A DECISION to place the supply of plants to Scarborough in private hands will be put back while the matter is further investigated.
The recommendation was made by members of Scarborough Council’s Resources Scrutiny Committee at a meeting yesterday.
It was made clear that another Cabinet recommendation to sell off Manor Road Nursery would not need to be discussed until the decision on whether or not to buy in plants was agreed.
The Cabinet recommendation had been questioned by Cllrs Steve Bairstow and Peter Popple.
Cllr Bairstow, who has 23 years’ experience as a landscape gardener, said he disagreed because he feared it could damage Scarborough’s reputation for its floral displays. He added: “We have a very well run parks and countryside department which we should be extremely proud of.”
He said that the four members of staff at the nursery had a total of 78 years’ experience and that the preferred bidder – the York-based Aldby Field Nurseries Ltd – was a good company but a site visit in January was not the best time to judge the quality of the plants produced.
Cllr Bairstow said that there could be logistical problems with the deliveries because the company did not have enough vehicles. He added: “The service is flawed from the beginning with manpower not being available. Do you realise that the plants are grown 40 miles away and there is a big temperature difference of four or five degrees? They would be stunted or do not survive.”
Cllr Popple said the proposal would lead to the demise of a highly respected department, the move would not give best value and it would not cost as much as had been suggested to bring the facilities at Manor Road up to date. He added: “If you want to close anything you say something is wrong. The site shouldn’t be looked at as it is now but what it could be.”
He added that there could be problems with delayed deliveries along the congested A64. “I hate to think what condition the plants will be in when they arrive.”
Dorothy Russell, the chairman of the Friends of Manor Road Nursery group, said they managed to collect around 1,400 signatures for a petition in just six days.
She added: “I had been assured that we would be kept up to date with Manor Road outsourcing developments but this has not happened. If one of our members had not been invited to Sand Hutton we would not have heard about your current plans. You are spending the public’s hard-earned council tax and yet you are keeping that public in the dark.”
Alan Layton, the council’s policy and performance manager, said plants were already bought from outside sources and the proposed agreement would bring the arrangements into one place and the council could dictate when and where the plants were delivered under the “just in time” approach.
According to figures revealed at the meeting a total of 187,428 plants have been grown from seed at the nursery while 135,972 have been bought in during the current financial year.
Mr Layton said: “Nineteen companies were approached, some of which already provided us with plants, and out of those 19 companies a number came back to us to say they were interested.”
He added that the preferred bidder was chosen because of its competitive prices and good references from other local authorities including The City of York and Westminster Council.
Seven committee members voted in favour of the proposal to defer the decision and set up a working group while four members were against the proposal.