Communities in hunt for ideas as blooming council cuts services

Bank St Gardens, Galashiels ... normally blooming lovely in the summer.
Bank St Gardens, Galashiels ... normally blooming lovely in the summer.

Community councils in the Borders are working out how they will tackle their respective towns’ floral displays once the council stops providing them from next year.

The council had brought community leaders together at the end of March to discuss what the the local authority was prepared to do as regards grass cutting and flower planting after it drastically cuts its maintenance service after the summer.

The eastern entrance to Kelso, blooming with crocuses, thanks to the town's Rotarians.

The eastern entrance to Kelso, blooming with crocuses, thanks to the town's Rotarians.

And the various floral organisations, often run as community council sub-groups, are scratching their heads as to how they can make their green spaces as beautiful as possible given their own meagre budgets.

At Galashiels, community councillors discussed the issue at their meeting last Wednesday.

Chairwoman Judith Cleghorn said: “It was proposed that we look after just four small areas in Bank Street Gardens for shrubs or perennials.

“Grass cutting will now be done on a 20-day cycle, rather than 10 days – except on the sport pitches and at Bank Street Gardens.”

Floral display in Selkirk High Street

Floral display in Selkirk High Street

She attended the seminar at Newtown with Johnny Gray, who helps to look after the gardens at Old Gala House.

He reported: “It was suggested that there will be no bedding plants and no hanging baskets along Bank Street.”

It was news that was expected, but was not welcomed.

Former Galashiels councillor Bill White said: “I think it is a disgrace ... it could turn Bank Street Gardens into a lawn.”

After some discussion, the council agreed that, like the year previous, they would not enter the annual Floral Gateway awards, as Mrs Cleghorn said: “We don’t need a contest for us to make the town look good.”

But treasurer Tom Ingoldsby warned: “If we don’t enter the competition, does it not give the impression that we don’t care about our town?”

Members were tasked to come up with some funding ideas that could keep Bank Street Gardens an oasis of colour. And councillors were tasked with finding out how they could access pay parking cash from the town.

However, community council members were warned that that particular sum of money could be taken up by payments for the new playpark in the Public Park.

Mr White said: “When that playpark was mooted, it was never meant to be built using car parking money.”

And community councillor Drew Tulley commented: “What I’d like to know is where did the money come from for playparks in other towns that don’t have pay parking?”

Mr Gray said that the efforts made by the council at Bank Street up to now should not be forgotten.

He said: “We have to acknowledge the work done by Scottish Borders Council underFiona Cameron.

Bank Street Gardens, in the past couple of years, has been outstanding.”

Meanwhile, Selkirk is looking to use the change of circumstances as an “opportunity to make our town even more beautiful”.

That optimism came from Judith Thompson, leader of the Blooming Selkirk sub-group of the town’s community council at their meeting on Monday.

She revealed that there would be a public meeting, hosted by the town’s floral group, on May 6 at 7pm at the Victoria Halls.

She said: “We want to make everyone aware of the situation, as the council will no longer supply bedding plants ... only shrubs and perrenials.

“It could be that is fine for certain areas, but I don’t think we want to do that in the Narket Place, so the meeting will be to decide what we can do and where.

“I would urge people to come along if they are in the least bit interested.

“It could be looked at as an opportunity to make our town even more beautiful.

“It has to be remembered that it is not only the centre of the town that comes under our remit ... it’s anywhere we want to adopt, including the entrances to the town.”

Dozens of townsfolk flocked to a public meeting in Kelso Town Hall on Monday evening as community groups and volunteers tried to find a way to keep the town looking blooming lovely after the council confirmed it would no longer provide annual bedding plants for the town centre planters and Kelso war memorial, as well as the roundabouts and parks.

The community council and its subgroup Kelso in Bloom, which looks after the flower beds at the entrances to the town, are now looking through the feedback with a view to drawing up an action plan.

Town Provost Dean Weatherston said: “Kelso Community Council would like to thank the many people, community groups and businesses that showed support for our beautiful town on Monday evening by attending our public meeting on the changes taking place following Scottish Borders Council’s review of neighbourhood services.

“Your support for Kelso is very much appreciated, as were the emails and phone calls of support we had from people who couldn’t attend the meeting. By working together we, the community, can maintain the high standards we as residents want for our town.”

However, Mr Weatherston issued a call for younger people to get involved as well as those with experience of applying for grants,

“There was a large demographic missing,” he explained. “There was only two people under 50 years of age at the meeting, the majority being in their 60s and 70s.

“We need to change this.

“We get a lot of comments from our Facebook community but we need your physical help too, whether it’s helping with a fundraiser or more importantly offering to do some maintenance of the beds.

“If each person could pledge to give their time to fill a two hour slot on our flower bed rota once a year, that would make a massive difference.”

Betty Hodges, chairwoman of Kelso in Bloom, added: “Kelso in Bloom is a tiny group and we can’t handle this on our own.

“I think we need to tap into other groups in the town and bring people in that way.

“This affects everybody in the town and I think the group needs to reflect that.”