Selling off Scarborough’s Manor Road Nursery could “sound the death knell” for the town’s horticultural groups, according to the area’s army of volunteers.
The borough council was told to “wake up” before a valuable community asset was lost forever, signalling the end of dozens of In Bloom and Friends groups.
Members of the Manor Road Task Group were also warned Scarborough could risk losing its award-winning floral displays and unique heritage plants if the proposal goes ahead.
Speaking at a public meeting, held as part of an ongoing review into the sale of the site, Dorothy Russell, the chairman of umbrella group the Friends of Manor Road, said: “We the members of Friends and In Bloom Groups are well aware that without the nursery the borough would not be the beautiful tourist and award-winning attraction that it is. Perhaps it is time the powers that be wake up and also realise this before it is too late.”
Earlier this year Scarborough Council unveiled plans to close its Manor Road Nursery site and outsource the growing of its plants to an outside company in an attempt to slash costs. A task group was set up to identify a strategy for the future of the nursery.
Horticultural volunteers from across Scarborough gathered at the Town Hall on Monday to hear from group representatives who feel the nursery has a large community and educational benefit.
All four stressed the axing of the facility, which is the borough’s only remaining in-house nursery, would enforce the view that horticulture was not important. This in turn would leave volunteers, which help boost the council’s dwindling work force by dedicating thousands of hours to enhancing the area, undervalued and disrespected, they said.
Chairman of Scarborough in Bloom Adrian Perry said: “People don’t like to be thought of as mugs. They want to volunteer to make Scarborough a special place and they don’t want to be feeling like they have got the whole responsibility on their shoulders. Scarborough Council has to take responsibility as well.”
The representatives agreed the use of volunteers should be developed in an attempt to save the two-acre site, which produces around 320,000 plants every year used in bedding, hanging baskets, containers and displays.
Manor Road volunteer Ron Womack suggested the nursery was handed over to the community and the facility transformed into a visitor centre.
He said: “Some councils are already moving parks into the community sector so why not our nursery? If the council continues to propose the closure of the nursery, a group will be formed to look at a community trust as a way forward.”
It was also agreed the nursery provided a “vital pool” of horticultural knowledge. An understanding of which plants were suitable for the area’s varied coastal climate was given as a key example.
Chairman of Whitby in Bloom Amanda Smith said: “This council must act in a way which will not cause harm to its community. Once gone Manor Road can not be replaced, it is not only a physical place but it is the receptacle for knowledge and experience. The question is not can we afford to keep it but rather can we afford to lose it?”
A petition against the closure, containing thousands of signatures, was presented to the task group, which will meet again on November 27.