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'Nonsense rules' slammed after weeds cleared up by home owner

Grassclippings - Council Complain about Weeds Cleared UpA COUPLE who cleared rubbish and weeds from outside their home have been asked for a fee from the council for doing it.

Samantha Hamilton, 31, and her partner Colin Freeman, 44, bought their new home in The Glade, Mytchett, in April last year.  

In the summer, they worked to cut away weeds and clear rubbish on land just beyond their home, near the junction with Mytchett Road.

But Surrey County Council has now told them they should either pay £78 for a licence to retrospectively get permission to do the work or return it to how they found it.  Miss Hamilton added: “This demonstrates that the Big Society policy that the government wishes us to adopt, and simply having pride in your home and neighbourhood, is an impossibility because of the nonsense rules and regulations set out by the local council.”

Miss Hamilton, who works at Gibraltar Barracks, said the rubbish they removed included a car suspension and the clear-up prompted compliments from passers-by and people using the adjacent bus stop.

“When trying to drive out of our road we could not even see what traffic was coming along the Mytchett Road, because the weeds were so thick and high they obscured the view,” she said.   “There were various blackberry bushes which were creeping their way across the pavement, and passengers waiting to catch the bus at the bus stop had to stand in the middle of the pavement otherwise be attacked by thorns.” 

In September, the county council wrote to the couple after being tipped off and told them not to do any more work on the land.  A few months later and after speaking to different people at the council, Miss Hamilton was told they would have to pay for the licence.

“If we don’t pay for doing all the work, then we are supposed to return it to its original state, so basically cover it in weeds and throw rubbish all over it,” she said.

“When we moved in, the land [in front of the house] was so overgrown with weeds that neighbours across the road were not even aware that there was a house there.   "We had so many compliments from local residents, people even stopped in their cars to say how much of an improvement we had made. Since September, we have only cleared away one beer can, which shows it is no longer seen as a rubbish tip.”

The county council said it got in touch after someone had "complained" about what they had done. The first letter told them not to do any more work on the land.   Over the next few months, Miss Hamilton spoke to the council’s legal and highways departments and was told about the licence she would have to pay for.

Miss Hamilton told the News & Mail that she was eventually told she would need two licences, one for the work and one for trimming the hedges that she wanted to cut to allow more light into the garden, costing a total of £156. The county council denies it asked for the second licence.

In a statement, the authority said: “We wrote to Miss Hamilton following a complaint from a local resident, asking her to stop cultivating the land.  “As the highway authority we have a duty to assert and protect the rights of the public to the use and enjoy the highway.

“Members of the public can apply for a licence to cultivate highways land, which is what we suggested to Miss Hamilton.    "There is a fee for the licence to be approved and for the land to be inspected to ensure the terms of the licence are met, and there are conditions indicating what can and cannot be done on the land.

“Regarding the hedge trimming, we have not asked Miss Hamilton to obtain a second licence for this or pay an additional fee, and will be trimming the trees ourselves before the nesting period in the spring.”

Miss Hamilton is reluctant to return the land to its original state and has left it as it was before the council got in touch.

Read more on Get Surrey

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