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Marlinde E. Koopmans, Daniel Keech, Lucie Sovová and Matt Reed

Abstract

Despite rising enthusiasm for food growing among city dwellers, local authorities struggle to find space for urban agriculture (UA), both literally and figuratively. Consequently, UA often arises, sometimes temporarily, in marginal areas that are vulnerable to changes in planning designation. In the literature, spatial issues in relation to UA have either addressed structural questions of land use, governance and planning, or have highlighted social and personal benefits of UA. This paper aims to revisit and combine both streams of inquiry, viewing them as two co-constitutive forces that shape places through UA. The paper analyses three case studies in Brno, Ghent and Bristol, using a spatial lens that exposes important tensions as inherent characteristics of UA and conceptualises them as tensions within two space-narratives, namely abstract space and concrete place. It is suggested that UA, as a collective socio-cultural process, can transform functionally replicable spaces into unique places and thus contributes to place-making. This function should be recognised within urban planning circles, which should not only secure physical spaces to develop urban agriculture, but also create possibilities for local autonomous governance.