RHS predicts community sites will keep Britain in Bloom entries level steady

Community-led entries will make up for a possible fall-off in local authority parks departments applications for Britain in Bloom 2011, according to the RHS.

Current figures suggest the final number of entries for this year's contest could be higher than last year when applications close in March, said RHS community horticulture manager Stephanie Eynon.

She added that "around 1,000" sites across the UK had already entered the 2011 campaign, compared with 942 overall last year.

Eynon said although there may be fewer council entries, they could be offset by more community-inspired entries. "Local authorities are facing challenging decisions that will in some way affect Britain in Bloom. However, many see it as an opportunity to continue delivering quality green spaces by giving local communities responsibility for certain areas. Where there is high community involvement, there will be less impact."

Oldham Council said although the extent of its cuts were still unclear, the increasing number of community-run sites meant it would enter around 60 sites this year - the same as in 2010.

Darlington Council said it would definitely enter the same number of sites but would reduce costs by buying cheaper plants.

Horticultural consultant and London in Bloom executive trustee Peter Holman said community-led entries were also a growing trend in the capital and would help keep numbers stable. "Despite the cuts, I don't think it will be as bad as we thought. More community entries mean numbers will be about the same as previously," he said. "This is really where we want to be with local people making changes and taking control of their own areas."

He added that future entries would have less emphasis on bedding plants as local authority budgets were reduced. London boroughs cut bedding by up to 97 per cent over the past decade (HW, 30 April 2010).

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