Formal notice received by Chester City Council on a resident in Chester in mid September 2008, requiring him to tidy and maintain a garden that is 'out of keeping' with those of his neighbours.

But should local councils be able in effect to dictate the heights of various plants in a tiny private garden, or to use their extensive powers merely to further a complaint by a vexatious neighbour?

Curiously, all of this started with a complaint about the rear garden - which can hardly be seen at all from the road and which in any case is wholly unexceptional. So why does the formal Section 215 notice relate only to trivial aspects of the tiny front garden and to 'the view of the rear garden' - as if a fleeting glimpse of a small tree 10 metres away could constitute a public nuisance!!

Look at the photographs below - is this really a matter for heavy handed State intervention?

In an email dated 24 Sept 2008 the "Managing Director" of Chester City Council - a Mr Chris HARDY - was invited to say if he felt that this webpage in any way misrepresented the actions of his council.

This Notice is served by the Council under Section 215 because it appears to them that the amenity of a part of their area is adversely affected by the condition of the land described below.

The land known as xx XXXXXXXXX, Chester, CHx xxx.

3.1 Mow and maintain the lawn at the front of the Land to a height no greater than 9 centimetres.
3.2 Remove weeds, grass and moss from along the length of both sides of the driveway at the front of the Land.
3.3 Trim back all hedges, shrubs, trees at the front of the Land to within the boundary of the Land.
3.4 Remove the view of the rear of the Land from Coppice Green by means of closed gates or fencing to a height of not greater than 2 metres.
3.5 Remove all debris, rubbish, waste matter arising from compliance with 3.1 to 3.4 above from the Land.

Steps 3.1 to 3.5 above to be complied with within eight (8) weeks from the date that this notice takes effect.

This notice takes effect on 16th October 2008, unless an appeal is made against it beforehand.

Ref: 08/00303/EULAND.

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View of the tiny disputed front garden (on the left).

Government guidance may soon be changed to make covering gardens with impermeable slabs, concrete or similar materials a matter for planning consent. This is because rain water washes off impermeable surfaces far faster and can overwhelm drainage systems. Gardens with a lot of vegetation absorb water, delaying its release and so reducing the risk of flooding.

However, in this case the house owner has fallen foul of a council who are demanding that he cut back vegetation and trim his lawn! This is despite also that long grass is far more wildlife friendly and does not need so much watering during periods of drought.

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And since when have a few weeds and a bit of moss on a private driveway been a legitimate concern of bully boy planning officials? There are probably millions of homes with driveways that are in less than pristine condition (including mine!). The borders of weeds provide a useful wildlife habitat amidst the sterility of the rest of this arguably ghastly housing estate.

Resurfacing the driveway would be a huge waste of resources - much building work in the UK and elsewhere is undertaken to 'keep up with the neighbours' but in reality is verging on a criminal use of raw materials. In a conservation spirited age, no driveway should be renewed until it is wholly worn out - maybe in 200 years?!

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And since when do a few small trees and shrubs constitute a public nuisance? The trees and shrubs in my front garden are about ten feet tall and (arguably) out of control. Yet diversity and including a garden that is a bit different from neighbouring gardens is surely not a crime worthy of a 5000 fine and/or imprisonment? Yet this is what Chester City Council are threatening.

Maybe a terrorist might be lurking amongst the bushes? Should anti-terror legislation also be deployed by Chester City Council against this house owner, in addition to Section 215 of the Planning Acts?

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View from the front window - there is a tiny area of overgrown lawn!

My front garden has about 100 times that area - and why should not I keep my grass as long as I wish?

The longer the better for insects and other wildlife, the longer the better for pollution (less use of lawnmowers), the longer the better for noise pollution (less use of lawnmowers and strimmers) - and the longer the better for helping to control flood waters.

Chester City Council really were acting in a very strange manner - reminiscent more of the gulags of Stalinist Russia or maybe present day North Korea - where conformity is all.

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Now this really is a crime scene - glimpsed through the bushes is a garden wall with greenery growing up it!

There are also overhanging bushes and trees - and they overhang the Public Highway - as indeed do millions of other trees and bushes throughout England. This is surely an offence under the Public Order Acts?

Have the owners of all this offending greenery also been served with Section 215 notices - or is one quiet mannered householder being singled out as part of a local feud or vendetta led by planning officers from Chester City Council?

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Prosecution Exhibit A

A bush, or maybe it is a shrub.

Whatever it is, it is wholly unacceptable because it is in a garden that is unlike those in the immediate vicinity. It is different, and therefore must detract from the local amenity. We know this because Chester City Council says so.

And never forget the terrorist angle - it could be hiding a bomb factory as well as looking a little untidy.

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Prosecution Exhibit B.

I have yet to clarify exactly what and where this is but I feel certain it has offended the Britain in Bloom members of Chester City Council.

On the other hand, the insects and birds probably quite like it - as a change from the uniform sterility of the rest of Coppice Green. A large part of my front garden looks just like this. And why not?

Farmers are actually PAID to leave strips of weeds at the sides of their fields - and out of public funds!

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