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Published: 7 August 2008

Mila Griebel with her son Aleksander, 10, and 10-month-old baby Sofia by the patch of earth outside their house; right, inset, the flowers before the chop
Destruction of mini-meadow clears the way for a dogs’ toilet

Family’s despair after environment team ‘rips out’ poppies and marigolds

FOR two years, Mila Griebel and her son Aleksander had been doing their bit to make their West Hampstead street look nice.
The pair had transformed a patch of earth outside their home in Gladys Road into a technicolour of meadow flowers that attracted butterflies, birds and grasshoppers.
More than that, the flowers also stopped the neighbourhood dogs from using it as a toilet.
Devastatingly, two weeks ago all their hard work was ruined when a swat team from Camden’s environment department ripped the lot up.
In less than a minute, every last one of the poppies and marigolds were gone and the patch of earth was returned to its former glory.
“It’s a poo patch again,” said Ms Griebel. “They left a dust patch and because it’s such a big area every dog uses it as a toilet.”
Recalling the moment she discovered her flowers gone, she said: “I came downstairs and they had literally ripped everything out. Talk about gone in 60 seconds. I think someone came along and said ‘do that, that – oh and that’. I think he just ordered it without checking.
“Camden go on about how people don’t take pride in their area but when you actually do something they don’t respect it. We also water the tree like they ask. Surely this was something they should be encouraging?”
Aleksander, 10, who was inspired to create a haven on his doorstep after watching a Bill Oddie nature programme, said: “I was quite upset when they took it out because they didn’t realise there were flowers there. I was really annoyed when I heard about it.”
The massacre is not just a loss for the Griebels and their neighbours, it had attracted a whole new set of wildlife to the area.
“I’ve seen grasshoppers and butterflies there, and birds washing in the puddle next to it,” said Ms Griebel.
A spokesperson for Camden Council said: “The council had received complaints of weed growth in pavements and tree bases in Gladys Road. The street management team went to clear them up as requested. The crew was not aware of bulbs being planted around the tree base as no one had sought permission to do this. However, as a goodwill gesture, we will make a donation of bulbs to the residents, but would ask them to follow the correct procedures and apply to the tree section for permission to plant them. They can contact the tree section on 020 7974 1544.”

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I can see the councils point - you cant just have flowers growing any ols where - after all rules are rules, and all those flowers geta bit untidy. Still, I'm sure she could apply using the correct proceedure, and the situation assessed by an appropriately trained panel...
David Prothero


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