SIX Sheffield representatives struck gold this week in the Yorkshire in Bloom competition - as the city as a whole declined to enter again because of council cutbacks.
Three years ago, floral displays in the city centre and in the suburbs resulted in Sheffield being voted the best large city in the country by judges with the Royal Horticultural Society.
Now the council has decided it cannot afford to mount the displays that might give it another chance of winning, preferring to leave the city’s reputation for flowers and greenery in the hands of schools, businesses and community groups.
Even Stan the steelworker and Mary the buffer girl, the 12ft plant sculptures outside the Town Hall, have gone into retirement.
Regional winners were announced on Tuesday, revealing six gold medals for the city - Sheffield Hallam University, Crystals Peaks shopping centre, Forgemasters, the Botanical Gardens, St John’s Church in Deepcar and Charnock Hall grounds and gardens.
There was a community champions award for Roger Marsh, of Owlthorpe Community Forum, and a host of lesser prizes.
But Sheffield last entered Britain in Bloom, albeit triumphantly for council Street Force and nurseries staff, in 2008.
Coun Leigh Bramall, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: “Unfortunately city entry into Britain in Bloom is just another victim of budget cuts.
“We need to ensure we provide value for money for the council tax payer and as well as cash the Britain in Bloom entry also takes a considerable amount of officer time in the pre-planning, co-ordination and liaison with a range of partners, and community groups.
“The actual cost of erecting Stan and Mary, and enhanced floral displays in the city centre and on the judging route was in the region of £125,000, but there is no longer any funding available.
“However, we are still committed to protecting our city’s green credentials. We still support rural villages and urban community groups to enter Yorkshire in Bloom and are going ahead with Sheffield in Bloom sponsored by the Lord Mayor’s office with entries from local businesses, residents and schools. This year we’ve supported 28 groups to enter Yorkshire in Bloom and represent our city.”
Silver gilt medals went to Malin Bridge and Wisewood Primaries and Brightside Nursery and Infant School. Silver went to Newton Grange residential home in Stocksbridge, the Stocks pub in Ecclesfield and Marlcliffe and Westways Primary Schools. Eight gardens, greens or allotments were described as “thriving” - Firth Park First Start allotment in Firth Park, Grenoside Green, Chapeltown, Devon Garden, Laburnum Grove community gardens in Stocksbridge, Lynwood Gardens, Beighton Orchard and Whirlow Hall Farm Trust.
Roger Burnett, executive member of Yorkshire in Bloom, said: “2011 has been a very challenging year for in Bloom groups up and down the country. The current economic climate, together with an extremely hard winter, followed by an incredibly dry spring, has meant many groups have had to re-think the work they do.”