Durham: Widow, 84, faces £500 fine for placing potted plants outside her home

Widowed pensioner Evelyn Graham has been threatened with a £505 fine for keeping a florist in the driveway outside her home (Image: SWNS)

A pensioner has been threatened with a £500 fine for leaving a florist outside her door, even though it has been there for the past 30 years.

Evelyn Graham, 84, used the old sink to plant seasonal flowers and brighten her front porch but has now been ordered by Durham Council to remove it.

Authorities claim they are blocking sidewalks and that their officers are responsible for maintaining the road in the small village of St John’s Chapel.

But Evelyn, who has lived in the house for 63 years, says she maintains the road and no one else uses it.

She said the incident is making her want to leave the house she previously shared with her husband Myles, who passed away recently.

Evelyn said: “The planter has been there for many years with no problems and it brightens up the facade of the house.

‘With everything that’s been going on in the past few months, it’s been the last straw, making me really low and don’t want to live here anymore.

‘I love planters, it has history. I love making sure it has vibrant blooms every month. ‘

Evelyn Graham and her daughter Lesley Wilson were asked to remove the potted plant from her home (Image: SWNS)

Her daughter, Lesley Wilson, 64, was outraged by the threat and said her mother was being ‘bullied’.

She said: ‘Growers don’t affect anyone, it’s not a hazard. No one uses the road, the County Council’s pointless use of time, effort and public funds to do this. ‘

Council argued that they repaired the walkway in 2018 and that the Highways Inspector regularly inspects it on their behalf.

They said this meant it was an ‘passed highway’ and therefore any obstructions on it were illegal, so the planter requirement had to be lifted.

Evelyn has had a planter for years and uses it to brighten up her home (Image: SWNS)

Evelyn’s neighbour, Robert Thompson, 63, said he was ‘heartbroken’ by what happened.

He said: ‘Durham Council is bullying an elderly and vulnerable woman, especially in such difficult times.

‘She is truly heartbroken and this is the last straw, she is desperate and depressed by their shameful behaviour.’

Evelyn and Myles moved into the three-bed house in 1958 and reinstalled the sink more than 30 years ago when it was relocated from a local school.

Evelyn and her late husband Myles Graham were both passionate gardeners (Image: SWNS)

She herself used to work for the council that transported children to school and delivered school meals, before retiring 24 years ago.

Myles died in May at the age of 86 from many illnesses and Evelyn has cared for him for the past five years as his health deteriorated.

The couple are both gardeners and have used the makeshift pot to grow crocus, sweet peas and daffodils.

“Gardening is super important to her, it relaxes her and gives her a purpose,” says Lesley.

Lesley has accused the council of bullying her mother (Image: SWNS)

On July 29, grandmother of four Evelyn received a letter from Durham County Council asking for ‘obstacles’ to be removed.

However, Lesley claims that the road was originally laid by the owners of the house on Burn Foot, and that maintaining it has been their responsibility since they moved in.

She said she even provided receipts from a builder her father contracted to repair some of the cracks in 2018, which the council did not acknowledge.

Lesley stated that the road was never used by members of the public, and added: ‘It’s the road in front of two houses, it goes to and from nowhere.’

Evelyn had to deal with the line while isolated due to the pandemic and lost her strength for four days due to Storm Arwen

On 3 December she received another letter from the council, this time with the threat of a £505 fine if the planters were not removed by 8 December.

The family felt they had no choice but to cooperate and clear the soil before storing it around the house. They are still appealing to the council to get the planters back.

Paul Watson, strategic highway manager at Durham County Council, said: ‘We have been in close contact with Ms Wilson and her legal representatives regarding the Burnfoot walking trail and have provided a license. proof that it is an approved highway.

‘Our motorway inspectors perform annual checks on this footpath and the road around it and carry out repairs when faults are discovered.

‘The most recent repairs were carried out in 2018, which confirmed the footpath’s status as an approved motorway.

‘We have asked for proof from Ms Wilson and her legal representatives that the footpath has not been cleared on multiple occasions and we have not received any relevant information to date.

‘Under our powers under the Highways Act 1980, we sent notice of Ms Wilson having to remove the obstacles and we would like to thank her for her swift action in doing so. so.

‘If any new evidence is provided to refute our claim that this footpath is part of an approved motorway, we will review it accordingly.’

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Huynh Nguyen

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