Cut down to size

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The Independent Online

At last, a piece of government legislation that hasn't been booted into the long grass. The Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher, has cut through the parliamentary undergrowth and is to announce a measure that will grant local authorities sweeping new powers to cut that triffid of suburbia, the leylandii, down to size.

At last, a piece of government legislation that hasn't been booted into the long grass. The Minister for the Environment, Michael Meacher, has cut through the parliamentary undergrowth and is to announce a measure that will grant local authorities sweeping new powers to cut that triffid of suburbia, the leylandii, down to size.

It is a draconian measure. Few would relish the prospect of council officials poking around the shrubbery at the best of times. But towering problems sometimes require corresponding remedies.

Let us recall some salient facts about these supershrubs: they can grow by 3ft a year, up to about 100ft tall, and have led to antagonism, mistrust and even violence between neighbours. It is a pity that the law has to be brought into the garden, but the scale of human discord that these trees so often generate has meant that, like the UN's blue helmets in so many of the world's trouble spots, local councils' environmental inspectors have been forced to extend their role beyond simply patrolling borders and peacekeeping.

In the battle against leylandii madness, this is not the end; it is not even the beginning of the end; but it is perhaps the end of the beginning.

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