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.

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.”

Planting activity indeed. Hang people who use language like that. And anyone who hires a “network steward”.

If there’s enough cash around to hire someone to hassle pensioners for planting flowers by the roadside then I’d say that there’s still quite a lot of government we can cut.

22 thoughts on “Hang Them!”

  1. Maybe they should dump horses all over them. Or covert them into an impression of the Council Rubbish tip. This appears to be perfectly legal in the UK, and the Council cleans up for free.

  2. If it’s been there since 1999 I think they have established change of use beyond hope of removal.

    Tell the bureaucrat to stick his head in a pig.

    Though it may be different for adopted highway land.

  3. It is different for highways.

    removes any soil or turf from any part of a highway, except for the purpose of improving the highway and with the consent of the highway authority for the highway

    But, please note, the offence is doing it. And you can only be convicted once. The penalty is £20. Prosecution would be infinitely preferable (unless they want to visit the States) than a order enabling the council to make a right mess of it and lump the Halseys with the bill.

  4. Can we charge the jobsworth prodnose with outraging public decency? I’m aware that’s not what the offense normally means, but a) we could stretch a point and b) he deserves to have people think he was prosecuted for flashing.

    Personally I find this more outrageous to our morals and decency than someone dangling their bits in public.

  5. Bloke with a Boat

    Part of the thinking behind right to buy was that the ownership of your house would develop a sense of ownership in the environment and lead to people taking better care of their surroundings.

    So its their own fault for buying their council house and doing Maggie’s bidding and they deserve their punishment.

  6. “Tell the bureaucrat to stick his head in a pig.”

    A wee bit harsh on the pig, surely? And with our diverse council staff, probably a hate crime.

  7. To be fair, this is a result of Britain’s crazy administrative system. Verges are part of highways which is the remit of County, responsible for a great swath of area. At this level there’s no difference in principal in using the verge as a shrubbery or for a car repair business. I’ve lived in Belgium, France & now Spain. Things like this are decided at a much more local level. For our french village that was Sophie the mayor, available in the bar most evenings, who would know the couple, the verge & be able to tell the difference between daffodils & diesels. Information being at its highest quality closest to where the action’s happening. If no-one in the road objected & it wasn’t causing any obstruction there wouldn’t be a problem

  8. Similar thing happened in Edinburgh recently.

    There’s a nice bloke who runs a small cafe from a boat on the canal. Beside the canal path next to his mooring was a bit of ugly waste ground. He decided to brighten things up by engaging in some “planting activity”. The Vogons from the council were onto it in days and the nascent garden had to be torn up on pain of prosecution.

  9. @BiS

    ‘For our french village that was Sophie the mayor, available in the bar most evenings, who would know the couple, the verge & be able to tell the difference between daffodils & diesels.’

    I take your wider point, but this dickhead can also tell the difference between and diesels, as his letter makes clear.

    I often wonder if there isn’t more to this kind of story than meets the eye – I can’t be arsed to read it, but are they obstructing the view at a busy junction or something?

    I mean, probably not and he probably should be horsewhipped through the streets to the stocks, if not for this then for myriad other petty bullshittances, but just wondering.

  10. @Interested
    But does he get the discretion?
    The great thing about administration at a local level is there’s a dialogue. There can be discretion because most things are a compromise between different interests. If you want a back-story, look at why the couple planted the verge. To stop cars parking on it. But it’s not their verge. In our french village there’s parts where it’s usual to bump up on the pavement to park. Gendarme will tell you to, if you don’t. Avoids traffic obstruction. Other places it isn’t. Because being able to park is an accepted need.
    A Cheshire “network steward” is too far removed from this conversation to be any use.

  11. Councils do need to stop purpresture. Is that what they are trying to achieve in their cack-handed Stalinist style?

  12. Rarely, and excellently, the miserable spiteful little wanker has actually been named, so hopefully several thousand people are currently making his life hell.

    It is unpleasant and should not be necessary, but the only way to get these fuckers to behave in a sensible and civilised way is to make them fear the possible consequences. Hopefully in future the next jumped up jobsworth will balance the prospect of hundreds of abusive calls and letters against the vicarious pleasure of pushing around an easy victim.

  13. Bloke with a Boat

    I’m working as an “industry expert” on a Government project. I have found it mildly amusing to find that Civil Servants live in fear of 3 things:

    1. The Public Accounts Committee
    2. Daily Mail headlines
    3. Privatisation and having to work in the private sector.

    The first 2 do have a sobering and moderating affect on the way that they operate. I have been in a meeting where a lawyer advised that something was legal but that we should apply the “Daily Mail Test”.

    This story makes me wonder what local bureaucrats fear, its obviously bad headlines because this action must have been reviewed by at least one lawyer and one manager because nobody acts on their own initiative nowadays.

  14. Playing devil’s advocate:

    What exactly are we objecting to here?
    1) The law itself (no flower planting allowed on the verge)
    2) The enforcement of said law
    3) The lack of discretion in the enforcement

    Discretion is a dangerous thing. If the council officer lets one household get away with it, then it sets a precedent for the rest of the street to plant whatever they like.

    Let’s assume that the council officer received a complaint from a neighbour. What is he supposed to do – tell the complainant that in his personal, discretionary view, the flowers are allowed? The man would be fired for violating procedure.

  15. “Once a highway, always a highway” is the accepted legal wisdom. Whether the highway was formally adopted by the highway authority or simply taken into use by the public in the past (mosty likely in this case) it remains highway until legally closed- regardless of what has been planted or built on it. Bear in mind the land is for public use.
    The most likely explanation as to why the highway inspector is pursuing this is is a complaint from the public- possibly arising from a neighbour dispute. It might be a new guy trying to make a name for himself but that’s less likely.
    Normally in these circumstances if the plant were not a problem,the one doing the planting would be required to get a “license to plant”- a bit of a fiddle but it tidies up the legal position.
    Or maybe the “Other bushes and plants” have grown to a height that obscures visibility- it’s even possible that they have been so for some time and the highway authority have finally got round to doing something about it.

  16. Easy target aren’t they? A couple of 70 year olds (probably ‘tory bastards’) planting flowers are much easier to bully than some unemployed yob drunk smashing up the neighbourhood (he would be a victim of society, right?). This council cunt will probably get a promotion for his good work.

  17. Bloke in Germany

    I’m always naturally suspicious when we hear only one side of a story. Coming hot on the heels of another story regarding an attempted “land grab” done by nice middle-class people, one wonders if there isn’t at least the risk of the legal status of the land changing having been cultivated for so long.

    At very least, the pensioner concerned was a doofus for admitting to having anything to do with it. Without that admission, the jobsworth’s life would have been made very hard. I concede it’s difficult to educate the older generation, and indeed a lot of other people, that trusting people in peaked caps is a Bad Idea, and I think it was IanB some time ago made the point that life is made difficult for those not used to navigating formalised, legalistic systems.

    But yes, still, string’em all up.

  18. Pingback: Floral fiends | Homepaddock

  19. Do I get the idea that were someone to plant something in your property for the express purpose of limitting your use of your own property or indeed for any other purpose, your agent would deserve hanging should he tell that somebody to get out? I presume from the comments above that many of you believe so.
    The highway is comunally owned. Indeed unless you want to stop and pay a toll to every riparian owner you pass and trust each of them to maintain to an acceptable standard I cant see an alternative. Taking that property for personal use, or to restrict everyone’s rights to that peoperty is rightly illegal. And by everyone’s rights I mean your personal rights.
    I’d like some addresses, I know some people who’d like a front lawn to use as an allotment, and it would be easier with a landowner who accepts the right of any Tom,Dick or Harry to simply appropriate property for their own use.
    The highways inspector’s action was obviously belated, the plants should have been removed forthwith, but that is his (or more likely his predecessors’) only fault.
    That and not properly ensuring that the verge was mown regularly, which omission he might yet remedy

  20. @ Pat
    The couple were *not* trying to limit the use of the propertyy by the owner. They were trying to discourage the abuse of the property by third parties. The jobsworth claimed that the highway was not communally owned but owned by the local council: if it had been communally-owned the action of the pensioners would have been completely within their righhts as well as praise-worthy.
    Try getting your facts right before posting: we can all make mistakes (as I occasionally do) but you don’t seem to try.

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