CROYDON COMMENTARY: While the new Mayor announces the restoration of some services, such as the graffiti-cleaning team, other parts of the fabric of the borough are still vanishing, like red-list endangered species, in this year’s £38m round of cut-backs.
PETER UNDERWOOD, right, is concerned for the state of our parks and green spaces
Sadly, we are getting used to hearing of species disappearing from our environment.
In Croydon, that could soon include the council gardeners.
In the latest shake-up of Croydon’s grounds maintenance team, a new set of job descriptions has been drawn up for roles in that team.
Specialist gardener isn’t one of them.
Croydon once had a fantastic team of gardeners based in parks and gardens across the borough who were responsible for the glorious displays we were used to seeing. Those with longer memories will remember when the Croydon Nursery was in operation and held open days so visitors could see how we grew our own bedding plants and shrubs that we planted, not only in parks but also on traffic roundabouts, street planters, and a variety of other spaces to beautify our public areas.
In the past Croydon’s public gardens have won awards from Britain in Bloom and Coombe Wood was awarded “Best Garden in London”. Only a few years ago, Croydon had 10 sites that achieved the Green Flag award based on a number of tests including “horticultural standards”.
We know that has long gone and the grounds maintenance team now has only three specialist gardeners left. Those gardeners used to be responsible for just one site, but are now having to cover two each. One covers Coombe Wood and Heathfield House, another covers Haling Grove and Wettern Tree Gardens, and the third covers Coulsdon Memorial Ground and Waddon Ponds.
Flower beds in other places have now been abandoned by the council and replaced with low maintenance shrubs that can be periodically cut back by other grounds maintenance staff. In other parks, volunteers have taken on responsibility for some of the beds and tried to maintain them as best as they can, with mixed results.
We know that Croydon Council is in a financial mess and I would be the first to argue that helping people facing the cost of living crisis is far more important than tending flower beds. However, we all hope that the current situation is temporary and we will at some point return to a situation where our public services are properly funded.
So the question is, what is the council’s long term strategy for looking after our parks and gardens and all of those planters and flower beds that used to make our town look better?
Have they now been abandoned forever?
If the job roles in the grounds maintenance team don’t include specialist gardeners, then we risk losing that expertise completely.
It will be interesting to see what our new Mayor has to say on this, particularly as two of the sites that still have a specialist gardener are in the South Croydon ward that he used to represent as a councillor and where there is now due to be a by-election.
Will council gardeners go the way of the dinosaurs, or will they be given the chance to bloom again?
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