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Couple fined £2,000 for hedge infringement

A couple have been fined £2,000 for allowing their garden hedges to grow too tall, a council said today.

Robert and Nicola Johnston were each given a £1,000 fine by magistrates in Worcester for breaching a Remedial Notice which had ordered them to trim two hedges at their home in Eckington, Worcestershire.

Wychavon District Council said the hedges "exceed the reasonable height for the location" and had prompted complaints from neighbours.

During a site visit in 2008, the hedges were recorded as being six metres high but should have been no taller than three or four metres, the council said. A Remedial Notice was served but the foliage continued to exceed the specified height restrictions.

In addition to the fines, Mr and Mrs Johnston were ordered to pay costs of £422.50 each.

The couple, of Whitecroft, Station Road, were not present at yesterday's court hearing and told The Worcester News they knew nothing about it.

Mr Johnston told the newspaper: "I asked the officer at the council if the complaint still applied because the neighbour had moved out and she said she would get back to me.

"We weren't told anything about a court hearing.

"I wouldn't have let it go to court. I really had no idea what was going on."

Elizabeth Jones, planning enforcement officer at Wychavon District Council, said today: "The Council has spent a lot of time trying to get Mr and Mrs Johnston to comply without going down the formal route, but unfortunately we have had no other option than to prosecute.

"The fact that the magistrates have given the maximum penalty for the offence will hopefully send the message that a Remedial Notice needs to be taken seriously."

Graeme Duerden, development control manager, added: "The planning laws we follow are there for the benefit of communities and not individuals.

"We would urge people to listen to the advice we give on planning issues and not to ignore the letters we send and the notices we issue."

The council warned that if the hedges were not cut down to the specified height, a second prosecution may be instigated and daily fines could be imposed.