Granddad told to stop gardening in his local park or hell get arrested
A green-fingered granddad thought he was doing a good thing for the community when he started trimming hedges, cutting back trees and removing weeds from his local park.
Instead, Alan Baines, 62, was threatened with arrest for cleaing up the once dilapidated Rayner Park in Hindley, Greater Manchester.
He was told in what he says was an aggressive letter from Wigan Council to drop his secateurs or face being reported to the police for criminal damage.
But despite the warning, Alan has refused to stop gardening, fearing the park will become overgrown once more.
Alan, who works full time as an NHS caretaker, said: I was disgusted by the tone of the letter, its so aggressive and uncalled for. They said I could be arrested.
All Im doing is transforming a park from somewhere that was old, decrepit and overgrown to a place families and children play.
The area hasnt been used like this for 30 years.
I dont intend on stopping what Im doing, if I do then the park will revert to what it was like before and all our hard work will go to waste. It would be a tragedy.
I have agreed to stop touching the Japanese knotweed but I want them to take away what Ive already cut and also give me training in how to deal with it properly.
In the meantime we wont be slowing down, weve got a working party organised for next weekend.
All the locals are on my side over this.
He says hundreds of people who live nearby are behind his mission to clean up the park after news spread about the outrageous council letter.
More than 30 people at a time join forces for working parties to clear cuttings at Rayner Park and help Alan out.
The main issue with their work centres on the Japanese knotweed in the park, which the council argues needs to be disposed of by a registered waste carrier.
Japanese knotweed is a fast-growing plant that can crack tarmac, block drains, undermine foundations and invade homes.
A Wigan Council spokesperson said: We have been made aware of unauthorised habitat works taking place within Rayner Park without our knowledge or consent.
The works include the cutting back of trees and vegetation including Japanese knotweed.
Not only is it a criminal offence to interfere with Japanese knotweed in this way, but these particular plants can damage the environment and should be disposed of by a registered waste carrier.
In addition, all works to our open spaces should be carried out with the proper safety measures in place.
For the safety of the local community and to ensure no further environmental issues arise, we have instructed for any interference with these plants and all other works carried out to stop.
Alan said he had replied to the councils letter with an email telling them he wouldnt stop the gardening.
I actually want them to start helping me out by taking away some of the things I clear, he said.
The work Ive done at the park would have cost the council tens of thousands of pounds.