SALISBURY City Council voted to scrap hanging baskets and talked about retiring Gilbert the Dragon for good.

In 2019, Salisbury City Council declared a 'Climate Change Emergency' and committed to making the city as carbon neutral as possible by 2030.

With the summers becoming hotter and dryer, the question for the city councillors at the meeting on Monday, July 4 was whether to keep the traditional floral displays or to opt for a 'greener' alternative. 

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The council says that to maintain Gilbert it takes about 30,000 litres of water each year and costs about £700.

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The budget for the floral displays is £30,000 which includes Gilbert and watering costs.

Marc Read, the Environmental Services Manager, said: “Gilbert’s frame has reached the end of its life span with much of the internal watering pipework failing. He is not designed for the weather we now get.

"The formation he takes and especially on his wings and tail in particular, the way the frame is, the water does not stay in there. I think it has reached the end of its lifespan."

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It has also been decided that the traditional hanging baskets around the city will be replaced with "living pillars".

Mr Read said: "Parklets and living towers are better for biodiversity and potentially, offer more space and are pleasing to the eye but I am aware that there is a lot of public affection for the traditional displays and for Gilbert."

He added: "It is time for a more forward-facing approach that is more sympathetic to the environmental challenges the country is facing and that embraces change and considers alternative approaches."

The Conservatives have criticised the decisions. 

Cllr Eleanor Wills, said: "Leave the hanging baskets alone, keep the traditional floral displays and stop promoting nonsense which pushes visitors and residents alike away.

"Go to any historic city and floral displays make the place. Salisbury has always had a proud history of stunning floral displays throughout the summer months. Living pillars might be appropriate in Camden or Hackney but not here in Salisbury. It's time for a rethink."

Cllr Sven Hocking added: "If you looked at Gilbert today, and the succulents, you might think they are real flowers. You would never need to water them again and Gilbert has survived forever."

Cllr Sam Charleston defended the move, saying: "The paper does not say to scrap Gilbert and I think he is very positive. He is 30 years old and that there is an end to his life and it is an extraordinary amount of water needed (to keep it). What does Gilbert 2.0 look like? Perhaps, he needs to continue in some form but right now he is looking very tired and sad.

"I am fully in favour of the parklets and the living pillars and could be here all year round."

Further details of the Council’s activity were provided in a report showing progress over the last year to achieve the aims of the Council’s Strategic Plan.  There are 5 key themes in the plan; A Green City, A Lively City, Your Voice Heard, Wellbeing, Looking to the Future and a Well-Run Council.  The report showed how progress has been made over all these areas.

Cllr John Wells, who chairs the Council’s Environment and Climate Change Committee, said “The report reflects a tremendous of amount focussed work by the Council over the last year, and we look forward seeing reaching more of our aims over the next year”.