Call to weed out Preston's grot spots
Millions of pounds may be being spent doing up Preston's city centre but visitors to the city say it is letting itself down.
In recent years the city has received millions of pounds in funding from the City Deal, a major regeneration project has begun on the markets quarter and the Harris museum has begun a major revamp.
But potholes and weeds have been lowering the tone of the city.
Critics say that the main traffic route through the city – Ringway – is full of weeds, shrubs are growing out of paving and flower troughs are forlorn.
In addition, just yards from Ringway and Corporation Street, on what should be a premier spot in one of the city’s most historic areas, there are two big raised beds of thistles and weeds.
Residents and visitors say it paints a negative picture of Preston, at a time when major regeneration projects should be heralding a new era for the area.
Now, Lancashire County Council has pledged to spend more money tackling the city’s green grot spots.
But Preston Council said its troughs on Ringway’s railings, which contain numerous dead plants, are an unwelcome sign of austerity and when it gets more funds it will plant the containers up again.
Brandon Seddon,(pictured), general manager of 1842 restaurant bar in the former Corn Exchange, on Lune Street, said he even offered to look after the thistle filled raised bed blighting the front of his venue – but the offer was rejected.
He said: “It’s very unsightly. A lot of the time they do parts of Preston up, but because they are not doing the full job and it lets Preston down. We offered to do that flower bed and we were just told it was not allowed and if we did something they couldn’t guarantee they would not rip it out.”
Cliff and Margaret Machin from Chesterfield were visiting the city while holidaying near Southport.
Cliff said: “It is isn’t very nice considering people are travelling through. It needs a bit of TLC.”
Liz Chapman, from Fulwood, said: “I don’t think it gives a very good impression for the city centre. Usually the display beds are filled with quite nice flowers – it’s only recently a lot of weeds have overtaken them.”
Now, County Coun Keith Iddon, cabinet member for highways and transport, has pledged to do more.
He said: “We’re sorry that some areas of Preston city centre have become untidy over the past few weeks as the warm and wet weather promotes rapid growth.
“We have plans already in place for a scheme of planting in the area near the Corn Exchange, as well as work to tidy the beds near the prison and on London Road, and this is due to begin this week. Weed spraying in central Preston is also due to take place shortly.”
Coun Iddon said ensuring public areas look tidy and encouraging people to support local businesses is a council priority.
But Preston Council, which is responsible for the troughs with dead plants which are attached to the central Ringway railings, said the issues are a consequence of cuts to budgets.
Deputy leader Coun Robert Boswell said: “Those are our responsibility but it’s the price of austerity. We have had to cut back on a lot of things we would choose not to and this is one of them.
“It’s not the ideal situation but it’s the financial constraints we are forced to live under.”
Until 2016 Preston Council took responsibility for grounds maintenance work but when the county council cut funding for the work Preston handed the job back to the county.
Coun Boswell said: “All round the town there are weeds growing up, some are four feet high but it’s Lancashire County Council’s responsibility now to weed the roads. We said we couldn’t do it for the funding they were offering.”
A Preston council spokesperson added that the county council had offered 20% less cash than the previous year and this followed previous reductions of 30%, meaning the city council would have had to find an extra £30,000 to fund the work which included highway weed spraying.
Lancashire County Council reviewed its “public realm” agreements with district councils as part of a £2.8m highways cuts package introduced in 2016/17.
The highways budget included payments made to district and parish councils for maintenance of green spaces, including grass cutting, tree and hedge maintenance and weed control. When the cuts were proposed the council acknowledged: “Some types of remedial works will no longer be carried out and the frequency of some services can be reduced through working more efficiently and smarter, and on a needs only basis.”
The Conservatives, took control of county hall at the May elections and pledged in their election leaflets to reinstate £600,000 to improve verge cutting and tree maintenance, clean gullies and address problems in areas of flood risk. Conservative leader County Coun Geoff Driver has said all promises will be honoured.
•Email your pictures of overgrown flower beds, weed-filled paths, untidy areas, derelict land and other green grot spots to [email protected]