Action Areas: Biodiversity loss/ Carbon emissions/ Health & wellbeing
Ards and North Down Borough has a reputation for leading the way in its floral displays. It has won national and regional competitions with a common theme of hard work and enthusiasm by staff and local communities.
To drive more community participation it was decided to create a central Ards and North Down In Bloom group, with representatives from existing in bloom groups, supported by the Council's Parks section. The group has three core objectives - horticultural excellence, community participation and environmentally sustainable practices. These aligned with Ulster and Britain In Bloom judging criteria.
Practically the committee was tasked with getting the whole Borough involved in environmental improvements by working with statutory bodies, local groups, organisations, businesses and residents to stimulate interest in looking after their area, develop and support ideas, facilitate partnerships and help make things happen.
It was proposed that In Bloom Community Competitions would be organised by the Council to encourage everyone who lives or works in the Borough to think about their local environment and how attractive flowers, plants, trees and gardens can enhance it.
General categories were: Best Kept Front Garden; Gardening for Wildlife Award; Volunteer of the Year; Best Kept Commercial Premises; Best Kept Community Planting Scheme.
Young people’s (entrants aged 16 and under) categories were: Best School Gardening Project; Painting Competition; Tallest Sunflower Competition; Young Volunteer of the Year.
In 2020 the competitions attracted over 300 entries; a successful return given the challenges of that year.
In 2021 this has already more than doubled to over 600 participants from across the borough. Each year winner and runners-up attend an award ceremony where they are presented with prizes that can be used to further enhance their areas. Every entry into the young people’s categories are presented with a certificate of recognition, regardless of where they place.
To support the work of volunteers, Parks Service also provide a funding stream of up to £1000 each year, to used by qualifying village groups, community associations etc within the Ards and North Down Borough to enable the purchase of bedding plants, shrub and tree material for planting within local villages or towns. In 2021 this was in excess of £21,000.