A killjoy council has banned a florist from displaying her prize blooms outside her shop – because of HEALTH and SAFETY fears.
Karen Preece, 40, was told to remove ornate flower displays because they were an ‘obstruction’ – despite her shop sitting in a quiet side street.
The mum-of-two has vowed to fight the ban and even gained the support of former Strictly judge Arlene Phillips – who branded the decision ‘shocking’.
Town hall chiefs told Karen that the pavement outside Lavender Blue – in the picturesque market town of Ludlow, Shrops. – had to remain clear in case pedestrians trip over her plant pots.
But she said medieval Market Street is so narrow vehicles rarely travel down it and people usually walk on the road instead of the footpath anyway.
Karen, a florist of 20 years, moved premises from nearby Broad Street in May this year and had only been open a few weeks when a council highways worker came into her shop.
She was told the local council had received two complaints from the public that Karen’s displays were a hazard.
Under health and safety rules, the pavement outside the shop must be wide enough to accommodate a wheelchair.
But Karen argued that the footpath – which measures just 68 cm (27 in) wide – was too narrow for most wheelchairs to pass along it.
The mum-of-two yesterday (Mon) blasted ‘jobsworth’ council chiefs and branded the ban ‘ridiculous’.
She said: “I was very conscious of leaving room for people so I left a bit of space for them to walk past and was sure not to block the pavement completely.
“No traffic comes down the street – it’s just too narrow.
“You get the odd delivery vehicle in a morning but other than that it’s rare to see cars on the street.
“People just walk in the middle of the road – the footpath is hardly used anyway because it’s so narrow.
“It’s known locally as a pedestrian street because you never see any vehicles using it.
“It’s especially ridiculous because there’s a street lighting box just up the street which takes up half the pavement, yet the council isn’t doing anything about that.
“I can’t buy as much stock now. Having flowers outside attracts people in and our business is down.
“It looks a bit sad, really, we’re only allowed a few hanging baskets and that’s about it.
“This is a market town, there are all sorts of little displays and signs outside various shops so it’s frustrating to be singled out.
“We have four members of staff here and if it affects our business then it starts to affect them too.
“It was a big decision to buy this building and a lot of our savings have gone into the move.
“For it to all go to pot because of a silly complaint would be devastating.
“It’s health and safety gone blooming mad.”
Karen has launched a petition against the ‘crazy’ ruling and fears she could go out of business because of the decision.
And as news of her campaign spread, Arlene Phillips tweeted her support for the cause.
She wrote:”Shocking. We need flowers in our lives. Just the joy of looking is uplifting.”
Shropshire Council said it was acting in response to complaints from the public that Karen’s displays were blocking access.
Chris Fisher, highways manager for Shropshire Council, said he had received a complaint from a customer stating they could not walk on the footpath outside the florist.
He said: “I politely asked her to remove them.
“Although this street is little used by traffic, it is still used.”
Shropshire Council confirmed it had received a complaint about the pavement being blocked to pedestrians.
Claire Wild, cabinet member for highways and transport, said Market Street was open to vehicles and footpaths needed to remain clear.
She said: “The complaint we received from a member of the public stated that they could not walk on the footpath outside the florist on Market Street, Ludlow.
“Market Street is not pedestrianised so it is important that the pavements remain free of obstruction.”
* The barmy ban comes just a week after it emerged the same council removed hanging baskets from a historic bridge in Bridgnorth, Shrops., over worries they may fall and injure canoeists.