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Man, 89, cut neighbours' hedges as they 'hadn't bothered', then thanks himself in newspaper

Keith Haines, 89, cut back his neighbours' hedges in Newbury, Berkshire, then 'thanked himself' via a letter in the local newspaper.

Keith Haines 89. Keith has cut back a hedge on a public footpath that has caused mixed responses from locals. Photo released November 8 2023. See SWNS story SWLShedges. A man cut his neighbours' hedges to clear a path because they 'hadn't bothered' then wrote to his local paper to 'thank me' - but not all residents are happy. Keith Haines, 89, has divided opinion after cutting back a hedgerow to make a path more accessible to pedestrians and wheelchair users. He claims to have informed the local council of his plans to trim the hedge - and was not stopped from doing so because they are in private property. Keith, of Newbury, Berks, then 'thanked himself' for cutting away the foliage.
Keith Haines divided opinion after cutting back a hedge on a public footpath then writing to his local paper to 'thank me'. (SWN)

An 89-year-old has sparked debate after cutting his neighbours' hedges to clear a path because they 'hadn't bothered' - then writing to his local paper 'thanking himself' for doing so.

Keith Haines claimed he cut back a hedgerow to make a path more accessible for pedestrians and wheelchair users.

He then wrote to his local newspaper saying he would like to "thank me", saying the tenant responsible for it hadn't "bothered to keep the hedge cut".

His actions have divided opinion with some residents - including someone who is blind - thanking him, while others said his gardening efforts had left an "absolute mess".

Haines, from Newbury, Berkshire, wrote in the Newbury Weekly News: "I would like to thank me for bringing the footway to its original width as the tenants haven’t bothered to keep the hedge cut.

“I informed the council of my intentions but they didn’t stop me from doing it, so I went ahead with it.

“Everyone who passed me congratulated me. What a difference I have made."

More South and South East stories - click above
More South and South East stories - click above

Residents who thanked him included one blind neighbour, who said: "I am a totally blind resident in Shaw and walk my guide dog every day.

"I am often stung by stinging nettles, scratched by brambles and hit in the face by branches and shrubs that are overhanging the footpaths.

“Fortunately, there is a resident who lives nearby called Keith.

“He is 89 years old and as well as caring for his wife, he is out every day cutting back foliage, clearing blocked drains, picking up litter and sweeping the subways to keep them free of slippery mud, litter and broken glass.

“I think this wonderful man deserves some recognition for all his hard work as a volunteer.”

'Hacked to pieces'

But other neighbours were left frustrated that their hedges had been trimmed without their permission.

Mandy Allen said she didn’t want her hedge cut back as severely because it gave her property some privacy from the busy road as well as reducing traffic noise, and has also been left worried that her pet dog will be at risk of escaping.

She said: "It’s an absolute mess. He’s gone back to the original fence. I have been in my house for 23 years and I have never ever seen the original fence. He’s not just cut it, he’s absolutely hacked it."

Another resident, Fran Robins, said: "He has actually hacked it to pieces, not content with just mine, he decided to tackle others hedges that face onto Western Avenue even after being asked to stop.

"The hedge now is letting in more road noise from traffic and taken away my privacy. l have been in my house 57 years and never had an issue."

A West Berkshire Council spokesperson said: “The hedges are all on private property and do not fall to the council to maintain.”

What can I do about my neighbours' overgrown garden?

Council advice is that you can cut down vegetation from your neighbour's overgrown gardens - but only up to the boundary point between the properties.

It is advised to try to talk with your neighbour first to discuss any issues and try to find a suitable resolution before resorting to cutting back vegetation.

Any damage caused by overgrown vegetation, such as damage to fences, is a civil matter which means you should seek independent legal advice as the council can't help in matters like this.

If you cut back any overgrown vegetation, you are responsible for disposing of it unless your neighbour asks for them back. Throwing cuttings back over a neighbour's fence can be considered fly tipping.

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