A green-fingered couple has accused city councilors of losing the plot after being billed nearly £500 for growing vegetables in their own gardens.
Amateur growers Lee and Kirstie Lawes decided to turn part of their lawn into a vegetable garden as a lockdown hobby – a hobby they enjoyed with their two-year-old granddaughter Ella.
The pair, from Deeping St James, Lincs, were so successful with their breeding that they even started distributing their products to the neighbors.
But their well-intentioned pandemic project may now have to be uprooted after council heads said their vegetable patch had marked a ‘change of use’ for the land.
And South Kesteven’s district council now wants to charge the couple £469 for building permits, leaving the couple stunned.
Amateur growers Lee and Kirstie Lawes decided to turn part of their lawn into a mini-vegetable garden as a lockdown hobby – a hobby they enjoyed with their two-year-old granddaughter Ella (pictured with Lee and Kirstie)
Lee says he has consulted the land registry records, which show that the land has been part of the property they bought since 1969.
But according to the municipality, part of the garden has been designated as an open space and by turning it into a vegetable garden, the use has officially changed.
Lee said: ‘We moved into the house in December 2020 and on Christmas Day we found a car parked in our yard.
“This has happened a few times and I was also tired of picking up dog poop from the grass before mowing it.
‘So last year in January we decided to put up a new fence and use that part of the garden for raised vegetable beds.
“It was great – we had so many products that we could give some to neighbors and leave some out so people could help themselves.
“But a year later we got a letter from the council saying we had to pay £469 for a ‘change of use’ of the land.
“I accept that they follow the procedure, but it’s the hypocrisy of it that I find frustrating.
‘The government says we need to be more sustainable, but if someone ‘starts their own cultivation’ the council says you have to pay £469 for the privilege.
“It would have been easier to extend our house on the land.”
A South Kesteven County Council spokesman said the problem was due to the land being classified as ‘informal open space’.
The spokesperson said: ‘The land to the rear of these properties is classified as informal open space and the owner has not applied for planning permission to change that.
“We have advised them throughout the lawful use of this land and continue to provide informal assistance while encouraging them to apply for planning permission, without which they could have difficulty re-mortgaging or selling the property.” .’
The couple’s well-intentioned pandemic project may now have to be uprooted after council heads said their vegetable patch marked a ‘change of use’ of their land
It’s not the first time a municipality has gone after green-fingered gardeners who grow vegetables in their backyards.
In 2014, a couple in Bradford, who lived on food grown in their backyard, became embroiled in a legal battle – because their allotment garden was ‘contrary to land use planning’.
Amanda Wadiun, 26, and her partner Paul Garnett, 29, bought the unused plot of land behind their home from the Bradford Council in 2010.
However, they were threatened with ‘enforcement action’ and a warning to demolish the wooden chicken coop, shed and vegetable garden because they were not allowed to use the land as a ‘garden’ – despite the plot being sold as a ‘private garden’.
The family council could apply for a building permit retroactively, but the authority would recommend denial.
However, the authority later withdrew, saying there were “special circumstances that justify granting permission to the owners to build a greenhouse and use it as a garden, especially as it had been in use as such for many years.” ‘.
Lee and Kirstie are among the millions who are gardening to help them cope with the Covid lockdowns.
According to figures released last year by the Office for National Statistics (ONS), a whopping 42 percent of Britons said gardening helped them stay busy while unable to socialize with friends.
About 750,000 Britons also searched the Royal Horticultural Society’s website for tips on growing garden varieties.
The rise of horticulture even sparked praise from Prince Charles, who likened it to the famous World War II slogan “Dig for Victory,” which encouraged more people to grow vegetables in their backyards during a time of harsh wartime and proper rationing. .
Speaking on Farming Today in June 2020, the prince said: “It seems most of us have paid much more attention to the story behind our food during Covid-19 than perhaps we usually have.
‘Food availability was clearly an early problem; perhaps food shortages have prompted many people to think for the first time about whether they can rely on safe and reliable food supplies in the post-Covid world?
“I was fascinated to learn that vegetable seed sales hit an all-time high as a ‘count for victorious spirit’ swept across the country and urban and rural dwellers decided to requisition their gardens, allotments and window boxes to grow food in a way perhaps not seen since World War II.’
This post The council is charging a green-fingered couple almost £500 for growing vegetables in their own garden
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