A grandmother of four has been threatened with jail for sweeping the leaves outside her home. Barbara Ray, 82, was accused of 'causing a hazard' by brushing the fallen leaves into a 'large heap' for roadsweepers to collect. She was warned her simple attempts to keep the neighbourhood tidy could leave her facing prosecution for fly-tipping, punishable by a £50,000 fine and a 12-month jail term. When Mrs Ray queried the letter, she was astonished to discover council contractors had photographed her gardener, who visits once a fortnight, sweeping the leaves into the street. And the council even defended its stance by claiming that her behaviour was 'unacceptable'.
Mrs Ray branded the council officials ‘petty bureaucrats’ as she told of her anger over the letter’s threatening tone. She said: ‘It’s bureaucracy gone mad. I’m not a person who wants to make a fuss but it was a shock to read that letter. When I challenged the district council officer and asked him how he knew I’d cleared the leaves into the road from the front of my house, he said they had photos to prove it. I like to keep my house neat and tidy. The council told me to use my green bin – but that is soon full of garden waste because they only empty it once a fortnight. I’m just annoyed that the council can treat me like this.’ In a letter sent last week, an official from the district council warned Mrs Ray: ‘You were seen removing leaves from your front garden and depositing them in the road channel in front of your property.
‘Abandoning material in this manner constitutes fly-tipping under section 33 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990, which is punishable by a fine of up to £50,000 and/or 12 months’ imprisonment.’ A spokesman for the authority said that during the autumn, road sweepers are sent once a week to 100 of the worst roads for leaf fall in the district – one of which is Mrs Ray’s. But she claims the sweepers do not come ‘for weeks’ at a time, so she frequently has to sweep up the leaves from her garden, driveway and the footpath. Mrs Ray said: ‘I’ve lived through the war and have been in this town all my life. I pay my council tax and should receive this service. I’ve got better things to worry about at my age than this.’
Mrs Ray said the council has now dropped its threat to prosecute after she promised to stop the sweeping. She turned down the authority’s offer to supply her with a second green bin – for a £35 charge. She will now put the leaves into refuse sacks, which a friend will drive to the council waste disposal centre. A council spokesman said the ‘very large heap’ of leaves from Mrs Ray’s lawn which had been left in the ‘road channel’ were a ‘hazard’, which caused cars to move further into the road. He added: ‘Moving the leaves in this manner is unacceptable and can cause additional problems with blocking of drains. The District Council would like to apologise if the letter sent to Mrs Ray caused any concern.’ He added that the letter had been addressed to ‘The Household’, not Mrs Ray herself.