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Couple Charged Nearly £500 for growing Vegetables in Their Own Garden

So much for The Good Life! Council bills green-fingered couple nearly £500 for growing vegetables in their OWN garden - claiming they need planning permission.

 Lee and Kirstie Lawes decided to transform part of the lawn into a vegetable patch as a project during lockdown


The pandemic project was a success and they handed out food grown in their new patch to the neighbours But a couple, from Deeping St James, Lincs, have been hit with £469 charge to fix a 'breach' of planning rules South Kesteven District Council say the area is classed as 'informal open space' and cannot be fenced off They have now ordered the couple to submit a planning application to change the use to a 'private garden'


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A green-fingered couple who turned to self-sufficiency during lockdown have accused council bosses of losing the plot after they told them they would have to fork out almost £500 to keep growing vegetables in their own garden. Amateur growers Lee and Kirstie Lawes decided to transform part of their lawn into a vegetable patch as a lockdown hobby - one they could enjoy with their two-year-old granddaughter Ella. The pair, from Deeping St James, Lincs, were so successful with their growing that they even started handed out their produce among neighbours. But their well-meaning pandemic project, which has shades of Tom and Barbara Good in the hit BBC comedy series The Good Life, may now have to be uprooted.

That's because council chiefs say installing the vegetable patch has resulted in a 'change of use' of the land. Despite them owning the small piece of land, it has never previously been fenced off and has been open to members of the public. Dad-of-four Lee, 53, who runs his own fire and security business, says Land Registry records show the small patch of grass been part of the property since 1969.


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But according to the South Kesteven District Council, the green area is classed in planning terms as 'informal open space'. The authority say by fencing the area off and growing vegetables they have officially changed its use - meaning they need to submit a 'change of use' planning application. Now the local council wants to charge the couple £469 for the planning permission, leaving the couple baffled. However, one expert told Mail Online the council are right in terms of planning regulations - but added that he thought the council should accept the application should the couple apply. Lee, who spent around £3,000 building the 9ft by 15ft vegetable plot, said: 'We moved into the house in December 2020, and on Christmas Day found a car parked in 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. 'We were having issues with dog mess and litter too, so it was an obvious thing to do as anyone could pretty much walk into our garden. '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 neighbours and left some out so that people could help themselves.' However, around a year later, Lee said he received a letter from the council say they had to pay £469 for a 'change of use' of the land. He said: 'Somebody has complained to the council about the fence, incidentally this person doesn't even live in the area, even though it is on our land and several feet away from the property border. 'We first had an enforcement notice through the post, which was full on inaccuracies, claiming we had built the fence on public land. 'I sent them back Land Registry information that proved that wasn't the case, so they sent a revised enforcement notice through which we received yesterday. 'It points out that although the land is in our ownership, it states that we need to apply for planning permission for change of use to an open space in a private residential garden. 'So essentially, does that mean anybody who builds a vegetable plot in their back garden has to apply for planning permission?' Speaking about the authority's decision to pursue him, Lee said: 'I accept the council are following procedure, but it's the hypocrisy of it that I find frustrating.

Couple grow veg 5

'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.' Despite Lee's frustration, South Kesteven District Council claim the couple have breached planning rules by using 'informal open space' which, although it is in their ownership, requires planning permission for use as private garden. Grandfather-of-one Lee, who lives with wife Kirstie, 54, a doctor's practice manager, added: 'I don't see why we need planning permission to create somewhere to grow vegetables. 'I'm not building a great big structure, nobody from the outside can tell any differently. 'It's not like it's a jacuzzi or a summer house - it is a vegetable patch. 'It is our garden, and we will not be paying for the privilege of being able to grow vegetables.'

One expert today told MailOnline that the couple do need planning permission to use the piece of land as a vegetable garden. 

Lee and Kirstie Lawes do need planning permission to use the piece of land as a vegetable garden, but the council should grant it if they do apply, an expert has told MailOnline.Jon McDermott, a planning expert with more than 20 years, said the couple were caught between land ownership and town planning rules over the piece of land Jon McDermott, a planning expert with more than 20 years, said the couple were caught between land ownership and town planning rules over the piece of land. This, he says, means they can simultaneously own the piece of grass, but it still be designated as public use.

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Mr McDermott, who runs Town Planning Expert, said: 'They are caught between planning laws and land ownership laws, meaning they can own the piece of land, but can't do what they want with it. 'The Town and Country Planning Act 1947 is what gives someone the right to develop a piece of land, but makes the requirement of planning permission to use that land in the way a person wants. 'Changing the way that a piece of land is used therefore requires planning permission.'  Mr McDermott said he believed the land was likely left as an open space under the Park and Morris Commission, which set ratios of housing to public land.He said that the previous homeowners may have purchased the land, likely from the original developer, after moving in, but had never applied for planning permission to use it as private space - therefore it remained in planning terms as 'open space'. However he said he believed the council should giving planning permission, should the couple apply. 'I think it's something the council should support. There are a lot of benefits that come from growing from home and living more sustainably.' 

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