A Truro pensioner has begged Cornwall Council to restore a wildflower meadow to grass verge, claiming it has “ruined” the garden that was once her pride and joy. 

Jacqueline Lee, 83, has lived in the former council house off St Clement’s Hill since 1971, and purchased it when local authority housing was sold to occupants. The adjacent grass verge remained under the ownership of the council. 

Her front garden was immaculate until 2010, when Mrs Lee claims the council dug up the grass verge without prior notification and sowed it with wildflower seed.  She and her daughter, Jo Kemp, have since been locked in ongoing correspondence with the council regarding the upkeep of the verge, and whether it is responsible for the deterioration of Mrs Lee’s garden.  

“I have lived here for 51 years, and never had a problem for 39 of them,” said Mrs Lee. “I can’t mow the lawn any more – it’s too stiff.

“I take the weeds out and take them to the dump. I am even considering not paying my council tax.”  

Jo added that prior to being reseeded, the verge was maintained by the council and caused little bother to her mother.  

“Since the wildflower planting, her garden has deteriorated into nothing more than a disgusting mess.

“The council accepted responsibility in the beginning, but over the years, plans of action were put in place but failed,” said Jo.  

“She needs to have her garden back at the end of the day – it is the only thing that used to give her pleasure, and her garden was admired by everyone who walked past it. Now it is impossible for her to do.” 

Jo has two folders full of laminated photographs and correspondence archived meticulously in date order.  

The complaints include weeds in the lawn, which Jo and her mother believe are caused by seeds blowing in from the meadow; the verge being strimmed poorly, and grass cuttings left to go brown; an infestation of rats; and litter gathering, including two Christmas trees that have been there since 2022 and have been strimmed around four times.  

Among the replies, in April 2014, Cornwall Housing’s landlord services director Pete Jarman described the planting of the wildflower bank as “a well-intentioned plan that has back-fired in this instance”. In June they stated that Cormac had undertaken work “as a moral obligation as it was their idea to turn the bank into a wildflower garden in the first place”.  

However, tempers flared in 2015 over the regularity of work to maintain both verge and garden, and disagreement between the two parties on the satisfactory nature of work carried out to restore Mrs Lee’s garden.

Mr Jarman described it as “more than reasonable”, adding: “We have to draw a line under this now and I can confirm that we will not be carrying out any further work in the form of treatments or planting to your garden.”  

By 2020, the weeds had returned and correspondence resumed, with the help of Cllr Loic Rich, independent councillor for Truro Tregolls.  

He told The Voice Mrs Lee’s case was “one of the most unfair injustices I’ve seen, and one of the few cases I’ve been unable to resolve”.  

He continued: “When the bank was turned into a wildflower garden, the council really should have consulted Mrs Lee. It ruined her garden, and it was very unfair.  

“I have always been of the view that she has been let down, to the point that I couldn’t really do anything because we had exhausted all avenues and no one was willing to take responsibility. 

“Cornwall Housing and Cormac offered to do something but it wasn’t really enough. It needed to be a proper and thorough effort, not just a one-off superficial thing that might last a couple of seasons.  

“The system has completely failed Mrs Lee.” 

Hayley Austin, executive director for housing operations at Cornwall Housing said: “We are aware of the resident’s previous concerns and understand a resolution was reached in 2015.

“We encourage the planting of wildflower meadows on council land as it increases biodiversity and gives residents more opportunities to enjoy nature.   

“As we have now been made aware of issues with litter and discarded items in the area, we have arranged for it to be cleared within the next week. We’ll also speak with our contractors about being more proactive in helping to keep neighbourhoods clean and clear by reporting issues directly to us for action.

“We are always very happy to hear from residents who take pride in our neighbourhoods and will support requests wherever we can.” 

A team of volunteers led by Paul Caruana was going to take a look at the garden with a view to helping Mrs Lee restore it to its former glory.  

“I have an ongoing issue with Cornwall Council regarding ‘rewilding’,” he said. “For example, while Truro City Council looks after its roundabouts, Cornwall Council cuts its own twice a year and they look unkempt, waist-high with weeds and brambles.  Does it give the right message about our city? I don’t think so.

“As volunteers, we have offered to help but have been blocked on health and safety grounds.”