Wanted - for 'crimes against shrubs'

WANTED posters have been put up around Colchester with two councillors being sought for “crimes against shrubs”.

Annie Davidson

WANTED posters have been put up around Colchester with two councillors being sought for “crimes against shrubs”.

Theresa Higgins and Martin Goss have both had their names and photographs featured on the posters and will be handing them into the police today.

The bizarre campaign stems from a row which broke out last week after the council's plan to turf over one in five of its roadside flowerbeds, shrubberies or hedges.

The plan was voted through as part of the annual budget in February but only caused a stir last week when it was outlined in a letter to all councillors.

At the same time, unrelated work began on the Northern Approaches Road to cut back some roadside shrubs which were hazardous to pedestrians and needed to be replaced with more suitable plants.

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However, Mr Goss said he believed the same person who had targeted Mrs Higgins had singled him out for the Northern Approaches work as it is in his ward.

The posters are the same, except for the name and photograph, and read “councillor (name) and the Liberal Democrats are digging up “grim” shrubs and rose bushes all over Colchester. Are your shrubs safe from the chop?”

Mrs Higgins said that as cabinet member for culture, tourism and diversity she was being blamed for something which was voted through at cabinet unopposed.

On Saturday she found one poster near her home in New Town and the other in Christchurch ward close to a county councillor's home.

“It is a form of harassment and a violation of my human rights,” said Mrs Higgins.

“We live in a democracy and if people want to complain they can do it through the proper channels.”

Mr Goss branded the posters “pathetic, childish and churlish” and added: “If someone has something to say to me they should come and say it to me directly. I think it is political foul play personally.”

He has collected a total of five posters since Friday, one close to his home and the others further afield, including Bergholt Road.

Leader of the Conservative opposition at the council, Robert Davidson, said last night that he did not know anything about the origin of the posters.

“I wouldn't condone any such personal attacks but I do think it could be a reflection of the frustration that local residents are feeling” he said.

“At the end of the day a lot of distress is being caused by this irrational and miniscule saving they were proposing.”

The decision to turf more than 80 sites is currently being reviewed and residents are being consulted.