Shock At “Pristine” County Hall Gardens

High quality maintenance of the grounds around Devon County Council’s offices in Exeter has prompted an angry reaction from Barnstaple Town Clerk, Will Austin.


In March the County Council withdrew nearly all of its grass and shrub bed maintenance in Barnstaple as part of its ‘Tough Choices’ savings programme, prompting complaints at the poor state of the town’s roadside areas. Mr Austin was in Exeter this week [Weds 8 July] to press the County’s Cabinet for financial support to enable Barnstaple Town Council to take over the maintenance service, and for charges for disposal of green waste by community groups to be dropped. He said he was “shocked but not surprised” to find that the large areas of grass and shrub beds across the County Hall site were in “pristine” condition.

County Hall Grounds

County Hall Grounds


“The contrast with Barnstaple was stark”, said Mr Austin. “The whole area was pristine and maintained to the standard of a formal park. I can quite understand the County Council’s desire to create a good impression with its visitors, but their service reductions in Barnstaple mean that the town is not afforded the same opportunity. It’s not surprising that people have said that this is an example of ‘double standards’ by the County. Like many others I was shocked at what I saw, and I have asked how much is spent on grounds maintenance at County Hall; it’ll be interesting to see what answer I get.”


Barnstaple has been likened to a “jungle” by local residents following the County’s decision to withdraw most of its funding for roadside maintenance. An informal local partnership, nicknamed the ‘Barny Army’ and led by the Town Council, businesses and community groups, has developed sponsorship and volunteering schemes that have delivered significant improvements, but Mr Austin says there is still a long way to go to restore pride in Barnstaple’s green areas. “The community has shown its willingness to step up and help and we should be proud of that. What we need to finish the job is for the County Council to hand over the money it still spends in Barnstaple so that the Town Council can take control of the town’s verges. The response to my question to the Cabinet was encouraging and I now hope we can have urgent discussions so that we can sort out the mess.”

 

Braunton Road and North Road

Left: Braunton Road, Barnstaple (June 2015)   Right: North Road, Barnstaple (June 2015)

Full transcript of the questions and responses at the County Council Cabinet meeting 8 July 2015


 

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