Teenagers dig in to help Abbey Hulton OAP and his overgrown garden
A PENSIONER who was threatened with eviction in a row over his overgrown garden has been helped out by a group of young volunteers.
Tony Otter, aged 74, was unable to keep his garden tidy after he went into hospital for an operation on his right leg.
And he was later told by housing association Affinity Sutton that he faced eviction if his unsightly hedges were not pruned.
Now the housing group has apologised to Mr Otter and organised for a team of volunteers to help clean up his garden.
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They said they were unaware the surgery to clear clots in his leg had left him unble to walk.
The retired lorry driver and miner, who has lived in Crestbrook Road, Abbey Hulton, since 1951, said: "I had a letter effectively saying that I would be evicted.
"It was a bit of a shock when I opened it because obviously I couldn't walk very far after the operation and my leg was sore.
"I have always enjoyed gardening and I used to tend mine and my family's garden before I went in for the operation."
Mr Otter had been kept in at the University Hospital of North Staffordshire for seven days following the surgery last year.
He said: "It was very difficult to walk and it meant that I couldn't garden like I used to.
"I needed the step ladders to reach the top of the hedges but I was unable to use them."
However, the housing association soon realised their mistake and organised for a team from the Princes Trust to come to the rescue.
Mr Otter said: "As soon as they became aware I had been in hospital they came down and apologised to me. They have liaised with the Prince's Trust to have it all tidied up.
"I think it was just a genuine misunderstanding and they didn't know that I was struggling to walk.
"But in future if they just knocked on the door and asked what the problem is I think it would be better."
A 13-strong team of unemployed youngsters helped Mr Otter tidy up both his front and back garden yesterday.
Aged between 16-25 the volunteers got stuck in to the overgrown trees and weeds, after borrowing tools for the job.
Alison Simcock, team leader for the Prince's Trust team in Newcastle, said: "It was a one-day project to clear up the garden for the gentleman.
"We were contacted by the housing association because he had been threatened with eviction and was trying to tend to the garden himself.
"He wasn't well enough and it had become very overgrown with brambles so we were asked to help."
The tidy-up was part of a 12-week project run by the trust to help get unemployed youngsters back into work.
Ms Simcock added: "It gives them transferable skills and can help find employment. It is also a good way of giving back to the community and helping those in need."
Grateful Mr Otter said: "I am very grateful to them for clearing the garden up.
"It used to be lovely when I was a bit more able to keep on top of it and I had flowers planted in there.
"Once I recover I hope I can get back out there again."
Kirsten Wildman, assistant head of housing for Affinity Sutton, said: "When we heard Mr Otter had been unwell we immediately apologised over the mix up and were happy to put him in touch with the Prince's Trust.
"We are delighted they have been able to help him maintain his garden and we hope that he is now able to enjoy it.
"We take pride in maintaining our homes.
"Residents responsibilities are outlined in their tenancy agreements but if someone is having problems we would urge them to let us know."