Council to review decision on pond
A CONTROVERSIAL ruling to force pensioner Jean Bailey to turn her picturesque garden and pond back into a muddy field is to be reviewed by senior councillors.
Planning officers had told the 74-year-old to destroy the plot she has spent seven years and £9,000 transforming into a tranquil haven for wildlife.
They have threatened to take legal action if she refuses as the Harriseahead garden has been developed on Green Belt land.
But the decision has brought widespread condemnation of Newcastle's local authority from throughout the country.
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Now planning committee members – who never saw the change-of-use retrospective application Jean was told to submit – have put the issue on the agenda for their next meeting.
The decision was ordered by Labour deputy leader Eddie Boden after he met planning officials.
He said: "The refusal was taken as an executive decision by officers with no input from elected members. I have now asked it to be sent back to committee as soon as possible for a fresh look."
The Biddulph Road pond, with its 60 fish, teems with bird-life and attracts spawning frogs, toads, newts and giant water beetles.
Jean created the garden in memory of late husband John and says she would prefer to be sent to prison rather than lose it. But the planners say it must go as it is 'eroding the character and quality of the area.'
A petition to persuade the council to think again has been launched by the village's pub, The Royal Oak in High Street, and in its first day scores of regulars added their signatures.
Jean said: "We are starting to prepare a planning appeal but it is great news that the councillors will now look at it for themselves.
"All I ask is I can keep my little garden and pond I love and live for."
The decision will be reviewed at a public meeting of the council's planning committee on March 26.
A council report states: "Councillor Boden has indicated that there has been significant public interest in the decision to refuse planning permission and the subsequent decision under delegated authority, to take enforcement action against the unauthorised change of use of land.
"In light of the strength of feeling expressed, he considers that it would be appropriate for the issue of enforcement action to be considered by the planning committee."
The report asks the committee to back the decision taken by officers.
Jean shares the garden with daughter and son-in-law, Kerry and Ian Parker, who live next door but in the same property.
They were given the plot when they bought the house in 2006 and were unaware it was in the Green Belt.
Kerry, aged 48, who works at Astbury Garden Centre, near Congleton, said: "We only moved here in the first place because of the chance of having a garden and pond. But I have been so overcome by the support we have had from everyone in the village I wouldn't want to leave now."
Planning committee member Councillor Ashley Howells has called for common sense to prevail.