Ruling drives gardener to verge of despair

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The Independent Online
A pensioner who has lovingly nurtured the verge in front of his home for 30 years has been told the fruits of his horticultural efforts are illegal.

George Raper, 83, and his wife, Patricia, of Little Fransham, near Dereham, Norfolk, were amazed when a letter arrived from Norfolk County Council's planning and transportation department, saying their rockery was in breach of the Highways Act 1980.

A county council spokesman said rocks placed near to a road posed a danger to pedestrians. But he was at a loss to explain why it had taken officials 30 years to notice the Rapers' rockery.

Mr Raper said the council's attitude was ridiculous: "The thing has been there for 30 years. I put it there after we moved in because the place had been neglected by the local authority and it was full of rubbish. They say it's dangerous, but it is six feet long, two feet wide and six inches high. It's at the end of a dead end anyway, so nobody is going to fall over it.

"I've been getting a lot of support, from local people and the parish council. I'm going to sit this out to the end. But if they decide to take me to court there's no way I can defend myself against that. I've planted daffodils, tulips and bluebells and I'll just take the ruddy lot out. The villagers won't like that."

Mrs Raper accused the council of behaving in an "ludicrous" fashion: "He's been tending it for 30 years and in all that time we've never heard a word about it. Now they say it's dangerous. It's ludicrous and everybody thinks so."

She added that they would be writing to the council to question the decision. Council officials are expected to hold discussions with the couple in the near future.

A council spokesman said the rocks and flowers were all technically illegal. "The flowers we don't really have a problem with," he said. "We can come to some arrangement over that. But the rocks placed so near to the road are dangerous, especially if people are trying to cross the road."

But if the rocks were so dangerous, why had it taken the council 30 years to decide? "I'm still trying to get to the bottom of that," he added.

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