Opposition prompts Borders council to put plans to stop providing bedding plants on hold

Kelso in Bloom was among numerous such groups opposed to the council's decision to cut grass less often and stop providing bedding plants. Pictured here are members Betty Hodger and Lewis Hamon.
Kelso in Bloom was among numerous such groups opposed to the council's decision to cut grass less often and stop providing bedding plants. Pictured here are members Betty Hodger and Lewis Hamon.

Plans to stop providing plants for flowerbeds in a bid to cut costs have been put on hold by Scottish Borders Council following protests from community councils and horticultural groups.

The regional council has faced such widespread and vehement opposition since announcing earlier this year that it would stop providing bedding plants for floral displays from next spring that it has now backed down and put off making a decision until next year.

“Over the last six months, Scottish Borders Council has been meeting and discussing with local residents plans to change the way floral displays are managed,” said a spokesperson for the local authority.

“Having spent a lot of time listening and understanding concerns, the council has decided to defer plans to amend the current service until next year.

“This will allow time for further conversations to take place.”

Galashiels councillor Sandy Aitchison, the council’s executive member for neighbourhoods and locality services, said: “Many productive discussions have taken place with key local groups over several months regarding our plans to introduce permanent displays rather than seasonal planting and change or remove areas of bedding plants.

“What has become apparent is that both the council and communities need more time to discuss how we can, working together, deliver financially and environmentally-sustainable displays.

“It is for that reason that we have agreed to defer any changes for 12 months.

“During that time, we will continue to work closely with communities and in bloom groups to explore the support that they may require to play their part and undertake bedding plant maintenance and also look together at how some areas could be redesigned to meet all our objectives.”

The council remains committed to increasing the number of wildflower areas in the Borders, replacing more formal displays, and residents are being asked to suggest locations that could be turned into grassland or wildflower meadows to increase biodiversity.

Suggestions can be made online at www.scotborders.gov.uk/neighbourhoodservices

Jedburgh, Hawick, Ancrum and Kelso community councils were among those to register objections to the cost-cutting plans, and Rory Stewart, Ian Turnbull and David Coyle, chairmen of the first three respectively, sent a joint letter of complaint to council chiefs in June saying: “Bedding plants are also at risk of complete removal in next year’s budget, with Scottish Borders Council banking on members of the public taking it upon themselves to plant the stunning beds that we have enjoyed for many years under the heading #yourpart.

“There is only so much communities can take on and, yes, an odd bed here and there would be acceptable at a push, but asking the public, many of them elderly, to manage the planting schedule is another statement from the council that they are so out of touch with reality, and that the ivory tower in which they make these decisions is far more removed from everyday society, that councillors have forgotten who actually elected them into the position that they currently enjoy. Removal of this service will hammer another nail in the coffin of an already-delicate economy.”