Nearly £25,000 has been secured to guarantee the future of a much-loved community garden at Angel Ridge, but a councillor and a candidate for election in the Old Town ward have pulled out their forks and spades in an argument about who managed to ensure the garden will be properly maintained.
Developers contributed money for the memorial gardens at the centre of new housing estate built on the footprint of the former Princess Margaret Hospital which opened in 1957 and closed in 2002.
But Old Town candidate Claire Ellis and South Swindon MP Robert Buckland, pictured right, say the money was never ring-fenced for the area’s upkeep, and at one stage some residents were told they might have to pay extra management fees to cover the cost.
Claire said Swindon Borough Council has now confirmed that just under £25,000 has been guaranteed to be spent on the area. She said: "I have been quietly working on this with Robert Buckland for some time. We now have confirmation that the money has been ring-fenced and will be spent on the gardens.
"I’m always ready to help local residents with challenging problems like this and I’m delighted with the result. I was determined to secure this money for the community, and with Robert’s help we have achieved what residents desired."
However Old Town councillor Nadine Watts said Claire and Robert, left, are making news out of an old story.
She said: "The Mistletoe Court & Rowan Court S106 agreement enabled the council to obtain £25K in November 2009.
"In the second half of 2013 local residents were in contact with me following their concerns that the garden was not being regularly maintained and also that they were facing a bill for maintenance of the gardens from the management company. This story was covered in the Swindon Advertiser on 24 September & 4 October last year.
"At one time the management company of Mistletoe and Rowan Courts stepped in to maintain the gardens themselves due to their untidiness.
"What local residents want and I have been calling on the Council to do is using more of the £25K to deliver more maintenance visits to the garden every year. The Council at present are only maintaining the garden once a year and it is due to take more than 25 years since the Council received the developer’s contribution, for all of the £25K to be used. This seems unacceptable.
"If Councillor Ellis and Robert Buckland are supporting my call for more of the £25K to be spent on the gardens in order for them to be better maintained, I would strongly welcome this.”
Below, the foundation stone unveiled by the late Princess Margaret in May 1957 is now the centre piece of the garden on Angel Ridge