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Elderly couple told to rip up flower bed by council

Elderly couple told flower bed outside their home is ‘criminal damage’ by council which has demanded they rip it out

An elderly couple have been warned they face a court charged with ‘criminally damaging the highway’ – after they planted a flower bed outside their home.

Colin Halsey, 77, and his wife Kath, 76, had decided to grow daffodils, pansies and other bushes and plants as long ago as 1999 to stop motorists churning up the grass verge whenever they parked their cars.

But almost 15 years on, a council official carrying out an inspection of the village where they couple live, spotted the illicit flower bed growing at the front of their former council house.

He spoke to Mr Halsey claiming his ”planting activity” was a ”criminal offence” under Section 131 of The Highways Act 1980 and then warned the retired salesman, the plants and bushes had been ”planted without permission.”

Afterwards he fired off a legal letter when the pensioner failed to remove them warning he had even added extra plants.

The offending flower bed (PAT ISSACS/CAVENDISH PRESS)

In his letter John Barnes a network steward for Cheshire West and Chester Council warned: ”I observed that the highway verge outside your property had been planted up with bushes and bedding plants.

”I now write to require the following works to remove all the planting that you have inserted and to restore the verge to its original state prior to you undertaking planting activity.”

Mr Barnes demanded Mr Halsey level the ground within three weeks and re-lay it with the ”removed turf” and the area be ”reseeded” at his own expense.

His letter concluded: ”If you do not carry out the works, the council will consider all options available including prosecution and/or making a complaint to the Magistrates Court for an order to remove and dispose of the planting and thereafter to recover expenses incurred by the Council.”

Today/yesterday(tue) the couple who live in Weaverham in Northwich were warned they may face a charge of ”removing any soil or turf from any part of a highway without lawful authority.” The maximum sentence is a £50 fine.

Mr Halsey said: ”This situation really upsets us – especially as we have nurtured that flower bed for the best part of 15 years.

”We spent a lot of money this money to make the area look nice and now some council jobsworth wants us to get it back to how it was.

”The front garden used to look terrible with cars churning up the soil. All we wanted to do was to stop that for the good of the neighbourhood. All our neighbours liked the flower bed.

”Surely the council have better things to do. We have had a flag stone out of place for 3 years – why not sort that? It seems to me the council have become bully boys and I have lost trust in them. This would not have happened years ago.

”The council nowadays is too politically correct and take things too seriously. It would not have been this way with the old council. If something needed fixing they would come do it straight away.

”There must be more important things they need to focus on, like cleaning the streets and sorting the churned up lawns in the rest of the area.”

The Halsey who have lived at their address for 53 years and who bought their council house 25 years ago planted the flower bed as part of a project by locals to smarten the neighbourhood for the millenium.

The couple who have four children, ten grandchildren and two great grandchildren. spent £260 on the lawn buying shrubs and bedding pots.

Mr Halsey said: ”I did the lawn up to make the front of the house look nicer. The council used to mow the lawn and leave the grass cuttings but it meant we trudged it into the house and made a mess.

”Cars would park on the lawn churning up the grass and making it muddy. It just looked messy and unkept. I just wanted it to look nice.

“We had hydrangeas, fuscias, willows and conifa bushes. It took a whole day to put the path down and a solid two weeks to finish the rest of the lawn off- it was hard work.”

“I am a keen gardener and have been so for 15 odd years. Kath just likes to have a nice garden. I have helped with people’s gardens all over the place.

”Loads of people needed help with their gardens and I love to do it. I am always out pottering in the garden. It is a real passion.”

But trouble began in March when a horse chestnut tree was pulled down from outside a neighbouring house and Mr Barnes undertook an inspection of the area.

Mr Halsey said: ”He came onto the street and asked me where 137 was. I said ‘I live at 137.’ He then said ‘I was just in the area by chance and saw the alterations to the front lawn and issued me with a warning. I couldn’t believe it.

“I complained but the council say if an accident happened on the flower bed it would not be known who was liable if someone got sued. They suggested we should have a tarmac drive but why can’t we have a nice flower bed? People get hurt on a tarmac drive too.

”Noone gave a damn for almost 15 years – now we’re being threatened with a criminal record.”

Mrs Halsey a retired factory machinist said: ”Alll we wanted to do was to make the front look nicer. We don’t want out street to look like Manchester Airport, we live near the countryside. It should look nice.”

The couple’s daughter Denise Dayne, 55, a support worker said: “Mum and dad have lived here for 53 years and they should be left alone in their retirement.

”It has taken over 14 years to bring this up when there are more important things to be dealt with like spending more time on litter around all the shops.

”The lawn is not a jungle – it is well kept and not a danger to anyone. People have plants in gardens everywhere and no on seems to be getting hurt.”

A spokesman for the council said: ”We do have a responsibility to maintain grass verges and its very difficult to do that if there’s individual things people have done on their own.

”What we would like to do in this case is discuss with the residents to see if some kind of formal agreement can be out in place. We want to work with communities to enhance ares like grass verges but there has to be an agreement.”

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