Out content creator Josh explores the story and controversy behind Carlisle City Council's £50,000 Highstreet garden, and gives his opinion on it.
The debates surrounding council spending and budget allocation have lasted for years and guarantee immediate controversy when the yearly budget is announced.
However, what happens when Councillor Marilyn Bowman, portfolio holder for economy, enterprise and housing spends £50,000 on a new ‘garden’ for the city centre?
Well… this happens:
What started with good intentions, devolved quickly into a social media crisis with many residents questioning the overzealous spending on this underwhelming and temporary new centrepiece for the city.
Some of the comments seen on social media include:
“I wonder who got the contract for this? It would be interesting to check if the job was put out to tender. It should certainly be investigated to see why so much money was spent on something which is green in nothing but colour.”
As well as:
“2 seats and some grass for 50k. Someone’s ripped you off what a waste. Loved the idea. Execution not great.”
“Waste of money been there 5 mins already getting damaged why did the council approve this.”
And after all the chaos, the display was quickly and unfortunately vandalised.
Many people quickly took to social media to point out that the £50,000 would have been better spent on anti-social behaviour, questioning why it was ever allocated to something temporary in the first place.
But the funds allocated to the project were only allowed to be spent on specific projects under the remit of “non-permanent public realm adaptations to boost the look and feel of the high streets.”
However, as mentioned previously, the project began with good intentions.
Hoping to stimulate discussion surrounding the future of Carlisle’s high street, the new garden was installed as part of the UK government's “Welcome back fund” a nationwide scheme backed by the European Regional Development Fund.
The project was to “provide opportunities for individuals and families to relax, eat, drink and socialise whilst in the city centre with additional seating, artificial grass and planting.”
But despite this, more criticism came as with only 3 seats, any more than 3 families may would find it hard to relax, eat, drink and socialise with nowhere to sit.
As well as this, councillor Bowman also said "It will help grow and diversify the economy."
The project began with a proposal on the 9th of March being dubbed as “Greening the Greenmarket” and although the project wasn't stopped or at least thought about in more depth in light of the cost of living crisis, Bowman's peers commented by saying:
“I’m struggling to find any advantage of this. I just don’t see the advantages of changing what we’ve got now, other than perhaps if we moved some of the trees. To me, I don’t think it’s value for money.” - John Bell
Jeannie Pasley also responded by saying:
“It’s temporary, it’s only going to be in the city centre for a matter of months. The benefits of green space, we have huge evidence of that from the pandemic period when people were getting a lot from going into their little park. So it’s just to bring that into the city centre to see, as a bit of a trial, how well it’s received or not.” - Jeannie Pasley
But the fact remains that 50k is a rather expensive 'trial'.
Other councillors also commented on this with Deborah Earl noting that environmental groups may be concerned over the use of fake grass, with Alan McGuckin asking if the project was ambitious enough.
These comments come from the
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