Procedural aspects of urban agriculture in Amsterdam

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Urban agriculture projects can be of great value to the city. They can strengthen a local community, sick fight abandonment and neglect, and provide food. When taking part in urban agriculture, however, several procedural requirements should be met. Depending on where the project will be located, and which form of agriculture is carried out, different regulations can apply. Here, the most important aspects will be set out. Note that these are general guidelines. In all cases it is recommended that project promoters take note of the local city district’s required procedural steps for each specific case.

General
Amsterdam’s urban agriculture policy
Currently, the City of Amsterdam does not have a policy on urban agriculture. The city’s districts have different ways of handling cases of urban farming and there is no central office specifically designated to oversee urban agriculture. Therefore, it is not clear which department those seeking advice need turn to. This has to do with a relative lack of experience in regulating urban agriculture – but officials within the municipality say that clearer policy is underway, in order to make it easier for people to initiate projects.

Until the new policy becomes active, it is highly recommended that urban farming initiators contact their local city district in an early stages of the process. Generally, local authorities welcome agriculture initiatives because the projects contribute to the livability of a neighborhood. Most city districts have supported urban agriculture projects in recent years. District officials are often willing to help in the procedural process, and funding is sometimes available in for projects that contribute to the local community.

To ask for support from the local city district, initiators can apply for funding for citizens’ initiatives (bewonersinitiatieven) or neighborhood initiatives (wijkinitiatieven). In order to qualify for funding, it is often required that an initiator live in the neighborhood where the project is to take place.

Postzegelparken
Stichting Postzegelparken (Pocket Parks Foundation) can also be contacted by those wishing to engage in urban agriculture. This organisation aims to convert areas of public space into ‘pocket parks’ for different uses, including farming.

Housing corporations
In Amsterdam, housing corporations have a keen interest in the wellbeing of a neighborhood’s residents and in creating positive social environments. Therefore, the corporations regularly fund events or projects, and several corporations have supported urban farming projects in Amsterdam. Contact the housing corporations that are active in the neighborhood to inquire about funding policies.

Ownership
The first issue arising when a suitable piece of land or building is found is ascertaining ownership and the owners’ future plans. The ownership status can be found out at the land registry (Het Kadaster: www.kadaster.nl). Het Kadaster provides details about property ownership and characteristics. The owners may be Gemeente Amsterdam, a housing corporation, a property developer or real estate agency, or private owners. Particularly n the centre of Amsterdam, the municipality owns the leasehold on many plots of land, although a leaseholder (user) can use the land, and everything on it, as if it belongs to him or her. In most situations, Het Kadaster can clarify the ownership situation.

Temporary projects
When a project is temporary, the parties involved are sometimes more likely to help, or to grant permission to move forward. Non-permanent projects can be interesting because they can bridge a period of non-use and prevent neglect, for example in times when construction is on hold or a property cannot be sold. Also, land-use designation regulations provide certain possibilities for temporary projects. When a project is carried out for a maximum of five years, it can be approved without having to meet land-use designation plans.

 

Urban agriculture in public space
Public spaces can be perfect for urban agriculture. Amsterdam-based initiatives like Buurtmoestuin de Trompenburg and Postzegelparken show how public space can be transformed into productive urban agriculture sites and vehicles for community building.

When converting public space into an urban agriculture project, several things should be taken into account:

City district
First of all, the plan should be discussed with the relevant department at the local city district, usually the department of Groen en Publieke Ruimte (Green and Public Space). The department might be willing to cooperate or help out when a project could be of value for the neighborhood.

Soil test
Secondly, proposed urban agriculture activity necessitates a soil test, which must be carried out to see if the soil is suitable for cultivation. The test is usually done by the Dienst Milieu en Bouwtoezicht. When the soil is not suitable for cultivating food, the soil has to be remediated or the food can be grown in crates or grow bags.

Land-use designation
Further, if agriculture does not fit the designated land use plan, permission to deviate from this plan might be required. The Vergunningen (permits) department of the local city district can provide information about the activities allowed in a certain location.

Permits
Finally, the required permissions should be taken into consideration. The Dienst Milieu and Bouwtoezicht can tell you what permits may be required. For example, when you want to construct fencing around the piece of land or build a shed, a building permission is needed.

Urban agriculture on vacant lots
In Amsterdam (even in compact Amsterdam), there are many tracts of under-used land. There are several possible reasons for this, just as there may be several possible owners for any one piece of land. Under current economic circumstances, several property development projects have been cancelled or put on hold, which offers great opportunities for temporary urban agriculture projects.

Property owner
If you find a suitable tract of land for urban agriculture, first find out to whom it belongs, and what the future plans are for the property.

Agreement
It is important to come to a clear agreement with the owner of the property, regarding project duration and activity. An important issue for the owner is often the ending of temporary use. Therefore, it is recommended that a clear contract be set up, which ensures the rights of the temporary user and simultaneously assures the owner that he/she can use the property for other purposes after the agreed period. The latter is often a prerequisite for owners to allow temporary use.

Land-use designation
After the temporary use agreement, several other things should be taken into account. If agricultural activity does not fit the designated land use plan, permission to deviate from this plan might be required. Generally, this permission is granted for a maximum of five years. Currently, however, the legislature is considering relief of this regulation, making it possible that longer periods will qualify as ‘temporary’.

The Vergunningen (permits) department of the local city district can provide information about the activities allowed in a certain location.

Urban agriculture and buildings
Food cultivation is perfectly viable on top of buildings, in rooftop gardens, or in vertical gardens on a building’s façade. When engaging in such projects, several formalities should be taken into account.

Land-use designation
The designated land use plans contain restrictions regarding the dimensions of a building. If additions to the rooftop or façade of a building do not meet these restrictions, permission to deviate from them are required. The Vergunningen (permits) department of the local city district can provide information about this.

Permits
Rooftop gardens, in particular, often require additional construction, for example of the access staircase to the roof and the fencing. Both require a building permit. The fencing should have a minimum height of 1.10 metres. Also, certain safety codes should be met, for example regarding fire safety. It should be verified that the roof and the building’s foundation are capable of carrying a rooftop garden. The Dienst Milieu en Bouwtoezicht can provide detailed information about these requirements.

Privacy issues
To avoid unpleasant surprises, it is recommended that you contact your neighbors before constructing a rooftop garden. According to Dutch law, rooftop terraces should not be within two metres of property limits, unless the neighbors grant permission otherwise. A notarised contract between you and your neighbors takes away any uncertainties regarding the neighbors’ permission.

Urban agriculture inside buildings
Empty buildings can be perfect for growing food. The city’s 1.3 million square metres of empty office space, for example, provide enormous opportunities for food cultivation in the city.

By growing food in crates or other cultivation installations, an empty space can easily be transformed to a food growing location. Without any large physical adjustments to the property, few procedural steps need be taken before start  before food is grown in a building.

Ownership
As with empty tracts of land, the ownership status of empty buildings can be acquired at the land register (Het Kadaster).

Agreement
It is important to come to a clear agreement with the owner of the property, regarding project duration and activity. An important issue for the owner is often the ending of temporary use. Therefore, it is recommended to set up a clear contract, which ensures the rights of the temporary user and simultaneously assures the owner that he/she can use the property for other purposes after the agreed period. The latter is often a prerequisite for owners to allow temporary use.

Permits
For simple indoor food growing, no permits are required. However, when the space needs rebuilding or certain cultivation systems need to be installed, building permits might be required.

Looking for a place to perform urban farming?
If you’d like to be take part in urban agriculture, but don’t know where, or don’t have a specific place in mind, you can take your ideas to the Stadsloods (the City’s pilot project unit). Currently, Aukje Teppema and Laura van Dijk are the Amsterdam’s Stadsloodses. They have a good overview of available spaces and buildings in the city, and coordinate between need and availability.

Who to contact
Generally, the city district’s departments of wijkzaken/bewonersinitiatieven (neighborhood affairs/citizens’ initiatives) or groen en publieke ruimte (green and public space) are best contacted, although not all city districts are similarly organized, and departments might be named differently. In such cases, contact the municipality on the general telephone number 14 020, which is also the initial contact point for individual city districts. Here, you can be redirected to the relevant department of your city district.

For information about land-use designation and which activities are allowed in a certain location, contact the permits department of the local district.. These departments can also issue and provide information about required permits.

Centrum
Vergunningen
wkpb@centrum.amsterdam.nl

Oost
Afdeling Vergunningen
teamwabo@oost.amsterdam.nl
020 253 5393

Nieuw-West
Afdeling Vergunningen
020 253 7297

West
Loket Vergunningen
loketvergunningen@west.amsterdam.nl
020 581 0181

Noord
Vergunningen
020 634 9500

Zuid
Afdeling Handhaving & Veiligheid
020 252 1763

Zuid-Oost
Afdeling Burgerzaken
020 252 5111

Dienst Milieu en Bouwtoezicht
This department can provide information about environmental issues (for example soil condition).

Dienst Milieu en Bouwtoezicht
Cruquiusweg 5
1019 AT Amsterdam
Telephone: 14 020

Aukje Teppema
stadsloods@dro.amsterdam.nl
020 552 7849

Laura van Dijk
LvanDijk@dro.amsterdam.nl
020 552 7973

Posted on 30 March 2011 and filed under content

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