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Restaurant unveils plans to grow vertical kitchen garden on outside wall

A project to use the walls of city buildings to grow edible crops in vertical kitchen gardens is being launched in York. The owners of El Piano, a restaurant in the historic city, hope to grow herbs and vegetables on the building’s exterior, fulfilling their sustainable aim of using locally grown food.

Liz Chadwick, a spokesman for El Piano, said the restaurant plans to make a variety of different dishes with all kinds of vegetables grown from the wall.

‘The wall is self-watering and would be continually refreshed with new crops to grow over the relevant seasons. It’s a really exciting project. All of our food is freshly made on the premises, and all of our dishes are gluten-free and all dietary requirements are catered for. We’re all about planning for the future and the sustainability of the restaurant, and we’re thinking outside the box as to how we can do that. It has been a lengthy process but we’re all set to go once the final boxes are ticked. It will be worth the wait.’

How the restaurant might look with its vertical kitchen garden: York restaurant El Piano is today holding a public consultation for an ambitious project aimed at using the walls of urban buildings to grow herbs and vegetables.

Ms Chadwick explained that getting permission to plant the restaurant’s exterior wall has not been as easy as they expected.

‘We first came up with the idea about two years ago and thought “great it’s going to be up in six months” but here we are still planning it today,’ she said. ‘The response from the public has been fantastic and we’ve noticed the restaurant has been a lot busier since we announced the plans. The biggest challenge is getting the boxes ticked so we can get the wall up and running. We’ve taken lots into consideration and now we’re in the final stages of public consultation.’

The restaurant is part of an award-winning family-run chain, with two other eateries based in Malaga and Granada, both in Spain.

Owner and founding director Magdalena Chavez, a mother of four who moved to York 15 years ago, set up the first El Piano restaurant and oversees the business.

Her youngest son Bob, his wife Elena and his mother-in-law Elaina are taking charge of the York site.

‘We see it as a natural progression for both our business and the city of York, embracing sustainable thinking and education alongside food growth, community involvement and national profile’

Elena Jackson of El Piano with some parsley, mint and coriander: Green walls have been around for centuries but new systems developed over the past couple of years allow the planting of walls with food crops

Ms Chavez splits her time in between taking charge of the Granada site in Spain and the UK, with her daughter Florence and Florence’s husband managing the Malaga restaurant.

She said the Incredible Edible Walls (IEW) project was a positive attempt to overcome the issues of growing food in an urban environment by using vertical systems for food production.

‘It’s challenging but fabulously exciting,’ she said. ‘We see it as a natural progression for both our business and the city of York, embracing sustainable thinking and education alongside food growth, community involvement and national profile.’

Although the project still needs planning permission, a spokesman said the concept had been gaining momentum over the last few years in both the UK and Europe.

It was based on the concept that individuals should try to grow their own food as locally as possible, she added.

Most such schemes in the UK were rural, using existing open areas, but this was difficult to achieve in urban areas, given the restrictions on available space.

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