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Published: 3 July 2008

Ken Savage holding the letter from Camden Council about his hedge
Put your own house in order, says pensioner in hedge row

Bushes ticking-off from Town Hall, owner of overgrown garden next door

FOR years, campaigning pensioner Ken Savage has watched overgrown weeds from the council-owned home next door encroach on his garden with little attempt by the landlord to stop nature’s course.
So when the Town Hall sent the 72-year-old a lawyer’s letter instructing him to clear up his own trees and bushes or face the consequences, he thought somebody might be playing a joke.
Mr Savage, the Greater London Pensioners Association’s general secretary, was told he had to trim his hedge or risk legal proceedings under the Highways Act.
There was no mention of the overhanging foliage from the next-door home in Howitt Road, Belsize Park, which the council has left empty for periods over the last two years.
Mr Savage said: “They’ve got a bloody cheek. I spoke to someone at street environment about it and he said: ‘Well, next door will have got a letter too.’ I asked if he knew that was council property and obviously he didn’t.
“Then I asked: ‘Have you taken action against them?’ They’ve ignored me since. They threaten people in the street but they don’t bother with their own property.”
The council’s decision to leave the house empty for so long – at a time when 15,000 are waiting for council properties – has been a source of controversy.
The home will be handed back to the original freeholder in the next few weeks after a 99-year lease expired. Work on repairing the property was only done in the run-up to the hand-over.
The council’s letter to Mr Savage said: “I am writing to draw attention to the hedge originating at the front of your premises and which overhangs the public highway of Howitt Road... I must therefore ask you to cut the growth back within your boundary of your property.”
A council press official said: “The property was tenanted until April this year, when the last tenant was moved out in readiness for the hand-back.
“It is the responsibility of all council tenants to maintain their gardens. Last year we did have some problems with overgrown gardens in that area and we did write to tenants asking them to take action.”
He added: “We accept the garden at 29 Howitt Road has become overgrown. However, as we were due to hand it back to the freeholder it would have been a waste of money when the council’s limited funding could be spent on a council estate community garden, for example.”

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