Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 22 November 2014

Council accused over plantpot ban

Resident Michael Kelley in Rockcliffe Avenue, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, with flowerpots by the side of the street
Resident Michael Kelley in Rockcliffe Avenue, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, with flowerpots by the side of the street
For the last six years, residents in Rockcliffe Avenue, Whitley Bay, have been nurturing hundreds of plants and blooms

Gardeners who won council awards for sprucing up their pedestrianised street said they have been asked to remove hundreds of pots because of health and safety concerns.

For the last six years, people living in Rockcliffe Avenue, Whitley Bay, North Tyneside, have transformed the L-shaped walkway in front of their seaside homes by nurturing hundreds of plants and blooms.

Last year they won first place in the North Tyneside in Bloom contest in the community category for their planters which line both sides of the walkway, with a gap of around 6ft between them. But following a complaint, the council has investigated and claimed the planters are causing an obstruction of the highway. It said the hundreds of individual pots should be replaced with standard containers which "comply with the safety requirements".

Michael Kelley, a 55-year-old ex-Royal Marine who runs a CV writing business, has looked after most of the plants on the street, which are enjoyed by children at the nearby nursery and have become a mini-oasis for wildlife.

He said: "They are bullying us. The council said we need new planters, but what difference will that make to the apparent obstruction? North Tyneside Council is saying it is a health and safety matter, but the street cleaner can get down here, and there's a man who uses a wheelchair in the street and he has no problems."

Mr Kelley said as the street gardeners have won council-run competitions in the past, the authority can hardly now complain about the project. He vowed to fight the council and a petition against the changes already has 400 signatures.

Retired manufacturers' agent George Grayson, 72, who has lived in Rockcliffe Avenue for 50 years, said: "Just when something nice is happening here, the council want to put their foot in it.

"When everyone else around the country is pulling their horns in, North Tyneside Council are pursuing something like this. There's not a brain cell among them."

A spokesperson for North Tyneside Council said: "North Tyneside Council appreciates the efforts of residents of Rockcliffe Avenue over the years. However, the number of planters has increased to an extent where they obstruct the pavement, particularly for those with accessibility needs. Not all residents agree to the scale of this community effort and have concerns about impact on the pathways.

"Under highways legislation we have an obligation to protect the rights of the public at large to use the highway safely and we are working with the residents to try and achieve this. If residents agree the council will encourage them to apply for grant funding to ensure that any planters that are used meet the required standards and comply with the safety requirements."

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