THE owner of a café ordered to take down her floral hanging baskets because they are an obstruction has received widespread public support from people who have described the council ruling as “nonsense”.
Jean Henderson of The Pantry in Cromarty has taken away a folding table, two chairs and an ice cream sign from the pavement outside after two visits from a Highland Council official, but has made a written request to keep the blooms until her premises in Church Street closes for the season in October.
The caterer, who has operated the café for four years, has not yet received a response after she wrote to the local authority last week asking for a “stay of execution” for the four pots of petunias.
She had been warned that failing to remove the floral display could result in a fine.
Mrs Henderson gave a robust response this week to the council’s reasons for the order.
A Highland Council spokeswoman told the Ross-shire Journal: “The council was informed of an accident involving a pedestrian at this location and that the tables and chairs are forcing pedestrians to walk on the road.
“The hanging baskets are below normal head height, forcing pedestrians to either walk towards the kerb or duck.
“The owner did not have permission for the tables and chairs nor the sign. The council’s roads inspector asked for the tables and chairs to be removed and the hanging baskets taken down until they could be raised.”
However, Mrs Henderson refuted those claims, saying the accident happened on the approach to her coffee shop and not on the pavement outside it.
She added that nobody had to walk on the road to avoid the furniture and that pedestrians can easily walk alongside the baskets which have become a tourist attraction in the town.
Mrs Henderson is aware of only one accident close to her premises which happened a few months ago that involved an elderly customer who had left to get money from a nearby cash machine and was walking diagonally across the road when he stumbled and fell as he approached the kerb before he got on the pavement.
“The accident wasn’t anything to do with The Pantry, or the table and chairs, it happened on the approach to the The Pantry,” she said.
She also stressed she was asked to remove the floral displays, not raise them.
Mrs Henderson said that when she was watering the flowers on Wednesday morning three different people came up to her saying they were behind her.
“I’ve had lots of support, nobody sees them as an obstruction,” she said.
“People admire them and take photographs of them, they will be down in a few weeks when they are past their best. Everybody says what a waste of public money – to get two council visits about hanging baskets.”
Mrs Henderson also pointed out there were signs outside other shops in the town and the distance between the edge of the kerb and her table was wider than some pavements.
“People did not have to walk on the road to get past my table and chairs;, wheelchairs and pushchairs could get by,” she said.
“I don’t want to be held responsible for this, when it is not my responsibility.”
Black Isle councillor Craig Fraser, who lives in Cromarty, said: “The only feedback I have had is that the baskets are beautiful and add colour to the top end of Church Street and I agree with this comment. I wish I could grow and establish my own hanging baskets to look this pretty.”
The Ross-shire Journal’s story last week, which revealed the flower baskets were the subject of a removal order, has attracted numerous comments on our social media pages.
Jane M Scott said: “Jean this is an absolute nonsense and I hope you treat the request with the contempt it deserves.”
Seonaid Wallace said: “For god’s sake get a grip people! The baskets are beautiful. Well done Jean on your green fingers. Carry on as you are, be true to yourself.”
Hamish MacCulloch said: “Typical council, so out of touch with what public wants, good for you Jean, leave them up.”
Chrisanna King commented: “Truly shocking. As many others have said, hope sanity prevails. There is nothing nicer, or more welcoming than beautiful flowers, particularly hanging baskets. The council should be ashamed of themselves. Hope this poor lady gets masses of support.”