WHICH public space in Dundee has just won a UK award? Clue: it’s not the V&A.

The UK’s best community garden sits on an inner-city site near one of the most polluted crossroads in Dundee and started life in 2016 with a bunch of community workers sitting under a gazebo on scrap land, waiting for locals to get curious and come and speak to them. They did.

Colin Clement, chair of the Stobswell Forum (community council), has lived in the area for 25 years.

“The council’s community workers saw other patches of disused land round the city being taken up for housing,’’ he says. ‘‘Of course, new housing is important. But they knew if they didn’t act quickly, the site at Robertson Street would go too. And that would have been a crying shame.

‘‘Happily, the Dundee Fairness Commission had already identified community gardens as being a good thing. Folk need access to green space, a way to connect with nature, a safe place outside to congregate and care for. Tayview Community Garden has become all of that – for one reason. The community has taken it over as its own.”

The project really started in 2016, when residents voiced worries about the future of the small gap site, which had lain unused for 10 years except for a successful graffiti wall and a lot of dog walkers. Its location, with stunning views over the Tay, meant it would be a natural choice for sale to house builders.

These days, it’s astonishing that didn’t happen.

Tayview is a very different story to the tales of obstruction that often accompany asset transfers of land or buildings from council to community control. That might be because the ground was never formally transferred from council control – there’s simply an “understanding” that it now belongs to the community.

Keeping the land in council control meant the project got off the ground fast, before the land could be snaffled up for housing. The council connection also meant free landscaping worth around £61,000, the services of community allotments officer Kate Treharne and a portacabin and PV panels courtesy of new Dundee company Augean North Sea Services, which does decommissioning work in the North Sea, coaxed into this generous act by local councillor Lynne Short.

It’s a successful and unusual example of community/council/private company joint action – doubtless that helped turn heads in the UK Cultivation Street competition.

But it wouldn’t have happened unless local people overlooking the gardens had taken the project to their heart.

It’s brought people with mental health issues and learning disabilities, school children, refugees and recovering drug addicts together in a project bursting with community spirit.

Dundee Council’s Sensory Service uses the garden as a therapeutic resource for children with impaired vision or hearing. Schools use the biodiversity area as an educational resource. Pedestrians and cyclists use it as a pleasant shortcut to avoid a dangerous junction, and there’s been a reduction in litter and anti-social behaviour. The garden now has cultivated terraces where locals are growing their own fruit and veg for home-cooked meals.

There’s an orchard and seating area. Kids at the local Glebelands Primary School built a totem pole for the garden as part of a school reforestation project, and the Men’s Shed have built tree guards for the fruit trees in the orchard. Street artists have been developing the viewpoint construction and creating some of the creative graffiti work.

A member from Uppertunity donated compost bins and Dundee Recycling Centre have given tools and wooden pallets to create benches.

Froglife have created an urban pond stocked with pond creatures by the children at Wallacetown Nursery and the portacabin provides a warm space for the group to hold gatherings and a Christmas party.

All of this, because the community-controlled Tayview Community Gardens are in charge and council staff are facilitating – not controlling – the process.

Kaleb Lo was born in Sweden and moved here with his Hong Kong-born family 10 years ago.

“My father recently got a plot of land in the community garden. Now he’s passionately working the land, tilling, planting, and making shelters for the produce.

‘‘He wakes up early every day to check on the plants and water them before leaving for work. This garden project has connected our community in working together, sharing information and helping each other in their questions and problems.

‘‘We’ve really integrated into this community compared to when we first moved in, and we’ve learned that when we give to our community, we also receive from them. “ Kaleb’s father Tommy Lo thinks the same: “This open space has changed my life and my thinking about the council. They are friendly and do everything with heart. I love Dundee so much.”

Mark Higgins manages three of the 25 plots and has lived in the Stobswell area all his life. “I was in the Forces, then left and became an alcoholic for 25 years.

‘‘I’ve been in recovery for three years and help run the Recovery garden. It keeps my mind focused, stops me fae slipping back into old ways – and that means I can encourage others.”

Of course, there has been a wee bit of trashing – but that’s quickly been fixed by the gardening locals. There’s a public path through the plots so the locals decided against fences or keep-out signs. Trust has paid off so far. According to Colin Clement, “the land is never going back to another use now”.

He says: “Within a year of starting it’s been on Beechgrove Garden and won a UK award.

‘‘With lots of Dundonians from different ethnic backgrounds and different ages involved, it ticks all the boxes for the council.

‘‘Will the community go the next step and buy the land or will they be happy with what they already have?

‘‘We need to discuss that. But either way, the community and the council are happy with what we’ve done.”

Tayview is helping Dundonians connect with one another and the outdoors – it’s also eating away at the shameful total of disused and derelict land in Scotland.

Last month, the Scottish Land Commission and Scottish Environment Protection Agency committed to halving the amount of land on the disused property register by 2025.

Within walking distance of the flashy new V&A museum, that overdue process has already begun.