Anglian Water hosepipe ban could scupper hundreds of hanging baskets and colourful flower displays in Cromer, Sheringham, North Walsham and Hoveton
North Norfolk towns could be less colourful places this summer as the hosepipe ban that begins today threatens hundreds of hanging baskets and thousands of seasonal flowers.
Town 'in bloom' committees could be forced to abandon putting up the colourful baskets that bring a dash of seasonal colour to our streets.
And North Norfolk District Council is facing the prospect of planting 30,000 flowers in June - even though the hosepipe ban could condemn them to a swift death.
Meanwhile, the council is urgently seeking Anglian Water's (AW) advice on whether it can water the English Bowls Association-standard greens at The Marrams and Suffield Park in Cromer.
If the move is ruled out, it could mean the two well-used clubs will be closed until the rain comes or the ban is lifted.
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While organisations look for legal ways around the ban, thousands of north Norfolk householders will be praying for rain as they look at their parched gardens.
AW decided to introduce a rare hosepipe ban after warning that the driest 18-month period in more than a century had left reserves desperately low.
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The domestic ban hits 'in bloom' groups and councils when they use the mains supply to fill up water bowsers to irrigate plants, lawns or gardens.
Joan Thame, chairman of Sheringham in Bloom, said: 'It looks highly likely that we won't be able to put any hanging baskets up this year.
'Our other planters we water by hand, but with the hanging baskets we have to have someone going round with a bowser. And it is filled from the mains. It will make a huge difference to Sheringham, particularly this year, with the Jubilee and the Olympics.'
The volunteers were set to put the 50 hanging baskets up at the end of May - the same time that North Walsham in Bloom was planning to put its displays out.
North Walsham in Bloom chairman Chris Roberts said: 'We have a 600-litre bowser for our 62 hanging baskets and 30 half-barrel tubs, which we fill with a hosepipe, which is not allowed.'
He said the committee was looking into ways to use a commercial supply of water to get round the ban.
'This year we have the Olympics and the Queen's Diamond Jubilee, including a street party. Without the flower displays it's going to look a bit miserable in the centre of the town.'
In January, North Norfolk District Council ordered 30,000 bulbs for its annual summer planting at locations including North Lodge Park and the sunken gardens at Cromer, roadside flower beds at Hoveton, the council offices at North Walsham and The Lees, Station Approach and St Nicholas' Gardens at Sheringham.
The order cannot be cancelled - leaving the prospect that the flowers could soon wilt in the summer sunshine.
Helen Eales, leader of the council, said: 'We take our environmental responsibilities very seriously and have a policy of using water sensibly.
'We will, of course, continue to do that within the constraints of the new regulations, while at the same time doing all we can to ensure that north Norfolk looks as good as it can under drought conditions for our residents and visitors over the months ahead.'
Robert Simmons, chairman of the North Norfolk Tourism Forum, said: 'Towns are enhanced tremendously by having hanging baskets and colourful flower beds. They are part of what makes places attractive. But their absence would be unfortunate, not catastrophic.'
Ciaran Nelson, AW spokesman, said councils and other organisations needed to consider whether watering - whether inside or outside the law - sent an 'appropriate message' to the public.
'This is the worst drought of the last century, so is it really appropriate to ask whether we can water our begonias?'
North Norfolk's four main golf clubs - at Cromer, Sheringham, Mundesley and West Runton - do not fall foul of the hosepipe ban because they have their own boreholes.
A Norfolk County Football Association spokesman said the end of the season was approaching fast, so the ban on watering pitches would not have a major impact.
And cricket clubs are set to get around the ban because a clause in the rules allows them to water their squares for health and safety reasons - as a cracked wicket can put players in danger.