Local councils already use draconian powers under Section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act to bully householders into 'improving' their properties, often in response to a complaint from vexatious or malevolent neighbours.

Many councils mis-use their powers, picking on vulnerable people and forcing them to 'tidy up' minor and inconsequential areas of garden whilst (of course) ignoring major eyesores that are within council control.

This appeared in Private Eye magazine in the 6 to 21 August issue, 2008.

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On 9 September 2008 it was reported that the government is considering increasing the powers given to local councils - who arguably have far too many powers already. This is copied from the Daily Express. The journalists have centred the article on proposed new powers whose aim would be to limit waste and to reduce water use. These are both laudable objectives in the longer term.

However, gardens that use little water can either be environmentally friendly or can be ecological deserts - a few pot plants on a sterile gravel bed. Very neat gardens can generate a lot of waste (grass and hedge clippings etc) whilst untidy and overgrown gardens - those left to nature - can generate very little waste.

As usual, Ministers seem not to have the fainest idea what they are doing. On the one hand they encourage local councils to order people to cut their lawns and dispose of the clippings - and on the other hand they say they wish to reduce the amount of waste being carried around the countryside to recycling centres! Natural and overgrown gardens soak up far more rainwater than do manicured and paved gardens - and it is another stated aim of government to reduce the amount of surface run-off from domestic gardens to help limit flash flooding caused by torrential rain.

So why are gardens that cost little to maintain, that encourage wildlife and that help to reduce flooding problems those usually subject to orders under section 215? It probably has something to do with joined-up government!

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