An elderly couple have been warned they could face court action for criminal damage – after planting a flower bed outside their home.
Colin and Kath Helsey, of Walnut Avenue, Weaverham, have spent the past 15 years planting and nurturing pretty flowers on the grass verge outside their home, in a bid to stop motorists damaging the soil by parking.
Mr Halsey, 76, said he has happy memories of planting the flower bed with his late grandson Neil before the 40-year-old lost his battle with cancer last year.
But now the couple have been warned they face charges of ‘criminally damaging the highway’ after a Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) official spotted the treasured flower bed growing outside their former council house during a village inspection.
John Barnes told Mr Halsey, who has lived in his home for 53 years, he had committed a ‘criminal offence’ under Section 131 of The Highways Act 1980 and told the retired salesman and former gardener he did not have permission to plant the flowers.
Shortly afterwards, Mr Halsey received a letter saying he had still not removed the plants, and had even added extra ones.
The letter stated: “I write to require the following works to remove all the planting that you have inserted and to restore the verge to its original state prior to you undertaking planting activity.”
IT ordered Mr Halsey to level the ground within three weeks and re-lay it with the ‘removed turf’ and the area be ‘reseeded’ at his own expense, warning if the works were not carried out, CWaC would consider options including prosecution and/or a complaint to the magistrates court.
Mr Halsey, who has three children, 10 grandchildren, 18 great-grandchildren and two great great-grandchildren, told <em>The Chronicle</em> : “We are very disappointed with what’s happened.
“We’ve lived here 53 years and took our lead in planting these flowers from the former Vale Royal Borough Council, who planted trees 15 years ago in honour of the new Millennium.
“As a former gardener, I take great pride in my plants. The flower bed has become special to me because I planted it with my late grandson. We helped do it together and I don’t want to dig it up.”
He added: “I’d prefer it not to go to court but I feel so strongly about it that I’m prepared to see it through – it’s the principle.
“They said they’d send contractors out to dig it up and send me the bill but I’m quite happy to spend a few days in jail!
“It’s just baffling how the old council didn’t mind it but this one is threatening us with a criminal record.”
A CWaC spokesman said: “We have a responsibility to maintain grass verges and it’s difficult to do that if there’s individual things people have done
“Ideally we would like to work out ways with communities to enhance public areas like this one but we need to be aware of whereabouts they are. We need some kind of formal agreement where we can work alongside residents and parish councils.”