Oldham council is preparing to spend £80k to fund a ‘show garden’ to be exhibited at London’s Hampton Court, it’s been revealed.
Town hall bosses say the garden is hoped to be part of next year’s RHS Hampton Court Palace garden festival, and will promote its huge new Northern Roots project.
Northern Roots is a proposal to develop the UK’s largest urban farm and eco-park on 160 acres of land at Snipe Clough, next to the Alexandra Park depot.
The project had been nicknamed the ‘Eden of the north’ in the early stages for the national profile it could give Oldham, and could boast a microbrewery, sports zone and even glamping.
Cabinet member for finance, Councillor Abdul Jabbar said that if their entry is successful, the show garden is aimed at attracting investment and publicity for the project, and will be relocated back to the entrance of Snipe Clough afterwards.
The council stress that it is currently underwriting the £80,000 – but are looking for a range of outside sources to fund the ‘Northern Roots Grown in Oldham’ show garden at the event next July.
Professional show gardens, which involve showcasing innovative planting and garden design are a hallmark of most major horticultural events.
But the decision to allocate the cash for the garden has been criticised by the Liberal Democrat opposition leader, Councillor Howard Sykes who suggested the idea could go on a ‘compost heap’.
He said: “Residents, will be like me, thinking this is a waste of money when the council says it is cash-strapped. We could do a lot with green spaces and a thousand other things with £80K.
“This proposal appears to have been given little thought and no explanation has still been offered why this is a good idea, good use of cash, and how it fits into the so-called big picture for this site.”
The council has so far committed to invest around £700,000 in Northern Roots across two years.
The site runs from the Grade Two listed Alexandra Park, past Park Bridge and down to Daisy Nook country park. But bosses estimate the total project will cost around £25m, and will need outside investment.
Coun Abdul Jabbar, who is also the council’s joint deputy leader, said that Northern Roots is an ‘exciting project’ for Oldham and its residents.
“If accepted to show at Hampton Court, the garden will help us promote the Northern Roots project and Oldham to a national and international audience, raising profile on an influential platform and potentially attracting funding, investment, expertise and high-profile advocacy,” he said.
“We are now looking into a range of sources to fund the garden and would love to hear from local businesses and organisations who could support us.
“After the show has ended the garden will be relocated to become the heart of the new Northern Roots Growing Hub and community resource at the entrance to Snipe Clough.
“Northern Roots builds on the work Oldham Council has done over the last few years to boost and grow Oldham’s green economy, while bringing together the very best of Oldham’s green spaces, people and initiatives.”