Wood you believe it! Waltham Council gets shirty over child’s stick collection

Waltham Forest Council has backed down after ordering a Walthamstow mum to remove a small pile of sticks from her own front garden.

On July 30, June Hedges, of Luton Road, received a letter claiming the sticks had a “continuing detrimental effect on the quality of life of those in the locality”, adding that she would be given a “formal notice” if they were not removed.

The offending stick pile

The sticks belong to June’s seven-year-old son, an “avid stick collector” who is “quite proud” of his pile, and who she said was “really upset” at the thought of getting rid of them.

Following a request for comment, the council sent another letter on August 10 apologising for the “disproportionate” action.

The letter reads: “If enquiries had been made as to the circumstances, the letter would not have been sent to you.

“Therefore, the matter has been closed and no further action shall be pursued. I apologise for any inconvenience or stress this may have caused you or your family.”

The letter adds that the Neighbourhoods team “are looking to implement an additional layer of informal investigation into the current process” for dealing with waste in people’s front gardens.

June said she was “fairly happy” with this result, particularly as she had no intention of removing her son’s sticks without “concrete proof” they were negatively impacting neighbours.

Speaking prior to the council’s apology, she said: “The letter they sent was really strongly worded and very officious and confrontational. You feel like you are being accused of a crime.

“My front garden has a wall and a hedge so, to be able to see the pile, you pretty much have to crane your neck over my gate. There seems to be much higher priorities they could be dealing with.”

She added her son and many of his friends collect sticks to play with or make things with, which was particularly valuable during lockdown when they had to play on their own.

Deputy leader Clyde Loakes explained the original letter was sent “as part of a wider day of action in William Morris ward” to deal with dirty front gardens and other neighbourhood issues.

He said: “Council officers work hard to ensure that our neighbourhoods are clean and pleasant environments, free from unsightly messes which are detrimental to the local area.

“However, these are not issues on this occasion and the warning notice has been cancelled.

“We apologise unreservedly to the householder and are writing to them directly to say sorry and inform them that we will not be taking any further action.”


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter