Couple who tidied verge outside home are told to put the weeds back or face fine by council jobsworths
Theythought they were being good citizens. But when this couple cleared weeds and rubbish from outside their house, the council issued a stern warning – telling them to put it all back.
Samantha Hamilton and Colin Freeman spent months getting rid of dead plants, broken bottles and scrap metal from the verge next to their home in the village of Mytchett, Surrey, after moving in last April.
So they were baffled by a solicitor’s letter telling them to return it to its former state or face legal action.
Samantha Hamilton and Colin Freeman cleared a piece of land outside their home but have been ordered to "put it back how they found it" by Surrey County Council
Surrey County Council said part of the verge is owned by the highway authority, which means residents are barred from tending to it.
The couple, both civilian workers in the Ministry of Defence, have even
been told to pay £78 for a ‘retrospective licence’ to carry out the
Miss Hamilton, 31, said: ‘When we moved in, it looked like a wasteland. It was so overgrown that one neighbour didn’t even realise there was a house there.
‘Half the bushes were dead and the area was strewn with broken bottles, beer cans and old car parts.
Letter: Surrey County Council order the couple to reverse the work they've done outside the property
‘If the authorities had done a good job tending to the verge, then we
wouldn’t have had to do anything.
'We just wanted to make the area look better – for us and for the wider community.
‘If we don’t pay for doing all the work, then the council says we are supposed to return it to its original state – basically, cover it in weeds and throw rubbish all over it.’
Mr Freeman, 44, is a qualified tree surgeon and spent days cutting back
the bushes, which had grown to 15ft and made it difficult to see traffic
when leaving the property.
The couple estimate they spent several hundred pounds replacing the dead trees with new shrubs.
They claim they have received compliments, with one neighbour sending a card to say thanks.
But not everyone thought it was an improvement; it is understood the council became involved after a complaint from a resident.
The couple say the front of the house was covered in weeds and rubbish
One neighbour, who declined to be named, said: ‘It was fine before and it matched the other side of the road. Now it looks a bit strange.
‘Some of us liked to go and pick blackberries on the verge. There’s a few people here that wondered what they were up to cutting it all down.’
The couple say they will refuse to pay the fee for the licence, meaning they could face legal action if they do not return it to its original state. A council spokesman said: ‘As the highway authority we have a duty to assert and protect the rights of the public to use and enjoy the highway.
‘Members of the public can apply for a licence to cultivate highways land, which is what we suggested to Miss Hamilton.
‘There is a fee for the licence to be approved and for the land to be inspected to ensure the terms of the licence are met, and there are conditions indicating what can and cannot be done on the land.’
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