What a basket case! Row breaks out as Salisbury City Council votes to scrap hanging baskets in historic market square

5 July 2023, 14:02 | Updated: 6 July 2023, 06:41

Opposition councillors have labelled the decision 'terrible'.
Opposition councillors have labelled the decision 'terrible'. Picture: Twitter/Alamy

By Jenny Medlicott

Salisbury City Council has voted to scrap all hanging baskets in favour of a ‘sustainable planting regime’ sparking outrage among Tory councillors.

Councillors voted yesterday to scrap hanging baskets and certain floral displays across the historic city centre of Salisbury.

In their place, Salisbury City Council has suggested introducing ‘living pillars’ and ‘parklets’.

Living pillars are a version of ‘living walls’, used to increase biodiversity and increase air quality by trapping pollution.

Parklets transform parking spaces into small green spaces, often with benches, seats and planters for members of the public to use.

But the proposals have sparked outrage among Tory councillors in the area, particularly councillor Eleanor Wills.

Posting online, she shared the “terrible" news, as she said: “We are so disappointed to tell you that while we have managed to get agreement that Gilbert will be saved, something much worse is going to happen in the city centre.”

Councillor Sven Hocking continued: “It looks like the administration have voted for a sustainable planting regime, which according to the paper means removal of all the hanging baskets and floral displays.

“So our once light, bright, pretty flowery market square is not going to be the same. Very unfortunate, terrible actually.

“They’re all going to become parklets and sustainable tree planters. We think this is incredibly unfortunate for a historic city with medieval roots, this is absolutely the wrong decision by the administration and we have had enough.”

Plans to scrap the floral statue were previously being considered.
Plans to scrap the floral statue were previously being considered. Picture: Alamy

The change was reportedly voted for by Labour and Liberal Democrat councillors in pursuit of ‘greener’ alternatives to the baskets.

But Cllr Wills slammed the plans as: “Ideological nonsense as per from this left wing cabal.”

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The council’s budget for maintain floral displays is £30,000, which includes watering costs and the maintenance of floral statue, Gilbert the Dragon.

The meeting wasn’t all bad news for the Tory councillor, as the city council were previously considering plans to get rid of the city’s floral statue, Gilbert the Dragon, as it said the statue requires about 30,000 litres of water to maintain.

But these plans have since been ditched.

Marc Read, the Environmental Services Manager, told the Salisbury Journal of the plans: “Parklets and living towers are better for biodiversity and potentially, offer more space and are pleasing to the eye but I am aware that there is a lot of public affection for the traditional displays.

“It is time for a more forward-facing approach that is more sympathetic to the environmental challenges the country is facing and that embraces change and considers alternative approaches.”

Lib Dem councillor Sam Charleston said: “The paper does not say to scrap Gilbert and I think he is very positive. He is 30 years old and that there is an end to his life and it is an extraordinary amount of water needed (to keep it). What does Gilbert 2.0 look like? Perhaps, he needs to continue in some form but right now he is looking very tired and sad.

“I am fully in favour of the parklets and the living pillars and could be here all year round.”

Plans to scrap the floral displays has sparked outcry among Tory councillors.
Plans to scrap the floral displays has sparked outcry among Tory councillors. Picture: Alamy

A number of people online shared in the disappointment of local Conservative councillors, as one wrote: “Ridiculous decision stand firm.”

Another said: “What the bloody hell is a parklet?”

Others, however, seemed to support the plans, as one said: “If Cllr’s are going to argue, waste time and energy about tiny bits of background noise like this then we don’t stand a chance of adapting of society to the ravages of climate change.”

Tory Councillor Charles McGrath said of the plans: “[The decision reflects] the utter contempt the SCC rainbow coalition treats our city with. Their councillors would rather play politics and get at Wiltshire Council than agree viable solutions to improve our street scene.”

Councillor Eleanor Wills added: “Leave the hanging baskets alone, keep the traditional floral displays and stop promoting nonsense which pushes visitors and residents alike away.

“Go to any historic city and floral displays make the place. Salisbury has always had a proud history of stunning floral displays throughout the summer months. Living pillars might be appropriate in Camden or Hackney but not here in Salisbury. It's time for a rethink."

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