Moss is a widespread and arguably often attractive addition to walls and roofs. On pavements and driveways it may constitute a slip hazard and be less welcome. However, some people still find it attractive - even on areas of lawn. Some birds use it for building their nests. Given therefore the ubiquitous nature of moss, surely a small area on a private driveway should never be a matter for issue of a Section 215 Notice under the Town and Country Planning Act?
|Yet this is exactly what
happened in a suburb of Chester in 2008/9 - as a part of a local dispute where the local
council decided to make an example of a man whose garden was less ecologically sterile
than others in a high density housing estate.
This house owner also committed the crime of not renewing the surface of his driveway every 20 years.
He also allowed a TREE to grow in his rear garden - and he failed to cut back one of his neighbour's overhanging bushes.
He was threatened with a £1000 fine and/or imprisonment.
This page comprises at the moment a selection of photographs of moss in and around the SeeRed author's home and along nearby streets. None of these would remotely be considered as grounds for issue of a Section 215 Notice. They are sights to be seen in hundreds of 'upmarket' areas of Sidmouth - all areas of which are far more expensive and 'exclusive' than the housing estate in Chester. Some of the examples of moss are in gardens whose owners win Sidmouth in Bloom competitions! Similar areas of moss on driveways can be found throughout the UK - more photos will be added later to show the vindictive behaviour of Chester City Council now rebranded as ChesterWest and Chester.
So why did a small amount of moss on a private driveway so antagonise Chester City Council? Simply because in the time honoured fashion of bully-boy officials and councillors, they chose to flex their muscles by picking a fight with someone who they perceived to be weak and 'an easy target'. Having failed to make any headway with ordering the house owner to cut down an 'overgrown' rear garden they selected small and trivial aspects of his front garden as being offences under the Planning Acts.
This is England today - a low grade jobsworth council official can order that certain plants be removed from any garden that is not to his personal liking. If the householder objects then his recourse to appeal is to the local Magistrates Court. Even submitting a notice of appeal costs £150, which is perhaps why there are so many instances of capitulation. Central government should be indicted on at least three counts - encouraging local councils to issue S.215 Notices (this was done when the arch environmental bully John Prescott was deputy PM), failing to advise against the pursuit of trivial cases through the Courts, and failing to strip local councils of powers that they so clearly abuse.
|An area of moss on
what may be private land (but used as part of the public highway) adjacent to the Spar
shop in Sidford.
This is a north facing corner that receives little if any direct sunlight. A nearby drain seems to overflow regularly - adding to the dampness
|Close up of the
same area as above - this is passed by hundreds of people every week on their way to and
from the village shop.
It could be argued to be 'untidy', 'detrimental to the amenity of the area', 'overgrown' and (stretching a point) likely to attract vermin.
But are the millions of such areas in the UK all to be the subject of enforcement action under S.215 of the Planning Act by council officials who arguably should be sacked if they have nothing better to do?
|A garden wall
along the main A3052 in Sidford, a short distance from the SeeRed author's home.
The wall is covered in moss and is adjacent to a newly laid section of pavement (this was done when the pavement was widened).
The garden behind the wall is a picture of (ghastly) Britain in Bloom prissiness with every blade of grass mown to perfection - but if that is what the householder prefers then why not?
And why should his garden wall not be left to grow a thick natural covering of moss?
|A concrete gully
alongside Farmhouse Cottage in Sidford. This is one of Sidford's premier B&B
establishments and features in local guidebooks - and also in Sidmouth in Bloom
The moss arguably looks quite in keeping and attractive. Would pressure washed and sterilised concrete really look any better?
Leaving the moss is certainly more beneficial for wildlife - and has the added environmental benefit of not requiring energy and chemicals to be expended in its removal.
|A small cul-de-sac
in Sidford and directly adjacent to the main A3052 - within sight of hundreds of tourist
visitors to the area.
A thick layer of moss and a few weeds add to the rustic charm of these old cottages - should local councils order removal of all such material?
|Part of a listed
garden wall in Sidford - this dates back many hundreds of years.
If it was in Chester would the local planning department order that it be pressure washed and bleached?
|Yet another garden
wall alongside the main A3052 in Sidford. The pavement surface is new - yet it is already
starting to grow moss.
Devon County Council apparently no longer use weed killer when laying tarmac - which may explain why so many areas are these days ruined by weeds breaking through within a year of application.
|The old and the
new - which looks better?
The new section of wall was built in 2008 by Devon County Council because the old section was demolished to widen the pavement (by about six inches!).
In time, the new wall will (it is to be hoped) acquire the matured look of the old wall which surely looks so much better? This is in the 'historic' village of Sidford yet these houses are relatively new and with many 'prim and proper' gardens.
opposite, there is one of many thatched roofs in Sidford.
Like many others, this is coming to the end of its life and expensive repairs may be needed in a few years (or decades?)
Should this large area of moss be condemned under section 215 as 'detrimental to the amenity of the area' and be ordered to be removed?
Do zealous, officious and arguably 'surplus to real requirements' local planning officials need to be stripped of many of their powers to prevent abuses?
|An area of
pavement outside the Farmhouse Cottage B&B establishment in Sidford.
Should East Devon District Council order that this moss and area of weeds be sterilised - and would they order their colleagues in Devon County Council to undertake the work - or be issued with a Section 215 notice?
Councillors in Sidmouth (as elsewhere) often demonstrate their remarkably inane traits, but ordering such areas of moss to be removed would challenge even well honed stupidity to its limits!
|No prizes for
guessing the location and again immediately adjacent to the busy A3052!
The pavement is covered with moss and weeds and the roadway (the end of a cul-de-sac) has a liberal covering of moss and wild grasses.
Local birds probably quite like it - and it is doing no-one any harm - unless they slip down in which case Devon County Council could be liable for failing to exercise a duty of care towards users of their pavements and roads?
Or (more sensibly) should people take responsibility for where they put their feet?
|In Chester this
sight might be considered so disgusting that council officials would order immediate
removal of the moss.
In Sidmouth, the area is entered into Sidmouth in Bloom competitions, with the various plant pots being filled with ecologically useless flowers.
What would be the point of regularly removing the moss? It would grow back again and it is useful for wildlife. The only sensible option (if it was thought really necessary to keep the moss at bay) would be to remove it, sterilise the surface and apply a sealant to prevent roots ever again getting a grip within the pores of the surface.
A strip of moss along the pavement edge outside the SeeRed author's home.
Should this be notified forthwith to East Devon District Council?
Should they prosecute Devon County Council as the Highways Authority for the area?
|Even worse - a
thick bed of moss and ivy growing outwards from the SeeRed author's front garden and
impinging upon the pristine new pavement.
Yet this is typical of hundreds of miles of pavement in Devon and elsewhere.
Are such sights really so awful that they should become the subject of enforcement action by local council officials who appear sometimes to act as the agents of vexatious neighbours who have a grudge?
|A sight for sore
Old concrete, moss, a few weeds. This is so appalling and deviant that a special council meeting should surely be convened to authorise issue of a Section 215 Notice.
Local magistrates would unerringly side with the Local Authority in such a case (they probably attend the same drinks parties as senior local government officials) and so there would be little chance for justice to be done.
If you are unfortunate enough to live in Chester - this might all happen!
Back in the real world, council officials should act like proper public servants not bully boys intent on furthering vendettas in the manner of Hackney Council and the metric martyrs, for example.
surely be too good for people who allowed their property to fall into such a state of
disrepair and decay? The pebbled concrete has not been pressure washed and bleached for at
least a week, and the gully is thick in moss.
The front of Farmhouse Cottage (previously a part of Warren's Farm) has been like this for hundreds of years and (with a bit of luck and if dim-witted local planning officials are kept at bay) it still might look much the same in another hundred.
|A large area of
moss adjacent to the public highway - this is surely just what Section 215 of the Town and
Country Planning Act was enacted to deal with!
It is a small area of garden that is unlike others in the immediate vicinity. It is therefore detrimental to the amenity of the area.
|An ancient wall in
Sidford - covered in 'weeds' and with moss growing alongside.
How could England come to such a state of dereliction? Everywhere should be sanitised to the ghastly uniformity of modern housing estates in Chester - according to Chester City Council's senior planning officer Leslie Smith, and the 'managing director' of Chester City Council, Chris Hardy.
Given that the combined salaries of these two people are probably £300,000 pa (and with gold plated pension pots to match) have neither of them anything better to do than persecute a house owner who chooses to be a little different in his style of gardening?
|Oh dear me - the
porch roof of Farmhouse Cottage - one of the most historic and interesting buildings in
all of Sidford.
This mess of moss should surely be condemned by the local planning authority. The thatched roof should be replaced with new concrete tiles - or maybe with self cleaning polycarbonate?
That would surely look so much nicer?
historic building in Sidford - and what a mess!
Thick moss is growing on a garden wall adjacent to the public highway and just where dozens of rich B&B visitors will see it.
But on the other hand, maybe it looks quite nice!
Should local councils be empowered to take action over such excesses of nature or should their officials be ordered to work in the true public interest?
Even better, could we get rid of half of local government staff and put a cap of £100,000 on the salaries of people like Chris Hardy of Chester City Council?
Monk garden wall in context - and just look at the vegetation overhanging the public
highway - whatever would Chester City Council have to say?
Clearly, all this attractive vegetation must be cut back - it is surely detrimental to the amenity of the area - and the wall must be pressure cleaned to the satisfaction of a self opinionated buffoon in the local planning authority.
You know it make sense - you pay for the dim-witted, malevolent and overpaid officials who nowadays are authorised to control just about every aspect of your life.
|Now this is
genuinely distasteful - it is beside the main A3052 coast road and just where tourists
might see it.
The local planning authorities (Sidmouth Town Council and East Devon District Council) have allowed a concrete block wall to be constructed adjacent to an old stone wall - and what is more it is covered in moss.
And just look at the weeds growing out of the wall.
A similar wall in neighbouring Sidbury has recently been 'protected' because the 'weeds' (wildflowers) growing from it were found to be especially rare.
It wasn't the local council who noticed this of course (they just employ dozens of expensive environmental awareness and community development officers) - it was noticed by a local resident.
|And finally -
beware of being raided by the police if you have pink flowering moss in your garden!!
It is good to know that crime rates in Bristol are so low that the police can devote resources to heavy handed treatment of pensioners. At least the police didn't use tasers for self defence.
From an internet news item Dec 2008.
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