Award-winning head gardener’s job at Abbey Gardens in Bury St Edmunds under threat as council look to save £20k

Abbey Gardens head gardener, Steve Burgess has been nominated for an Anglia in Bloom award. Steve is

Abbey Gardens head gardener, Steve Burgess has been nominated for an Anglia in Bloom award. Steve is pictured in the Abbey Gardens in Bury. - Credit: Archant

The job of the award-winning head gardener at Abbey Gardens, Bury St Edmunds, is under threat, the EADT can reveal.

The position of senior ranger in the Abbey is also planned to be axed in a bid to merge the ranger and gardening teams and save £20,000 a year.

A single park manager post will be created and staff in both teams are currently being consulted on the changes by St Edmundsbury Borough Council.

The head gardener is currently Steve Burgess, who has worked for the borough for more than 30 years – nearly 15 as head gardener. He has played a pivotal role in the garden’s successes, leading to multiple In Bloom awards for the town.

Whether Mr Burgess will carry on working in the gardens, which attract thousands of visitors to the town, if the plans go ahead is currently not known. He said he was unable to comment during the consultation period.

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The news comes as the town gears up to celebrate 30 years of Bury in Bloom, with their coordinator Melanie Lesser praising both Mr Burgess’s and the head ranger Jean Pickering’s work for the town.

She said: “We understand the ever-pressing need for the council to make savings. We also think it makes sense for there to be one unified team at the Abbey Gardens.

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“However, we really feel for the two team members who will be affected by this change. Both are longstanding servants of the town who have helped Bury in Bloom achieve great success over the years.”

Lucy Perkins, former chairman of the Friends of Abbey Gardens and current member, described the plans as “devastating”.

She said: “I don’t know what to say. It is awful news and would be devastating for Abbey Gardens.”

Tim Page, chairman of the Bury Society, was also concerned about the changes, supporting Mrs Lesser’s statement.

St Edmundsbury Borough Council confirmed that they were planning to cut the roles of Senior Ranger and the Assistant Operations Manager (Abbey Gardens), which is informally known as head gardener. Overall one job would be lost from the Abbey Gardens gardening and ranger teams.

Joanna Rayner, cabinet member for leisure and culture at St Edmundsbury, said: “Our gardeners and our rangers in the Abbey Gardens currently work as two separate teams.

“We are bringing them together under a single management structure. The day to day service and the high standards of the gardens will be maintained. We continually review all of our services to see if we can deliver them more efficiently.”

A 30-day consultation with staff is currently ongoing. It is understood that Mr Burgess, who last year won the Anglia In Bloom Mike Ames Award, does not want to stop working in the gardens.

A council spokesman was keen to stress how the majority of their staff restructuring has focused on “top level” jobs and has achieved savings of around £4million a year for the taxpayer.

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