Couple told to rip out ‘dangerous’ flowerbed

Great Cransley Margaret Elgood (91) has been told by highways officers to rip up a flowerbed at the front of her family's home because it supposedly poses a danger.
Great Cransley Margaret Elgood (91) has been told by highways officers to rip up a flowerbed at the front of her family's home because it supposedly poses a danger.

A village couple say they are being forced to remove a well-established flowerbed outside their home because of heavy-handed and “petty” highways rules.

Mary and William Geidt, from Church Lane, Great Cransley, planted the flowerbed on a narrow verge immediately outside their home more than a decade ago.

The couple say they planted the roses, irises and other flowers after suffering two floods which caused damage to their home in 1996 and 2003.

At the time, after improvements were made to the drains in Church Lane, a highways officer verbally advised Mr and Mrs Geidt to plant shrubs and flowers which would reduce water damage to their wall.

The couple say the flowerbed also makes Church Lane safer in snowy weather because drivers can more easily see the edge of the road.

As their home lies very close to the edge of the road, Mr and Mrs Geidt said they are worried about a vehicle skidding into their house.

However, they were shocked to receive a letter from Northamptonshire County Council a month ago telling them to remove the flowers and shrubs within 14 days.

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Mr and Mrs Geidt responded, explaining that they had maintained the flowerbed for more than a decade at their own expense and had never received a single complaint.

After a visit by a highways officer, the couple were written to again saying that the verge would be the only means of escape for pedestrians walking in the road to avoid traffic.

Mrs Geidt said: “It does not make any sense, because there is a perfectly good footpath on the opposite side of the road.

“It seems petty and heavy handed and we feel like we’re being singled out.

“Our cottage is set below the road, so our ground floor windows are at the same level as the road.

“The verge is steeply sloped. The lane is not cleared of snow or gritted and there were two minor accidents last winter.

“From our own experience we know it is difficult to see the edge of the road in snow and there is a real possibility of a serious accident if drivers skid down the bank into our cottage.”

Mrs Geidt’s mother Margaret Elgood, 91, lives with her daughter and son-in-law and says she is now scared that a car will hit the house.

She added: “We only get compliments about the flowerbed saying it brightens up the street.

In the letter to the couple, the council said: “It is occasionally possible to grant a licence to cultivate the public highway.

“It is unlikely a licence would be granted for the shrubs in situ, as some species are not encouraged because of their growth nature and form.”

A spokesman for the county council said: “Regrettably, highways law, which the county council has to comply with, is very strict when it comes to safety regulations regarding roads.

“In this instance the flower beds and shrubs interfere with visibility and so we have asked for the vegetation to be removed.”

The county council says the flowerbed must be removed by Friday, November 15.