Pay-out for gardener driven potty by row

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A ROW over what constitutes a plant pot has ended with a council paying pounds 2,100 in compensation to a householder who only wanted to bring a touch of the Mediterranean to his suburban garden.

For more than two years, planners in Newcastle upon Tyne struggled to find the correct definition for the large, concrete flower pots that Paul Pridis used to adorn his flat-roofed extension in the city's Walkergate area.

Mr Pridis filled each pot with bedding plants. He said he wanted to create a little corner of Greece in Newcastle's suburban east end. His beloved pots, he claimed, could have graced many a Mediterranean villa.

His neighbour Jim Black disagreed. He said the boxes (nearly a metre long and 25cm high with steel mesh wire for creepers to grow on) formed a wall, which required planning permission. The city council was called in to mediate. The crux: could the planters be moved? A movable planter is a plant pot; an immovable planter is a wall.

Mr Pridis felt he could resolve the matter by lifting the pots and putting them down again. But, after a year, planning officers concluded the boxes were fixed and ordered their removal - without seeing them.

Mr Pridis finally persuaded them to take a look, and manfully lifted his planters. The council then concluded that these were indeed plant pots.

Though victorious, Mr Pridis said bureaucracy had cost him hundreds of pounds. He complained to the local government Ombudsman, Patricia Thomas, who yesterday concluded the council had demonstrated "a complete lack of clarity on the issue of whether the flower boxes needed planning permission". She said: "If ever there was a case of making a mountain out of a molehill, this seems to be it."