Green-fingered couple charged £470 for growing veg in their own garden

A green-fingered couple have been fined hundreds of pounds after they grew vegetables in their own garden without planning permission.

Lee and Kirstie Lawes transformed part of their outdoor space during the pandemic and created raised beds of soil so that they could grow their own produce.

However, the pair have been left astonished after it was ruled that the project constituted a ‘change of use’ to their property, Stoke-on-Trent Live reports.

In a letter, the council threatened the pair with further action for their ‘change of use from open space to residential garden’.

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.”

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.

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

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

“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 council spokesman 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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