Christine Costin: Time we brightened up ourselves and our town

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Everyone knows that you can’t ‘please all of the people all of the time’.

Sometimes decisions need to be made that are not popular. However, when those decisions are being churned out without sufficient reference to those who will be most affected the result is likely to be a disillusioned community that feels let down and ignored.

Horsham town is not represented on the Council in the same way as the rest of the District and increasingly its destiny lies in the hands of those who do not actually live or work here.

Recently there has been plenty of evidence that the north of Horsham District is taking the full force of expansion and change to meet the requirements of the future. Unfortunately the prospects are not the result of local consensus and full involvement. All kinds of organisations have been left out of discussions and the feelings of the local people have been overlooked.

One decision after another has caused waves of discontent and deep frustration.

I am regularly being asked about the changes that people are seeing and the prospects for Horsham in the future. Questions such as ‘where have all the flowers gone’ tend to relate to West Street, others are fears for the future and include concerns about the loss of Horsham’s vintage street furniture, unsightly litter and the condition of some of the town’s notable works of art.

There are calls for more civic pride in our town and without question that is something that matters.

Just reading the letters in the local press shows unprecedented levels of dissatisfaction! In difficult times there is a need to pull together so that those negative feelings result in positive actions.

Recently there has been an unfortunate spate of vandalism in and around the town; car parks vandalised, careless shoppers dropping chewing gum, cigarette ends and practically anything else they might be holding. A very unwelcome trend that needs to be reversed.

When the town participated in the regional and national ‘in Bloom’ competitions most people in our community got behind the initiatives and Horsham looked amazing. You could feel the good vibrations.

Stylish landscaping and show-stopping floral displays were complemented by an environment where people were keen to keep it clean and smart. Horsham was brimming with bloom and brimming with pride, it outshone everywhere else!

Nowadays it feels as if we are living in mundane surroundings where changes are sucking the personality from the town. The community does not want to see Horsham spoilt. Perhaps what is needed is a greater sense that we can all make a difference. People do come together with others to make improvements but for their efforts to make that difference the Council needs to value them and listen to their ideas.

One of the most rewarding things I have been associated with whilst serving on the Council is when I was heavily involved with Horsham in Bloom. The joy of ‘bloom’ is that its aims and aspirations are simply to improve the built and green environment for everyone to enjoy.

In something like this the key to success is appealing to people’s sense of pride in their surroundings. What is refreshing is the concept that everyone can have a role to play; there is nothing political or contentious about the aims of ‘in Bloom.’

Horsham in Bloom continues to do a brilliant job in engaging the public. Sue Brundish and her team still work miracles but less funding makes it increasingly difficult. The recession took its toll leaving many businesses with less money to invest and cut backs have meant there is not the same level of involvement from the Council. This dedicated team has always worked hard to encourage active sponsorship and support voluntary groups.

Friends and Conservation Groups have been steadily growing and they now provide a range of valuable services throughout the local environment. ‘In Bloom’ has consistently sought to add value to the Council’s services by enlisting help from local residents and local businesses. When it comes to changes in Horsham even an esteemed organisation like Horsham in Bloom has been overlooked and poorly ‘consulted.’

Like many others they acknowledge that disappointing alterations to West Street have been a missed opportunity.

Supporting and sponsoring Horsham in Bloom is worthwhile because ‘in bloom’ improvements introduce exciting challenges and lift people’s spirits.

A town that looks amazing is memorable – beautiful surroundings are good for business which boosts the local economy, it also stimulates a healthy sense of wellbeing which is good for all of us.

Attractive gardens and good municipal displays don’t have to cost huge amounts of money. A great deal can be done to improve most gardens with a few seeds, some skilful propagation, a bit of pruning back and some dedicated weeding. Sponsoring still works well in towns like Horsham and if this is combined with enthusiastic help given by a multitude of volunteers then the town will be brought to life with a variety of horticultural gems.

The whole community can be involved, why not get yourself out there as a volunteer, you can help – there is litter picking, weeding and even ambitious projects to redeem whole areas, where neglect has left rubbish in rivers and where overgrowth has created a waste-land. Such things need to be properly managed to protect wildlife and to keep volunteers safe but there are opportunities to make a difference whilst at the same time you will be keeping fit, having fun and meeting new people.

Volunteering can begin by contacting Horsham in Bloom (01403 215491) or the Volunteer Centre (01403 273985) or Green Gym (01403 269384). If you run or manage a business there are genuine benefits in becoming a Horsham in Bloom sponsor, association means public recognition for the business, great promotional opportunities provide rewards all round.

Splendidly green fingered Jean Griffin is a local resident and an ‘in Bloom’ judge, she is a radio personality who is ready and willing to give gardening tips to all of us. Listen to her on a Radio Sussex programme for gardeners, on air every Sunday morning.

This year I am sure the HiB team will seek more supporters and try to attract extra entrants into the local competitions - which are always enjoyable! If you are unable to provide active help then there are opportunities to give a donation; if that is not possible then please show support for the town by singing its praises! There is far less chance of boredom and vandalism in towns that can establish an extraordinary reputation for excellence.

I am proud of Horsham but it is clear that certain areas are in need of some tender loving care; a town that is loved and tended brings pleasure to visitors and residents alike.

So let’s brighten-up ourselves and our town with some floral magic and a huge dose of civic pride.

Christine Costin is a district councillor for Trafalgar Ward (Horsham Town) and former chairman of Horsham in Bloom