Council digs up community garden after accusing resident of trespassing

Council digs up community garden after accusing resident of trespassing

Monday, March 11, 2019

A green-fingered Londoner has had her community garden torn up by the council, after they accused her of trespassing.

Lou Downe spent more than a year tending to the vegetables, flowers and herbs which grew around the corner from her home before they were dug up by council contractors.

On Thursday, she woke up to find council workers uprooting the plants on her neighbouring estate in Shoreditch, east London.

Ms Downe said she lives in a tiny flat with no outdoor space so wanted to start a garden for the local community.



She said: "It was a 4 x 3 metre area between some dead rose bushes.

"There was no clear ownership so I set about improving the soil and planting vegetables.

"Nothing I was doing was permanent and would only have improved the site for whoever owned it.

"The garden literally blossomed and by summer was producing enough vegetables to keep us and our neighbours fed."


'Unauthorised gardening' 

The notice left outside the garden saying the 'unauthorised growing area' would be removed. 

Ms Downe and her neighbours planned to expand the vegetable patch into an official community garden last year, but on Thursday she saw council workers "destroying" it.

Ms Downe, who works as a director of Design and Service Standards for the UK Government said: "I looked out of my window to see the garden being destroyed.

"A notice had apparently been posted in plain view asking me to stop my 'unauthorised gardening'.

"In fact, the notice was obscured by rose bushes, was a long way from the garden and had been posted just four days earlier."

Mayor of Hackney, Phillip Glanville responded to Ms Downe’s situation describing it as “awful”.

He said: "I am so sorry this has happened and will investigate what has gone wrong.

"I thought I'd been involved before in trying to preserve this."


'Series of complaints' 

Lou Downe's vegetable patch. 

Hackney Council said it has apologised to Ms Downe but was forced to take action following several complaints about the vegetable patch.

Ajman Ali, director of housing services said: "Unfortunately, we received a series of complaints from those who live on the estate about the vegetable patch she had cultivated on housing communal land, requesting that we remove it.

"We had been in contact with Ms Downe on a number of occasions last summer and made it very clear to her what the process was for setting up a community garden, particularly around gaining support of the estate community.

"We also tried to set up a meeting at the site but she was unable to attend, we then wrote to Ms Downe asking her to stop, which she didn't.

"More recently we received a health and safety complaint and as a result of that, we decided to take action."

 Mr Ali added that green projects such as the garden were "high" priority for the council.