Could town's flower displays be turfed over?

PUBLISHED: 08:00 28 July 2011 | UPDATED: 11:27 29 July 2011

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Archant

WESTON'S award-winning Grove Park could see its flower beds turfed over after the council announced 'devastating' cuts.

The beautiful park - rated the best in the South West in 2008 - is just one of a number of attractions around Weston which could be floral displays scrapped after North Somerset Council proposed withdrawing cash for their upkeep.

That means voluntary groups and Weston Town Council would have to step forward and foot the bill to stop the flowers disappearing – a move which could mean Weston’s council tax is raised.

The council is currently responsible for watering, planting and maintaining flower beds across North Somerset, spending £40,000 on spring and summer bedding and £190,000 in maintenance costs, but says such spending has become ‘unsustainable’.

The Mercury understands grassing over flowerbeds is the option favoured by council officers as it is seen as affordable and manageable, while longer-surviving shrubs may be planted at some sites.

Parks including Grove and Clarence, displays such as Alexandra Parade, and hanging baskets, troughs and flower beds around the town will all be affected.

The prospect will come as a huge blow to a town which has won two silver and two silver gilt awards in the Britain in Bloom competition in the past four years.

Town council leader Keith Morris said: “The town council has a limited budget and it wouldn’t be able to stretch to cover this unless we raised the council tax precepts – something we have resisted for several years now.

“This is very disappointing, the whole town looks better than it has done for years and this is a bit of a blow to be honest.”

Councillor Mike Bell, a member of both the unitary authority and the town council, said the news could be ‘devastating’.

He said: “This goes against everything that we should be trying to achieve for the town. It is such a relatively small part of the budget and it does so much good for the town and the district, why does it need to be cut?”

Weston in Bloom chairman Richard Knowles said: “Thousands of people visit Weston each year to see Grove Park, and it is also enjoyed by many local people too, so these cuts are quite frightening.”

At the council’s full meeting on Tuesday, Councillor Terry Porter, who is currently reviewing the council-maintained displays around the district, said: “I will do everything I can to make sure that Weston keeps its flowers, but this will mean people helping to keep them maintained.

“I’m sure there are enough people in Weston who have pride in the town and that will help.”

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