INNERLEITHEN is in the running to be crowned Scotland’s Most Beautiful High Street – but fears have been voiced that the town will become “drab and untidy” following the council’s decision to throw in the trowel on seasonal planting displays

Scottish Borders Council announced earlier this year that it will no longer be planting displays with flowers – replacing them with shrubs, herbaceous borders or, in some cases grassed over.

Some communities have decided to take ownership of threatened flowerbeds and have embarked on recruitment drive for green-fingered volunteers and sponsorship from local businesses.

John Falla, from Bonnie Peebles, attended a meeting of Innerleithen Community Council last week to talk about the town's community enterprise.

Keen to keep Innerleithen flourishing, community councillor Gordon Daly made contact with the local Community Trust and members of the town’s community garden.

He told the community council meeting: “The biggest expense is the plants. I suggested that the school community garden could become the suppliers and we give all the money to them to help with their funding. It gives the school children a little bit of ownership because it’s them that grow the plants.”

Following a meeting with the town’s Community Trust, chairman Ross McGinn agreed the Trust could act as a conduit for the project, but said its volunteers were committed to various other projects.

A red flag was raised over the number of volunteers needed for such a large scale project.

Mr Daly said: “Although we have had a good response online with people coming forward, we still need an awful lot more. As Ross says you’ll get 40 people but maybe only five of them turning up to do actual work.”

Volunteers would have to become members of the Community Trust for insurance purposes and if children were to be involved, adults would need to be PVG checked, which would also incur a charge.

The initial funding would be met through the Community Grant Scheme and thereafter local sponsorship would be needed for the project on an annual basis.

The total annual cost is estimated in the region of £5,500 which includes plaques to display sponsorship names.

Concerns were also expressed with regards to plants being grown in the community garden greenhouse and the amount of work needed to ensure the plants were not destroyed by late frosts.

Mr Falla, who is a keen gardener, said: “It takes somebody going in and out of greenhouses every day. To be growing 700 plants and have them all ready on the same week is very difficult. You might find your monies wiped out in one night. Any gardener will tell you it’s difficult with late frosts.”

Chairman Marshall Douglas said the council’s neighbourhood services team was pressing the community council for a decision on whether it would be adopting the flowerbeds.

He asked: “Where do we move forward on this, or do we? If you take this on Gordon you’ve got to find a good core of volunteers. It’s an ongoing commitment because the council, once they stop the service of having bushes put in, they won’t go back to it I wouldn’t think. There’s the volunteers to raise plants as well as many other things to consider. There’s a lot to it.”

Mr Daly replied: “There is, but the choice the community has is do we just let the council put in shrubbery and grass everything over and Innerleithen becomes drab and untidy? We can have that option or we can try and do something about it were we have nice flowerbeds and a bit of colour about the town. It's do something or do nothing.”

But fellow community councillors warned that realism was needed with the amount of volunteers and commitment needed. Uncertainty over business sponsorship was also raised.

Mr McGinn explained: “My slight concern is we go to all the businesses to sponsor the hanging baskets on High Street which they do. I would be concerned that they might not bother with a hanging basket and sponsor a flowerbed. At the time when we are voting for the beautiful High Street in Scotland there might be a negative impact on that.”

He also warned that the town of Innerleithen is “not a place like Peebles”, explaining: “They don’t need to worry about footfall and visitors coming to the town to spend their money. We have to fight for every single foot that falls on that High Street and spends money in our shops, so it’s a totally different scenario in terms of funding.

“Don’t get me wrong, the businesses are very generous in Innerleithen through sponsorship but this might be a sponsorship too far. I don’t know what the answer is but it may affect what we’ve got working in a very positive way.”

It was agreed that volunteers would take on ownership of the two flowerbeds on Traquair Road and establish if there is support in the future to take on other beds in the town.