Gardeners transform tip into garden: told to rip it up

Keen gardeners from Hampstead in North London decided to reclaim a rat-infested tip beside a railway line (pictured), and build a garden for the residents to enjoy. They have planted the area up and keep it clean and tidy, and as a reward for all their hard work the council is demanding they tear it all up.

It's not the first time a legal decision has seemed at odds with a sensible one.%VIRTUAL-SkimlinksPromo%and in question was an eyesore, covered in rubbish, filled with abandoned cars, and crawling with vermin. The Ham & High reported that locals decided to clean up the patch of land so that everyone could enjoy it.

However, the spot, just off Belsize Road in Hampstead, was officially supposed to be a service road for nearby shops, and the council demanded that the gardeners rip up their plants - or pay £4,600 for the council to do the work for them.

Transformed garden

The locals argue that all they have done is improve the area. According to the Daily Mail, they set up a campaign to preserve the garden, and collected 1,000 signatures on their petition.

In response, the council suspended the deadline by which the group had to clear the garden away, but remains adamant that it needs to go. Camden Council said in a statement: "The group have not sought permission, and as such it is an unauthorised use of a service road. We have therefore had to act to restore the road back to its intended use."

However, you have to ask whether the service road was being maintained by the council sufficiently in order to be functional before it was turned into a garden. Given that anyone using the access road would have to negotiate an immense pile of rubbish and abandoned cars, it's questionable whether the garden poses any more of an obstacle.

Of course on paper the council is legally entitled to make this demand, it's just that logically it doesn't seem terribly sensible.

Letter of the law

However, it wouldn't be the first council to favour the letter of the law over common sense. In fact over the last two months alone we have seen several examples.

We reported last month on the man from Bromsgrove who was forced to knock down a wall in his own garden and tear up the garden he had lovingly planted. Apparently although he was the owner of the land, it had traditionally been a public highway, so although there was no chance anyone would ever need to drive over his garden, he had to remove the wall just in case someone wanted to enforce their right to do so.

Then there was the man from South Shields forced to remove the garden next to his wife's grave because it was too long. The council said it was just enforcing the rules, regardless of the fact that Joe Grant was beautifully maintaining the grave in honour of his wife, while others were allowed to fall into disrepair.

And there was the couple from Cornwall who set up a small wooden eco home on their smallholding of three quarters of an acre. Despite getting 1,000 signatures from locals urging the council to let them stay (given the size and nature of the tiny property, and the fact it didn't affect anyone in the area) they were denied permission and forced to demolish their home.

Clearly, the councils have to uphold the law, and stop people seizing portions of land and abusing the rules. It's just not clear why they feel the need to enforce the rules so thoroughly when all people are doing is improving an area.

But what do you think?
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