In the Media

Council threatens OAP, 82, with jail for 'leaf sweeping outside home'

PUBLISHED November 1, 2012

Barbara Ray, 82, painstakingly swept fallen leaves from outside her three bedroom bungalow in Stratford-upon-Avon, Warwickshire, to the roadside.

But her local authority took a dim view of her community pride and threatened to prosecute the widow for fly tipping.

Town Hall officials sent a letter to her property, warning that sweeping the leaves from her driveway into the tree lined road was illegal.

They warned she faced punishment, including a £50,000 fine and a 12-month jail term, for her efforts outside her home of more than 50 years, the Daily Mail reported.

When the grandmother of four questioned the letter, she was surprised to learn that council contractors had photographed her gardener, who visits once a fortnight, sweeping the leaves into the street.

Today Mrs Ray, who worked as the financial director of a printing business she managed with her late husband, described council officials as "petty bureaucrats".

She told the newspaper: "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. I'm just annoyed that the council can treat me like this.

"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."

The mother of two first moved to the area in the 1950s with her husband Tony, who died of cancer in 1997 at the age of 71.

Following his death she moved round the corner to her bungalow, which is in a road lined with lime trees.

The council has since dropped its threat to prosecute after she promised to stop the sweeping and she has rejected 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 Stratford-on-Avon District Council spokesman defended its actions.

He told the newspaper that the "very large heap" of leaves from Mrs Ray's lawn left in the "road channel" were a "hazard", which caused cars to move further into the road.

"Moving the leaves in this manner is unacceptable and can cause additional problems with blocking of drains," he said.

"The District Council would like to apologise if the letter sent to Mrs Ray caused any concern."

But he insisted the letter was addressed to "The Household", not Mrs Ray herself.

He added 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.