RESIDENTS of a Weymouth street have been told they must pay for public liability insurance in order to keep plants and flowers outside their homes.

As reported, residents at the Park District's Wesley Street, which is known for its attractive floral displays, were left "shocked and angry" last week upon receiving letters from Dorset Council warning them that enforcement action will be taken if they do not apply for a 'planting out licence' or remove flowers from their doorsteps.

Dorset Echo: Residents at Wesley Street after the meetingResidents at Wesley Street after the meeting

In a new twist, the council has now stated that residents must obtain Public Liability Insurance for the flowers. 

Dorset Echo: Council officers at Wesley Street yesterdayCouncil officers at Wesley Street yesterday

Residents were informed of the new rules when council officers visited Wesley Street for a meeting yesterday.

Dorset Council was unable to advise on how much the insurance would cost but a spokesperson suggested that the cost could be shared between residents in the street.

Following the meeting, it was evident that plant pots had been hastily pushed back against the walls of houses, while initial attempts to reach an agreement seemed to have been made between council officers and residents.

However, there was a mixed reaction amid apparent confusion about the situation on the part of both residents and council officers, as nobody seemed clear about why public liability insurance was required - and neither party was able to provide a concrete answer on what would happen if residents do not obtain such a licence.

Dorset Echo: How the street used to lookHow the street used to look

One resident, Debz Medlicott, said: "We feel as though we are being singled out - there are plenty of other streets in Dorset where people put flowers outside - is the council going to apply the same rule to everyone? One way or another we feel we are being screwed out of money."

Another resident, Jude Butler, said: "I'm baffled, we just feel screwed over. I don't think we'll be able to get insured and I'm worried they are going to come and take my plants - but I'm not giving them up - I'm just not. After the letter they said they were going to give us the licence, and if we don't comply they would take enforcement action - now we're being told we have to have Public Liability Insurance as part of that."

Another resident described the meeting as "constructive" but said the underlying issue of people trying to drive down the street, in contravention of the Traffic Regulation Order, had not been addressed.

Dorset Echo:

A council spokesman said: "(Tuesday's) meeting has been a success. The residents have moved the pots back from the highway and we talked about a (planting out) licence, which the council will provide free of charge for this community. The only cost would be for public liability insurance, which the residents may wish to club together to pay for."

It is understood that the issue has arisen due to complaints from other residents in the street who say that planters and other objects are causing an obstruction on the highway, preventing them from driving down and parking outside their homes.

However documents presented to the Echo show that the street is pedestrianised and subject to a Traffic Regulation Order which restricts the majority of vehicle access, and states that vehicles can only drive down in exceptional circumstances.

Dorset Echo: There was space for a van when the Echo visited last weekThere was space for a van when the Echo visited last week

While the interviews were taking place a couple on holiday from the Midlands came to admire the flowers.

Doris Briggs said: "We were walking past and decided to come down here because it looks so beautiful - it would be such a shame if the plants are stopped. I think it is absolutely potty."

Another resident of Wesley Street, Pauline Miller, said: "I think it would be a great shame if they have to get rid of the plants - it brightens up our day when we walk down here. Everyone says how nice it looks."

Dorset Echo: Residents say that Wesley Street (top) has more room for emergency access than neighbouring Bath Street (bottom picture)Residents say that Wesley Street (top) has more room for emergency access than neighbouring Bath Street (bottom picture)

And resident Den Medlicott added: "It's about time something was done about the street and the amount of cars coming down. Some people seem to think it is their permanent drive. Only emergency services should come up here - the signs clearly state no vehicles are allowed."

Dorset Councillor for Melcombe Regis Jon Orrell said he has fought for the flowers to stay and wants the council pay for the insurance cost.

He said: "The choice given, following the complaints of obstruction, was total removal of plants or keeping them on the pavements. I strongly backed keeping them. They bring life to the street. I would like the council to pay the insurance. The flowers are most welcome."

Meanwhile Weymouth town councillor for Melcombe Regis, Tia Roos, said: "I think the street looks absolutely lovely. I realise emergency services need to be able to get down the street but I don’t see why compromises couldn’t be met. Especially since things are probably easy to move around."

Cllr Roos added: "It’s not been a problem for all these years and suddenly it is now. I don’t know why it’s escalated in such a way and it’s an absolute shame. The street is beautiful. How most streets should be."

A public meeting is being held on Thursday at 6.30pm at the Duke of Albany pub, Park Street.