Islington Council backtracks on road planter scheme after cost for a small pavement pot clocks in at £630 a year

The gardening boxes in Mayton Street. Picture: Lynne Friedli

The gardening boxes in Mayton Street. Picture: Lynne Friedli - Credit: Archant

Islington Council’s new scheme for residents to brighten up their streets with boxed planters has been branded “prohibitively expensive”, with the cost to have a small plant pot on the pavement clocking in at £630 a year.

The application form the council issued in July

The application form the council issued in July - Credit: council

Yet despite having issued an application form last month laying out the costs for 2020/21, the council has now backtracked and told the Gazette today the “scheme isn’t finalised yet”, and that the costs are “under review”.

The saga began last June when the council told green-fingered Mayton Street residents that they would have to apply for a licence to keep two mini-gardens made from recycled pallets that they had installed in a parking space, because they breached the Highways Act.

They were told they could remain in situ for one year, and in July they received an application form for the council’s new scheme, which it said was set up to “create a greener borough”.

According to the form, seen by the Gazette, by the time a one-off £102.50 application fee, an annual fee of £116 for a planter licence and a £200 annual charge for a 1.3m by 1.3m box filled with soil were paid out on top of liability insurance - for which the cheapest quote from specialist firm Markel came to £340 for a year - the annual cost comes to a whopping £676.50 every single year to have the box on the road for five years.

The gardening boxes in Mayton Street. Picture: Lynne Friedli

The gardening boxes in Mayton Street. Picture: Lynne Friedli - Credit: Archant

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The price for a 30cm by 70cm pot on the pavement is £630.

Installing your own pot or pallet works out slightly cheaper at £476 a year.

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The gardening group already holds its own £5m liability insurance which costs £84 a year, but the council’s requirement for £10m liability insurance increases the cost considerably.

A council spokesperson told the Gazette earlier this week the scheme is necessary because £250m central government cuts to its budget since 2010 mean it cannot otherwise afford to foot the bill for its Highways team to carry out an assessment and undertake period inspections, or to pay for the public liability insurance necessary for such a structure to be on the road.

Lynne Friedli, who is campaigning to keep the planters, said: “We fully accept that the scheme should be self financing, but parking permits for small cars and motorbikes work out cheaper.

“Unlike motor vehicles of all kinds, planters contribute positively to the environment and to the wellbeing of the local community. They also bring health benefits through cooling the air and reducing air pollution.

“We are very frustrated that the council has come up with a scheme that is so costly and so bureaucratic. Most residents simply won’t be able to use it.

“All we are asking for is a simple, affordable scheme that allows local residents to re-purpose parking spaces as growing places.”

Before the Gazette was told the scheme no longer stands, a council spokesperson said: “Islington Council is determined to tackle the ecological emergency and support the borough’s vast diversity of wildlife by maximising soft landscaping of trees and shrubbery to support wildlife habitats, by working to ensure that new build developments are greener, and by increasing access to green spaces.

“As part of the council’s efforts to boost biodiversity and create a greener borough, Islington has launched a new application process to allow residents to apply for planters in their areas, which involves an assessment and consultation undertaken by the council’s Highways team.

“Due to government cuts, the council is unable to cover the costs of resident planters across the borough.

“As part of the process, an annual licence cost needs to be charged to cover the cost of reviewing and inspecting the planter as a structure on the public highway.”

They added: “The planters on Mayton Street were put in place without authorisation, in contravention of the Highways Act 1980.

“Islington Council agreed to a year-long parking suspension to allow the planters to remain in place until June 30, and had initially extended this to July 31. However, the suspension has now been extended further to allow for an application.”

READ MORE: People friendly streets: Traffic cameras will stop Mayton Street being used as a cut-through to Holloway Morrison’s

READ MORE: Islington neighbours start petition supporting ‘beautiful’ parking space planters

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