WARINGSTOWN residents have criticised Craigavon Council for taking the colour away from their village.
For nine years in a row the village picked up major awards for its floral displays, but more recently it has been stripped of its flowers thanks to the council’s new policy not to supply flowers to outlying towns and villages.
Jean Sturgeon said: “The population of Waringstown is growing and growing. When you think of all the rates they get from Waringstown they’re really letting us down.
“We haven’t got one flower to look at except the one flower bed that one of the residents planted herself.”
Jean was a member of Waringstown In Bloom committee until it folded in 2005. In 10 years Waringstown won numerous awards including Ulster In Bloom, Best Kept Small Town, Silver in Britain in Bloom and gained a top award at World Communities In Bloom.
Sandra Ledlie added: “My proudest moment was collecting those awards with Waringstown in Bloom. We’ll never have the same level as that again, but it’s ridiculous that we’ve no flowers at all now.
“This is a wake up call for residents. If they don’t get off their butts and do something about it this is what happens.
“It’s also a wake up call for council. We’re not going to accept paying all this money and having nothing in return.”
Harris Jones commented: “All the talk is about tourism. The tourism minister wants to double the income from tourism in Northern Ireland in the next 10 years.
“In September Craigavon Council are launching a brochure to promote tourism in eight villages, Waringstown being one of them.
“Having no flowers in the village is at odds with this tourism project. One hand doesn’t know what the other is doing.”
A spokesperson for Waringstown Community Development Association said: “Through our recent village-wide survey residents have clearly indicated that the floral arrangements are one of the main things that they value within the village and that often it was the thing which attracted them to live in the village in first place.
“Waringstown is relatively poor in local public amenities and has seen relatively little investment from the council over the years. Further, we believe that, having benefited greatly from increased rates revenue through the massive growth in the number of properties in Waringstown over the last 10 years, the Council has an obligation to maintain and improve the standard of amenities and services in the area.”
A council spokesperson said: “Craigavon Borough Council recognises the value of our rural communities and is proud to be actively promoting eight villages – including Waringstown – to encourage tourists to come and visit.
“Through the Southern Action for Rural Development (SOAR) Council has successfully applied for £4,500 to produce a village trails publication. Each village will highlight places of historical interest to be included in the booklet which aims to encourage people to come and experience the wonderful culture and heritage that our rural areas have to offer.”
The spokesperson added: “At the same time, council are also very mindful of ensuring that ratepayers receive best value for money. As part of a council wide efficiency drive to save ratepayers money, it was agreed in February 2011 that with the exception of public realm areas in the town centres of Lurgan and Portadown no flower beds would be continued on non-council land.
“Council maintains 142,000 square metres of land throughout the borough belonging to other agencies, but by taking the decision to stop this work on land not owned by council has already saved in excess of £40,000.”