish for.