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‘Look after your own’ Christmas tree scheme could extend to 14 more areas – if money can be found

It could cost up to £116,000 to implement and will depend on available underspend later in the year

A scheme to provide towns and villages with their own ‘planted’ Christmas trees to maintain is expected to extended across Newry, Mourne and Down.

But the local council has been told that it could cost in excess of £100,000 to implement – money which it currently does not have.

The tree initiative – aimed at cutting back on long-term costs and allowing communities to grow and look after their own – was introduced to six areas in the Newry, Mourne and Down District last year.

Now the regulatory and technical services committee – meeting on Wednesday – is being asked to approve this roll-out to a further 14 areas.

While there has been no indication where these would be, committee will be informed the cost could be anywhere between £43,050 and £116,550 to deliver.

And on top of that, there is no allocation in the budget for this year to proceed.

If it agrees to it, they would have to look again after the mid-year estimate on any potential underspend within budget to proceed.

Council would be asked to approve to seek expressions of interest from communities now ahead of the possibility of money becoming available and subject to agreement on funding the project.

In those areas which did take on trees this year there was “general satisfaction” from community representatives, council has been told, but there had been “some reservations” concerning the size of the tree.

But a report going to committee explains: “This is not a short-term project and it is likely to take between seven to 10 years from planting for the tree to achieve the impact sought.

“In the interim sole reliance on the tree to achieve an impact will not suffice requiring groups to become more imaginative in the Christmas display they erect which will include the planted tree. Council will need to consider working with groups to help them achieve this.”

To extend the scheme to another 14 sites will also see additional costs to include supply of new Christmas lights for the tree and grant assistance to the local community to organise a celebration event, all of which can be covered in budget.

On another festive note, council will also be asked to agree to extend the current provision of Christmas illuminations in a number of areas, including Kilkeel, Castlewellan, Newcastle and some of its own popular public buildings, including and Newry and Down leisure centres.

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