Couple slapped with hefty bill for growing veg in their own garden without permission


Lee and Kirstie Lawes spent £3,000 putting together their vegetable plot in their back garden during the lockdown but the local council says they didn’t have permission – and told them to pay up

Lee and Kirstie Lawes wanted to grow their own vegetables – but the local council weren’t impressed

A couple must pay nearly £500 after being slapped with a hefty council bill for not seeking planning permission to grow vegetables in their own back garden.

Lee and Kirstie Lawes created a plot during the pandemic, transforming part of their grass into raised beds to grow their own produce.

The couple spent around £3,000 constructing the patch in their garden and the green-fingered pair grow everything from leeks, potatoes, cauliflowers, broccoli, cabbages, peppers and chillies on their plot.

But the pair were left gobsmacked when it was decided the work constituted a “change of use” to their property in Deeping St James, Lincolnshire.

In a letter, South Kesteven District Council threatened the pair with further enforcement action for their “change of use from open space to residential garden.”

The couple didn’t know they needed to seek planning permission
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Image:

Stamford Mercury/SWNS)

They wrote: “The fencing off green space at the rear of the property requires planning permission because the use of the space has changed; it was not previously residential garden.

“The fence itself is permitted under development rights and therefore does not require permission.

“You do not have a right to apply for planning permission retrospectively and as such, I have enclosed details on how you may apply for planning permission.

“Please ensure that your application is submitted no later than February 24, 2000.

“Failure to do so may result in formal enforcement action being considered and a lack of planning permission may result in problems with any sale of re-mortgage of the property in the future.”

They must now pay nearly £500 so their granddaughter Ella can help them in their garden
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Image:

Stamford Mercury/SWNS)

Lee says he consulted Land Registry records, which show the land has been part of the property they purchased since 1969.

But according to the council, part of the garden is classed an open space and by turning it into a place where vegetables are grown they have officially changed its use.

Lee said: “We moved into the house in December 2020, and on Christmas Day found a car parked on our garden.

“This happened a couple of times, and I also became fed up with having to pick up dog poo from the grass before I mowed it.

“So, in January last year we decided to put in a new fence and use that part of the garden for raised vegetable beds.

“It was great – we ended up with so much produce we were able to give some to neighbors and left some out so that people could help themselves.

“But a year on, we had a letter from the council saying we needed to pay £469 for a ‘change of use’ of the land.

“I accept they are following procedure but it’s the hypocrisy of it that I find frustrating.

“The government is telling us to be more sustainable but when someone starts to ‘grow their own’, the council tells you to pay £469 for the privilege.

“It would have been easier to extend our house onto the land.”

A spokesman for South Kesteven District Council said: “The land at the rear of these properties is classed as informal open space and the owner has not applied for planning permission to change that.

“We have been advising them throughout on the lawful use of this land and continue to offer informal help while encouraging them to apply for planning permission, without which they might struggle to re-mortgage or sell the property.”

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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