Fury that Donaghcloney could have flowerless jubilee year

DONAGHCLONEY residents are blooming outraged there will be a lack of flowers in the village during Jubilee year.

Following a decision by Craigavon Borough Council, flowers will only be planted in Lurgan and Portadown.

And the knock on effect has been that the Department of Regional Development has banned private gardeners from plotting plants and hanging baskets on their land.

DUP Councillor Mark Baxter said he is appalled there will be a lack of flowers in Donaghcloney in Julibee year.

He explained a decision had been made at Council a few months ago that it would stop maintaining non-council lands this year.

“It was a decision that we in the DUP strongly opposed. In fact when the vote was taken we were the only party to vote against it, as in our view, it was clearly a most irresponsible decision.”

Councillor Baxter said he had been contacted by a number of residents.

“It is becoming clear the impact of this is coming to fruition. For approximately 15 years a few volunteers from the village have taken it upon themselves to enter the Ulster in Bloom competition obtaining flowers from council and looking after the various displays in baskets and planters etc throughout the flowering season,” he said.

However, he revealed they had been told this year that DRD will not allow any planters or baskets on their lands and, in line with their planting policy, will only allow flower beds in green areas but under no circumstances will any other containers be permitted.

“This, it seems, is a direct result of the decision council made.

“Furthermore I was told by DRD that if they have to remove the planters the local residents group will be invoiced,” said the DUP man.

“As you can imagine these volunteers are baffled by this as there has never been an issue for all the years they have been involved.

“What makes it more bewildering is the fact that “Ulster in Bloom” is sponsored by Translink who work alongside DRD so there doesn’t seem to be any joined up thinking in this.

“Although DRD have said they will allow beds in green areas this doesn’t really apply in the village as we have a lot of hard standing areas so I have written to the minister to see if any compromise can be reached as a matter of urgency as the planting season fast approaches.

“I just trust the other parties in council can begin to see the folly of the decision they have thrust upon the ratepayer of not only Donaghcloney but the whole borough,” said Councillor Baxter.

A spokesperson for the DRD said: “Roads Service encourages improvement to the appearance of public roads and car parks by permitting controlled planting of roundabout central islands, road verges and suitable spaces within public car parks, which are within the Departments ownership.

“Planters and hanging baskets are permitted if maintenance and liability are undertaken by the Council, as has been the case in previous years. Roads Service does not have the resources to carry out this maintenance role.”

A spokesperson for Craigavon Borough Council said: “At present Council maintains 142,000 square metres of land (about 35 acres) throughout the Borough belonging to other agencies.

“As part of an efficiency drive to save ratepayers money, it was agreed by Council in February 2011 that flowers would only be planted within the town centres of Lurgan and Portadown, but discontinued on all other non-council owned land.

“By taking the decision to stop this work on non Council owned land this has already saved ratepayers in excess of £40,000.

“This decision was carefully and deliberately reviewed by Members last month.

“Council once again decided to grass and maintain non Council owned land but not to plant flowers.

“Members acknowledge the implications of this decision, but are mindful that a reduction in rates is their key priority particularly in this current economic climate,” said the Council spokesperson.