Growing Concerns, a gardening centre at Wick Lane, East London. Image by Tabitha Stapely © Social Streets CIC

Petition calling to bring back the garden centre at Wick Lane attracts 820 signatures 

After the closure of Growing Concerns garden centre on Wick Lane last year, Tower Hamlets residents have launched a petition to save their vital community hub. 

Residents of Tower Hamlets launched a petition on 4 October 2023 to re-open a garden centre following the closure of Growing Concerns on Wick Lane. 

Growing Concerns was officially shut down and the area was cleared in autumn last year despite its popularity with the local community. The land is owned by The Canal & River Trust, who leased the space to Clarion Housing for the past several decades. Clarion was responsible for funding the garden centre and several staff positions, though have decided to terminate the lease. 

Sioḃán Wall, owner of Awoke Plants on the Greenway, was a community gardener at Growing Concerns. According to Wall, 44, Clarion made manager Caroline Walker redundant, as well as the other full-time staff of the garden centre.

Growing Concerns could be found on Wick Lane, nestled between the beautiful east side of Victoria Park and the Hertford Union stretch of the Regent’s Canal. Now, the community space has been cleared and is depressingly vacant. 

Set up in 1988, Growing Concerns was originally only a residents’ garden club. With the support of Clarion, the site became a garden centre in 2000 and has thrived for decades as a shop, community space and hub of horticultural knowledge. 

The independent not-for-profit was managed by local resident and gardening expert Walker until it shut down. The garden centre provided essential services in Hackney Wick and the surrounding area, from hiring and training local people to supporting community garden projects with free advice. 

According to Walker, as a social enterprise, Growing Concerns always made an effort to keep its prices down, and offered discounts on gardening supplies and plants to local gardening initiatives. Any surplus revenue the garden centre made went towards Clarion community training programmes. 

The petition to re-open the garden centre was organised by owner of Awoke Plants, Wall. Addressed to Clare Miller, CEO of Clarion Housing, the petition has amassed 820 signatures as of Thursday 19 October 2023.

The petition emphasises how Growing Concerns was more than just a shop and garden centre. ‘Our community has lost a vital resource’, the petition states. 

As well as being a shop, the space functioned as a community permaculture garden, tended by regular volunteers from the East End Women’s Institute. Meanwhile, school children aged one to four from The Montessori on the Park nursery attended a weekly forest school at the site. The garden centre employed three full-time staff members, and additional seasonal workers, making it central to the local community. 

The petition ends, requesting ‘Clarion Housing use this space as per its planning permission as a garden centre and community space in keeping with the Local Plan, and do not seek to change its use.’ 

In March 2023, Awoke Plants owner Wall approached Clarion about subletting the disused site to re-open a garden centre herself. She said:

‘I’d like to use that space, but at the moment Clarion are just sitting on the land. They’re not communicating very clearly with anyone about what their future plans are.’

Suzie, a holistic wellbeing practitioner from Fairfield Road in Bow, was a frequent visitor of Growing Concerns. She said:

‘I felt really sad when it closed as it was the nearest garden centre for me to get to without a car. I loved its community aspect, I would pop to Growing Concerns at the weekends to look at plants on my dog walk. 

‘I could cycle to it to pick up soil growing in pots. I could pick up herbs to grow on my windowsill from there too.’

A Clarion spokesperson said:

‘Following a review of the viability of the Growing Concerns garden centre we were left with the unfortunate decision to close the business to focus on delivering core services for our residents as a social landlord.

‘We informed the local councillors of our decision last year and have been working with the owners of the site to bring the lease to an end.’

You can sign the petition to Bring Back our Garden Centre at Wick Lane E3 here. 

For more about plants, read Plant Lovers London: Get some plant happiness even if you don’t have access to a garden

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