Anger at council flowerbed plan

A COUNCIL has come under fire after it announced it was to turf over many of a town's roadside flowerbeds, shrubberies and hedges.

Roddy Ashworth

A COUNCIL has come under fire after it announced it was to turf over many of a town's roadside flowerbeds, shrubberies and hedges.

Around one in five “landscape features” in Colchester face being dug up and replaced with plain grass as part of a cost-cutting measure imposed by the borough council.

But the move has been greeted with horror by some local people, who have said the flowers and plants add both to the town's appearance and ambience.

Details of the plan emerged last week in a letter from Neil Long, Colchester Borough Council's parks and recreation officer.

Writing to councillors, he said: “As part of the 2009/10 budget, which was passed at council on Wednesday February 18, the Parks and Recreation Service is required to make savings from the Highway Grounds Maintenance budget.

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“Specifically, we were asked to find savings from both grass mowing and the maintenance of planted areas such as shrub borders, rose borders and hedges.”

He added that, as a result, “6000m2, approximately 20% of a total of nearly 28,000m2 of shrub borders, rose borders and hedges on the public highway verges will be removed from various locations in 18 wards across the borough.”

Theresa Higgins, the council's cabinet member for culture, tourism and diversity, said: “More frequently we are finding that the maintenance of planted areas such as shrub borders, rose borders and hedges is proving increasingly expensive to maintain.

“I and my cabinet colleagues have carefully considered a variety of options to meet our objective of shifting resources to meet the priorities outlined in our new strategic plan and the only means of reducing grounds maintenance costs is to reduce the quantity of areas being maintained or to reduce the quality of maintenance.

“We pride ourselves on the quality of our environment and therefore we do not propose to drop our standards.

“We are removing and grassing some shrub areas where they need replacing.”

However, Essex County Council's cabinet member for heritage, culture and the arts, wrote to Mrs Higgins asking her to reconsider.

“I have to tell you that I am shocked to discover that Colchester Borough Council is grubbing out approximately one in five of the roadside shrub borders, hedges and roses across the town and that it is doing so, seemingly, without any consultation with Essex County Council.

“My particular concern relates to the cultural and heritage aspects of your action.

“Ornamental bushes and shrubs are widely accepted as improving the urban landscape, adding to the quality of life.

“As you will undoubtedly know, Britain's oldest recorded town also boasts the country's longest established rose growers, a family firm now nearing 250 years in business.

“Removing roses, in Colchester of all places, is destructive of our heritage.”

He added: “I earnestly ask that you immediately reverse your decision, before more damage is done.”