A green-thinking villager has been ordered to cut down his buddleia after his garden was judged overgrown and an eyesore by magistrates today (Thursday August 24).

Peter Churcher challenged a West Devon Borough Council order to cut down and dispose of the buddleia because it blocked an access to his land off Fore Street and spoiled the view of residents in a designated Conservation Area.

Mr Churcher, who lives above his now closed down second-hand book shop, told Plymouth magistrates admitted he had not complied with the order under section 215 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 because the buddleia provided a habitat for hedgehogs, slow worms, butterflies and other insects. He said he was rewilding an urban area which benefited the wider Tamar Valley environment and villagers’ by helping pollinate their gardens and allotments. 

He was fined £126 and ordered to pay £1,150 costs of the borough council and court and a £50 surcharge by Plymouth Magistrates’ Court after losing his trial. Magistrates decided he had not appealed against the council order properly, even though he claimed he had. Therefore, he had not complied legally with the order. The prosecutor said Mr Churcher was only required to cut two feet off the top.

Mr Churcher’s solicitor Anthony Dyke told the court his client has not acted with malice towards the council, he had been ignorant of the due process and assumed he had, in fact, lodged an appeal. Mr Churcher  was therefore, not a ‘remorseless offender’, had not turned a blind eye to the legal process and had always wanted to put his case to the council and court, if required.

Mr Dyke said Mr Churcher had every right to do what he wanted to his own land and that the buddleia was not harming other residents’ environment.

However, the magistrates concluded, that ‘whatever the reasons’ Mr Churcher had for not cutting down the buddleia, he had not complied with the council order and there was no evidence he had appealed, as was his legal right.

Darren Jarvis, council planning enforcement officer, said the council received a complaint through a councillor that the buddleia was damaging the ‘amenity’ of the village and preventing access down an alleyway ownned by Mr Chucher between his house and a shop. He visited the site to look at the ‘excessive’ buddleia and a contested mural on Mr Churcher’s alleyway wall (the subject of a later hearing). He later served a compliance order on Mr Churcher which had a deadline of September 2022 which was not met and a later check earlier this year showed the buddleia was still not cut back.

Mr Churcher said: “I feel very strongly about creating and maintaining habitats for wildlife which includes slow worms and hedgehogs which live and to encourage butterflies and other insects which fits in with the wildlife plan for the area. It’s not just about my garden though, it’s to benefit the amentiy of the whole vllage.”