Steve Swain (14th January) hits the nail on the head by identifying that civic pride in Horsham has been eroded in recent years.
Horsham in Bloom (HIB), one of the most proactive voluntary organisations in the town for more than 20 years, wholeheartedly agrees. He pinpoints a litany of eyesores throughout the town.
Having lived in the town for 28 years he is in a position to remember that in 2007 Horsham won the accolade of being ‘best in the country’ as awarded by the Britain in Bloom team of judges for criteria such as floral excellence, community participation, environmental responsibility and attractive landscaping amongst many others.
From 1997 Horsham climbed steadily up through the ranks from the best new entrant in the southern region to being declared UK Champion of Champions; not a bad record! Civic pride was then at its height.
How was this achieved? By HIB and HDC working in partnership and with substantial sponsorship from Novartis (then Ciba-Geigy) for major projects, with further support from local businesses, traders and trade organisations for hanging baskets, railing planters and more.
The annual regional and national competitions were seen as an opportunity to give the town the kind of spring clean which is needed urgently now; however, declining and currently swingeing budget cuts by central government have removed the funds which allowed HDC Parks and Countryside to do this.
If you are a newcomer, what made you decide to make Horsham your home? Were you attracted to the town by its floral displays, horticultural excellence and pristine appearance?
While Horsham remains one of the better places to live in the country, it has indeed lost its sparkle and slides further down the rankings every year.
HIB is aware of a general desire for the return of colourful flowers, particularly in West Street. Removal of the poles and hanging baskets was a rapid, straightforward and mindless affair. Finding a sustainable but equally stunning and viable alternative is proving to be very difficult but is being actively pursued.
HIB will shortly be seeking sponsorship from traders and trade organisations, local businesses and prosperous large companies. This will fund railing planters to continue the traditional colourful welcome throughout the summer months to residents, shoppers and visitors, particularly at the bus and railway stations.
As Steve Swain rightly identifies, volunteers can play a key role in maintaining both the town and the wider green environment.
Look at the HIB website (www.horshaminbloom.org.uk) to see where these organisations are based and consider joining one of them.
If there is a neglected green area near you, look at the RHS Britain in Bloom website (https://www.rhs.org.uk/communities/campaigns/britain-in-bloom) to see how such small sites nationwide are being revitalised by community action and support.
HIB and HDC together with the neighbourhood councils and Horsham Town Community Partnership are all working to explore a number of different approaches and to encourage community participation and environmental responsibility.
Follow the advice of the Health and Wellbeing campaign and offer to volunteer by contacting Horsham in Bloom via its email address (email@example.com) and help to fly the flag of civic pride in Horsham in 2016.
There is more information on our Facebook page – follow us!
Chairman, Horsham in Bloom
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