Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Blooming great!

Floral awards for Borough.

The good news is that South Tyneside villages have picked up a clutch of awards in the Northunbria in Bloom Competition. Silver Awards went to Cleadon Village (pictured), Boldon, and Whitburn village, whilst Westoe Village and Jarrow picked up Bronze.

Councillor Michael Clare, Labour's Lead Member for Environment, Housing, and Transport can be rightly pleased with the result, although I hope he isn't exactly ecstatic. He said today;

"These awards are testament to all the hard work put in by the staff in Streetscape - not just for making sure that the Borough's green spaces, pavements and community areas looked spick and span for the In Bloom judges, but for actually growing and nurturing the plants in the first place.

The flowers they produced contributed massively to how attractive South Tyneside looked this summer, with hanging baskets, floral displays and flower-filled structures scenting the air - a real feast for the senses.

This is the second time we have won the overall silver award, and I have been told by the staff that next year they are determined to deliver gold.

So next year, once again residents living in, and tourists visiting, the area, will see the Borough in full bloom, and fingers crossed it will be third time lucky!"

Last year, of course, we heard the same (we are determined to win gold), and it ought to be remembered that it wasn't so long ago that Whitburn Village was the overall winner in the Britain in Bloom contest. Back then the old Parks and Gardens Department was the proud operator of the magnificent nursery in Woods Terrace, South Shields, and another in Eastgarth, Westoe Village. Sadly both nurseries became concrete carpets with new houses erected on them! Decisions taken then to trim back on spending in the Parks and Gardens Department succeeded in reducing our once magnificent parks to broad swaithes of grass and little else.

South Tyneside's parks were glorious, you would have been hard pushed to find a bad one, the flower beds, shrubbery, and arboreal collections were something to be proud of and they set an example to our neighbouring councils and to our own residents who were more than happy to exhibit their own efforts alongside the Parks Department's at the annual Flower Show in the Bents Park, - something else that is being allowed to decay. I can recall too an annual event in the West Park, South Shields when the incumbent Mayor would add a new tree to "The Mayor's Walk", whatever killed off that tradition? (Something that ought to be resurrected to offset carbon emissions.)

The main arterial routes into and out of South Tyneside were also well decorated with flower beds, seasonally changed, nowadays we rely on a wholesale planting of perrenial bulbs to lighten the heart in spring.

So, as well as celebrating our recent successes we ought to be looking back and re-evaluating our priorities for the future. Streetscape and Enterprise (the body responsible for maintaining the Borough's flora and fauna) are not able to reach the standards we had so many years ago with the resources at their disposal now. New money needs to be found and invested in this area of our environment, savings need to be made in other areas of the Council's remit to meet this requirement - why don't we sell off the housing stock? (You know you want to!)

Luckily (fingers crossed) the restoration of the South Marine Park will go some way towards resetting the benchmark for public parks and gardens in South Tyneside, but, rather like the carbon emissions reduction targets, it seems that our Council is again failing to set itself higher targets and challenges, and is content to "try again next year".


South Tyneside Council

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