With the permission of the Chairperson, Alderman Devenney referred to increased interest in the rural area in regards to horticultural and community awards. He pointed out that Eglinton, Claudy and Newbuildings had all established their own community groups, a process in which he had been involved, and he felt it was important that Council offer its support and assistance to any such groups in achieving their goals. Albeit he acknowledged that financial resources were limited in this regard.
Councillor P Kelly pointed out that the former Strabane District Council had been involved with local communities to encourage such works and enquired as to why this approach had not continued.
The Director of Environment and Regeneration said as Members were aware Council had continued to develop and achieve in terms of its horticultural and community awards initiatives and to win awards both regionally and nationally and increase the number of community groups partaking in these initiatives. She stated that it was hoped to extend Council’s work with community groups as part of the Strategic Growth Plan and departmental Service Plans both in terms of towns and villages and the City. She assured that Council would be willing to work with any group or individual wishing to become involved. She explained that it was more of a partnership approach between Council and the groups involved as funding was limited. However, Council would endeavour to assist these groups in terms of applying for funding. She stated that Council did encourage local communities to enter the City in Bloom competition, however, if Members felt that Council should establish its own community focused competition this could be taken on board. She reiterated Officer’s willingness to meet with any group or individuals wishing to become involved in the process.
Alderman Hussey referred to the work carried out by the former Grounds Maintenance Manager who was extremely pro-active in promoting awards throughout the Council area which he suggested should continue and emphasised the need for pro-activity by Council.
Councillor D Kelly disagreed with many of the comments about the level of disengagement in terms of Council’s involvement with community groups and its horticultural campaigns. He felt, if anything, this had intensified in recent years. He pointed out that some community groups did not have the capacity to take part in the initiatives on offer, however, for those who did partake, the level of support and engagement offered by Council was incomparable.
The Director of Environment and Regeneration stated that in terms of Council awards in relation to horticultural and community competitions, judging was based on presentation and the evidence which was available. She said Council’s work with communities focused on promoting environmental stewardship. She advised that Council did receive a lot of positive feedback regarding its work in this regard and would continue to strive to improve engagement with local communities. She continued that in recent months discussion had taken place with local housing associations regarding the possibility of working with them to improve the general aesthetics of local housing estates which it was anticipated would instil a sense of pride in residents and improve their health and wellbeing and counteract anti-social behaviour.