THE town council has axed its award-winning garden designer who made Town Park 'the jewel in Winsford's crown'.

At their monthly meeting on Monday, March 18, town councillors voted eight to three in favour of dispensing with Jo Fawcett’s services, to cries of ‘shame’ from angry members of the Friends of Winsford Town Park (FOWTP) volunteers group, who stormed out. 

FOWTP secretary, Hilary Edwards-Malam, described the decision as ‘devastating’. 

Jo worked closely with the council's grounds staff and FOWTP volunteers for six years, after winning the contract in a competitive open bidding process in 2018.

The decision not to renew her contract was recommended by the council’s Open Spaces working group after several meetings with the former Trentham Gardens designer, Jo. 

Northwich Guardian: Town Park has won several awards for its design and conservationTown Park has won several awards for its design and conservation (Image: FOWTP)

Councillors haven't disclosed what was discussed, however Cllr Wayne Fletcher said it was not a financial decision, and it wasn’t to do with the quality of her work. 

He said the town council had just decided 'to go a different way', letting its own grounds staff do the work Jo had done, including designing the award-winning planting schemes.  

Cllr Fletcher added: “Our grounds staff are well trained, and where necessary, they can be upskilled.

“FOWTP is an amazing group of people who have a lot of skills between them, which I’m sure they could use to help.

“Town Park isn’t the only park in Winsford the council has to manage.”

Chairman of FOWTP, John Malam, said under Jo’s ‘professional and enlightened’ stewardship, the park has become ‘a place of wellbeing’ for residents, adding: “The consequences of the decision for the park, and for the town, will be profound.”  

Addressing the meeting, Hilary Edwards-Malam said the decision was ‘demoralising in the extreme’.  

“My long experience as a home gardener gives me nothing compared with Jo’s horticultural knowledge and expertise," she added. 

“I mean no disrespect to the council’s grounds staff, but for them to step into her shoes would just be impossible.

“Jo is a distinguished horticulturalist who trained under internationally renowned garden designers. She has a long-term vision for the park, and we were privileged to have her.

“Without her, we are rudderless."

FOWTP vice-chairman, Tony Hooton, said: “If the town council are looking to make savings, this one is very short sighted.

“The Friends have work very hard over the past six years and Town Park is now the jewel in Winsford's crown. This is largely down to Jo. She is our only source of professional advice.

“Her input isn’t to do with maintenance. She helps us with all the academic stuff which goes into making a beautiful garden.

“The town council’s plan to retrain the grounds staff seems neither cost-effective nor practical."

Cllr Nathan Pardoe, who voted against the move, said: “Jo's fee is such a small amount of money for a large amount of gain, and the council is not short of money.

“Her loss will be felt immediately, and for a long time into the future.”