Roy Dowson's yew hedge is well loved in Burton-by-Lincoln. It has been lovingly cared for since it was planted in 1880, and its current owner, 89-year-old Roy, is careful to ensure the 100 yard-long hedge is trimmed regularly to keep it under control, and looking at its best. This hasn't stopped the council from insisting that it must be hacked back dramatically.
The Lincolnshire Echo reported that the 140 year-old, 8 foot high, yew hedge overhangs the path - and always has done. But the council is now insisting that Roy takes a chainsaw to his pride and joy.
He has until February 24 to cut it back to be level with the wall, but he warns that such a dramatic cut would reduce the hedge to sticks. Because yew grows so slowly, he points out that it will be an eyesore for years to come.
The Daily Telegraph reported that Paul Little, Highways Network Manager North, has defended the move. He said: "We have had to ask a resident in Burton to cut the yew hedge back outside his property to ensure the safety of pedestrians wishing to use the pavement. The hedge is encroaching over half of the pavement width in some places, and we've received several complaints from pedestrians who have been forced to walk in the road in between two blind bends, particularly if two people need to pass each other."
What are your rights?
Technically, the council is within its rights to insist the hedge is cut. The law states that hedges or trees should not encroach or overhang a public footpath at all, and are not allowed to obstruct visibility either. If a hedge or tree is found to block the path, the council will serve a hedge cutting notice, and if this is ignored, they have the power to carry out the work themselves and send the bill to the owner of the hedge.
Councils enforce the rules with varying degrees of assiduousness. Dorset County Council, for example, doesn't wait for complaints - it will enlist Town and Parish Councils to check hedges and report issues. It points out that "It only takes a single overhanging bramble or branch to inflict serious injury to a person's eye or deflect them into the path of a passing vehicle". Hedge owners in Dorset, therefore, need to be committed to effective trimming schedules.
Meanwhile, in Burton-by-Lincoln, locals haven't given up the fight. One woman set up an online petition to protest against the council's decision. So far it has received almost 1,500 signatures, and many have added messages of support.
One woman who wrote: "For many years I have been admiring this beautifully manicured yew hedge as I go through Burton village. It would be a tragedy for it to be cut back after it has taken so long to grow into such a magnificent specimen." Another added: "This hedge is a part of Burton village natural history and heritage. It is not dangerous nor do I feel it is obstructing the pavement. It would be sacrilege to cut it right back."