'I'd rather go to prison than lose my pond': Pressure grows on Newcastle Borough Council for U-turn on plans to rip up pensioner's garden
PLANNERS are coming under increasing pressure to reverse their decision to force an OAP to rip up her picturesque garden and return it to a muddy field.
Labour deputy leader Councillor Eddie Boden was yesterday meeting officers to 'let common sense prevail' over the decision to make Jean Bailey destroy her pond, immaculate lawns and flower beds.
The 74-year-old has taken seven years and spent £9,000 to create the water feature in the garden of her Harriseahead home.
But Newcastle Borough Council has ruled that the garden in Biddulph Road must go because it is on Green Belt land – and she faces enforcement action if she refuses.
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The decision – which was revealed by The Sentinel on Friday – was made by planning officers without councillors being consulted.
Mr Boden said: "I am seeing the planning department and want to reach a solution acceptable to both parties. This was a decision made solely by officers, not elected councillors, and there is some flexibility over how we can resolve it."
Planning committee member Councillor Ashley Howells added: "It is ridiculous that the council is pursuing an old lady to fill in her pond when large development plans in the Green Belt are going on and the HS2 railway line has not been opposed by councillors. Common sense must prevail."
Widow Jean has transformed the plot of undrained grazing land into a haven for wildlife, including spawning frogs, toads, newts and giant water beetles.
But planners say it is 'eroding the character and quality of the area'.
Now regulars at Harriseahead's village pub are raising a petition to back her.
Royal Oak landlady Diane Gallimore said: "Everyone in here is talking about it so we thought we would do something positive for Jean.
"No-one can understand how this was allowed to happen and people feel so strongly I'm sure we will collect many signatures.
"She has done something to benefit the whole area by attracting so much wildlife yet that counts for nothing."
Regular Sylvia Darlington, aged 55, of Chell, said: "How stupid can red tape get – I am absolutely disgusted."
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 part of the Green Belt.
Jean said: "I'm overwhelmed by all this support. I didn't expect people would be so interested but I'm overjoyed so many care."
Ian, who works at the BAE munitions factory, at Radway Green, near Alsager, added: "The council is calling our tranquil haven a blot on the landscape. The Government has a target of creating one million new ponds – they'll have one less if this goes through."