COLERAINE Council has decided not to enter Britain in Bloom for 2012.
The town has been successful in all its entries for Britain in Bloom which included two Silver Awards and 2 Silver Guilt’s for 2010 and 2011.
But at last Tuesday night’s Policy and Development meeting Alex Carmichael of the Leisure Services Department revealed that due to an already challenging schedule in June and costs of up to £20,000 council feels it would be better to withdraw from this year’s event.
“This year the entry comes at an exceedingly challenging time for the department and key milestones for the Britain in Bloom entry are during the month of June, which directly clashes with the demands of the Olympic Torch Celebration, the Jubilee and The Irish Open,” said Mr Carmichael.
“Add to these the ongoing preparation for the North West 200, Northern Ireland Milk Cup and Northern Ireland International Airshow. In reality the staffing resources are not available this year to enable our entry to progress.
“As a result it is recommended that Council suspends the entry for the 2012 Britain in Bloom.
“However, this will not affect the overall bloom in Coleraine which will continue to be of the highest standard.”
To date Council has been nominated for entry to the Britain in Bloom Award on six occasions, 2003, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011 and 2012. In order to be nominated Council must win the regional Large Town Award in the Ulster in Bloom Competition.
Council did withdraw its entry in 2009 as a result of financial constraints at that time.
Mr Carmichael added there were ‘similar financial pressures’ in addition to the additional workload.
“The resources required to gain entry to Britain in Bloom are considerable,” he said.
“The entry is driven by the Coleraine in Colour Committee, which is a multi-agency and community stake holder committee. Due to its cross departmental connection it requires up to 12 council officers to support the work and attend Committee meetings. The cost to Council to enter is circa £20,000.
“This includes the following: Staffing costs/time; Enhanced planting; Marketing and PR of event, including printing; Competition prizes and community engagement; Hosting of Judges; Award attendance.”
Councillor Norman Hillis said he understood the reasoning behind the decision but felt it is a shame the council will not be taking part after their previous successful displays.
“I fully understand the reasons behind this, but I am disappointed we won’t be taking part this year especially as our Parks Department and Technical Services team do such an outstanding job year on year producing award winning displays,” said Cllr Hillis.
“I remember being in Birmingham when I was Mayor and the organisers said ‘if you want to see how to do floral displays go to Coleraine’.
“Mr Carmichael said there will be no cutback in terms of the displays this year so I don’t understand how it will cost an additional £20,000 to enter the competition.”
In response Mr Carmichael said the cost didn’t just refer to the blooms.
“As I explained earlier a project like Britain in Bloom requires a multi agency approach so there are costs in involved with that as well as marketing, hosting and attending the event. So it is not just about planting flowers,” he said.
“There is no-one who regrets this decision more than myself, but I want us to be in a position to challenge for a gold award when we enter and unfortunately we just don’t have the resources to do that this year.
“We will still be in Ulster in Bloom though and hopefully if we get the nomination we will make a big effort for our 2013 entry.”
Alderman James McClure also praised council staff for their hard work in producing the floral displays.
“We are very privileged in Coleraine to have a workforce that produces such magnificent displays wh
which people travel far and wide to come and see,” said Ald McClure.
Cllr McQuillan echoed Ald McClure’s sentiments saying: “The guys do a wonderful job and I’m sure we’ll be back next year all guns blazing.”