Green-fingered volunteers win battle to stop council spraying village green they created in Bawdeswell, near Dereham

Green-fingered volunteers who were incensed when county council contractors sprayed chemicals over their unofficial village green have won their battle to stop it happening again.

A team of residents in Bawdeswell, near Dereham, first started tending the plot at the junction of The Street and Reepham Road two years ago, and it now has flowers, a replacement village sign and benches used by pensioners, parents and passing cyclists.

The parish council even allocated some money from its precept to contribute to their efforts.

However, the gardeners were horrified when a contractor working to a Norfolk County Council maintenance schedule sprayed some of the grass with herbicide in May, which they said damaged an extensive area.

The council said the contractor would have used glyphosate spray, a non-residual herbicide that did not affect people, pets or widlife.

But the volunteers made an official complaint and asked for the land to be exempted from future treatment, but their plea initially fell on deaf ears.

Roger Hall, one of the volunteers said: 'I'm sure the contractors would be more than willing and able to look at a piece of land that's well kept and decide it does not need a spray, but if the bureaucracy says it's on a schedule it's got to be sprayed. It's madness.'

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The council reconsidered its position after villagers submitted a 68-signature petition, and it said it would take it off the schedule if another public authority formally took responsibility for removing weeds from a section of footpath at least twice a year.

Following a submission from the volunteers, Bawdeswell Parish Council has just formally approved an agreement with Norfolk County Council, whose spokesman said it was now just waiting to receive the signed paperwork to complete the deal.

Mr Hall said efforts to nurture the green had led to the creation of an informal group called Incredible Edible Bawdeswell that was now sowing the seeds of other long-term initiatives.

He said the group aimed to use community land to grow food that anyone could help themselves to, with the ultimate aim of creating a community orchard.