Integration in Berlin is needed – Forum Stadtgärtnern

At the end of August, the Forum Stadtgärtnern was held on the lawn of the Vereinshaus of Kleingartenanlage Bornholm II in Pankow. Due to the current pandemic, the number of people present was lower than last November, although the topics discussed and guests invited were many. Important issues related to our research were addressed. In particular, the conservation of gardens in the city and how gardens can be adapted to the rapid and radical urban transformation of Berlin have been discussed in depth.

“Who owns the soil?” and “What is done with the soil?” – this is how the co-founder of Prinzessinnengarten at Moritzplatz, Marco Clausen, began. The question of land ownership is one of the key matters with regard to Berlin urban development policies. Community gardens’ resilience depends on dialogue between private and public stakeholders. Clausen argued that community gardens are far fewer than allotments. The status of about 200 gardens is not protected and that’s why the “Urban Gardening Manifest” has been redacted in 2014. After six years, the situation hasn’t changed and the intervention of Yvonne from Peace of Land community garden bears witness to this. The area on which the permaculture garden is located has been threatened for years by the construction of a new gymnasium. There is no clear information about the future project – which puts the gardeners in a continuous state of precariousness – and Yvonne made it clear that above all it is hard to find interlocutors with whom to discuss the issue.

Mr. Matthei, president of Landesverband Berlin der Gartenfreunde e.V., is calling for allotments to be secured by a law similar to that for green areas in Berlin. He also agreed on a possible state law for permanent protection of garden colonies. Prof. Klaus Neumann, on the other hand, insists that in addition to their ecological qualities, allotments have a very high value in German and Berlin culture and should therefore be protected as kind of monuments.

The draft law on the protection of allotment gardens – under discussion since spring 2020 and presented in a coalition between the SPD, Die Linke and Bündnis 90/Die Grünen- has been also discussed with politicians Daniel Buchholz (SPD) and Marion Platta (DIE LINKE). Buchholz said “We want to safeguard Berlin’s gardens, and we want to do so on a legal basis. But this also involves demands: the public value of the gardens must be guaranteed and increased, the ecological value as well” (author’s translation). Thus, the draft law calls for changes towards openness and inclusion. It also proposes the common use of some parcels and the reduction of the plot area “since we do not have an infinity of space in Berlin, we will concentrate first of all on 250 square meters per garden” (Morgenpost, 2020). In the last version of KEP such measures have been already suggested. Beyond the allotment garden development plan (KEP), this law is intended to provide a basis for the permanent legal protection of allotment areas. But if the applications for the allocation of gardens is constantly increasing and the space is not enough for everyone, where will new gardens be created? Why should the growth of the city, even in these years of ecological and environmental crisis, put pressure mainly on existing green structures?

Integration and cooperation between allotment and community gardens and between allotment and public seems to be needed. However, some problems have already been raised at the Forum Stadtgärtnern. The small Kolonie Freie Stunde in Neukölln has lately established a community garden inside the allotment: “Can tenant gardeners from the common plot be protected and legally insured?”- ask a young mother- Who takes legal responsibility for the garden? Who will cover the costs and expenses? If spatial integration is already happening on informal way and with effort of gardeners, a specific regulation has to be implemented.

The forum ended with friendly chats and pretzels, under the sky on a late summer evening. Among the latest interviews conducted in Berlin on the topic of integration, it became clear that the Forum Stadtgärtnern is an important and popular initiative as a platform for the exchange of ideas and building knowledge among different actors involved in the world of urban gardens. 

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