Lib Dems celebrate 20 years since opening of Jubilee Gardens

Jubilee Gardens marked its 20th anniversary on February 11. P

Jubilee Gardens marked its 20th anniversary on February 11. Pictured are former Lib Dem councillors Sheila and Jeremy Friend-Smith, Simon Higginson, and Neil Morrison together with Lib Dem councillor Charlotte Cane who was leader of East Cambs District Council when the gardens were opened in 2002. - Credit: Liberal Democrats

Liberal Democrats in Ely have celebrated 20 years since the opening of Jubilee Gardens this weekend (February 12-13), one of the city’s most popular open spaces. 

The gardens form an ‘attractive’ green corridor between the riverside and Ely city centre but they may have never been created after the council sold the land for development at the start of 1999. 

The Lib Dem councillors who were newly elected in May 1999, Sheila and Jeremy Friend-Smith, Simon Higginson, Charlotte Cane and Neil Morrison, worked with the public to create the gardens that opened in 2002. 

A spokesperson said: “The first step was for the new council administration to take back ownership of the land to prevent it being built on and to enable it to be used for public space. 

“There was overwhelming public support for the gardens proposal and the council led an extensive public consultation on what features to include in the open space.” 

Local residents wanted to see a sensory garden, a children’s play area, a bandstand and a water feature. All of these features are still part of the gardens today. 

The gardens were officially opened by the Duke of Edinburgh on February 11 to celebrate the Queen’s Golden Jubilee. 

Prince Philip at the opening ceremony for Jubilee Gardens on 11 February 2002

Prince Philip at the opening ceremony for Jubilee Gardens on 11 February 2002. - Credit: Liberal Democrats

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After a 20-minute tour of the gardens, Prince Philip planted a commemorative tree.

In 2005, Jubilee Gardens secured Green Flag status, a status maintained to the present day. 

“It has been a true community project with nearly every one of the original trees, shrubs and benches donated by members of the public,” said the spokesperson. 

“It continues to be supported by Friends of Jubilee Gardens, a group formed in 2003 to provide continued participation in developing and maintaining the gardens.” 

The gardens host a variety of events throughout the year including riverside concerts and the annual Eel Day, which this year will be known as Jubi-Eel Day. 

Sheila Friend-Smith, Mayor of Ely at the time of the opening, said: “Looking back to the opening of the gardens in 2002, it is fantastic to see the community involvement over the last two decades. 

“It is really rewarding to have helped save this important space from development and to play a part in creating such a popular community green space.”