Sustainable Christmas trees cost ratepayers £34k

Sustainable Christmas trees cost ratepayers £34k

18 March 2020

RATEPAYERS forked out almost £34,250 for 14 sustainable Christmas trees to be planted across the district last December.

The figures were outlined to Newry, Mourne and Down councillors this week and revealed that the total spend was made up of purchasing the trees, excavation costs, electrical supply pillars and lights.

People in Ardglass had expressed an interest in a sustainable tree, but declined the council’s offer after failing to secure landowner permission to erect it at a preferred site in the village.

The tree which had already been purchased for Ardglass will be used to replace a sustainable festive tree already in place in Castlewellan which has not developed as well as expected.

Council officials have reported that feedback on the 2019 tree planting scheme has been “positive” and there is interest in many towns and villages for the project to be extended to their respective areas.

One of the key aims of the sustainable tree scheme was to reduce the number of trees that had to be purchased, then cut and transported before being erected and taken down again at the end of the festive season. 

Council officials insist that to continue with such a system was not environmentally sustainable and confirmed that the local authority aims to support a maximum of seven new  towns and villages this Christmas.

Councillors have been told that while every effort will be made to have Christmas trees planted prior to this December, people need to recognise that this may not be possible.

Under the terms of expression of interest for sustainable trees, the local authority is offering the provision and planting of a 4.5 metre high tree, annual pruning and maintenance and decorating the tree in the first year.

It will also provide insurance cover for three years alongside a £2,500 starter pack which includes a one-off illumination package (£1,250), a community event (£150) and one-off Christmas tree switch-on event.

The community partners who request a tree will be responsible for its subsequent dressing and lighting and organising the annual switch-on event.

To determine which applications for sustainable festive trees are successful, the council will follow set criteria which includes site ownership (with local authority sites preferred), site suitability including access to a power supply and a shared space location.

There must also be a level of community buy-in, with a partnership of consortium arrangement in place, with council officials confirming that preference will be given to sites across the district which have no other sustainable Christmas tree planted.

Local authority officials have confirmed that they also intend to work with communities who currently receive a cut festive tree to move to having a planted one, subject to agreement on location, its future maintenance and dressing.

Politicians have welcomed the continuation of what they have described as a “very successful” sustainable Christmas scheme and hope that it will not be long before all the district’s festive trees are sustainable.