Pensioner spends life savings building garden - is taken to court

Why is gardening such a bad thing, and why is it worth jailing him for?

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Pensioner from Preston in his garden

Jan Imani Rad, a 66 year old pensioner from Preston, has spent £6,000 creating his dream communal garden on his housing estate - money that was supposed to be spent on his funeral. Rather than being pleased he had spruced up the space, the Community Gateway Association objected, and has been dragging him through the court. His latest appearance has landed him a suspended sentence.

The Daily Mail reported that since 2012 the former teacher has spent the money on pretty planting, as well as a variety of trellises, statues, pathways and even a bridge. The idea was to transform an unloved spot into an area his neighbours could all enjoy.

Unfortunately, the Community Gateway Association didn't see things the same way - because he didn't get permission from them to do the work. They demanded that he take down the garden.

According to the Lancashire Evening Post, many of his neighbours liked the garden, and 5,395 of them signed a petition to the Community Gateway Association to ask for it to stay. The association gave retrospective permission three times as Mr Rad added to the garden. However, they insisted he removed a swing attached to a rolled steel joist and some unsafe electrical work.

This was not done, and he continued to add to the garden. The association got a court order to stop him building, but he continued, and as a result breached his court order.

They took him back to court, and the judge gave him a suspended sentence, and ordered him to take down any elements he doesn't have permission for. He has until 18 July. If he breaches the court's requests within 12 months he will go to jail.

Mr Rad told the judge in court that he has no intention of tearing up his garden - and that he would rather go to prison

Gardening crimes

Gardening seems an odd thing to end up with the threat of prison over, but he is not the first to discover that the wrong kind of gardening can land you in serious trouble.

In 2014, a couple from Northwich in Cheshire received a threatening letter from the council. The pensioners wanted to improve a grass verge outside their house that had been churned up by people parking on it, so they planted flowers and cared for it for 15 years. At that point a council worker spotted it, and demanded they remove the flowers. When they refused, they were told that if they didn't comply within three weeks, the council would do the work and charge them for it.

A year earlier, neighbours in Hampstead ran into the same issue. A service road had become a rubbish tip over the years, so they carted away a heap of rubbish - including an abandoned car - and planted the area as a communal garden. The council wrote to them saying that they should either tear up the garden, or face a bill for £4,600 for the council to do it.

But the penalties can be worse

We reported back in 2012 on the man who was fined £125,000 for chopping a neighbour's tree down. The tree was blocking the view from his new hot tub, and while his neighbour was away, the tree was mysteriously chopped down. The courts found him guilty, and he was ordered to pay £125,000 - to account for the increase in the value of his property from his illegal act.

Then there was the bizarre example in 2002, when a couple trimmed a hedge beside their property. It had been the subject of a long-running dispute, and the couple had received a court order stopping them from trimming it. So when they broke the court order, they were jailed for 28 days. They were in court again the following year, after having done it again, but the judge decided not to jail them a second time.

Nightmare neighbours

Nightmare neighbours


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