GREEN-FINGERED pensioners who forged a friendship while working on an allotment together could be forced to give up their hobby after 15 years.

Clifford Robnett, 83, and his 78-year-old friend, Derek Cassie, have enjoyed growing thousands of vegetables on Beechwood Allotments in Larkshall Road, Highams Park.

But they now fear they will have to give up their passion due to what they describe as "petty" rules preventing them from sharing a plot.

Mr Robnett, of Ropers Avenue in Chingford, claims he was asked to give up his own plot two years ago to help Mr Cassie, of Sinclair Road, whose health problems meant he was struggling to keep on top of maintenance.

The pair were happy to share the workload, with Mr Robnett visiting the plot on a daily basis while Mr Cassie tended to his vegetables twice a week.

But now they say they have now been told by the manager of the council-owned plots that Mr Robnett is no longer permitted to work on the plot alone as he is not officially responsible for it.

Mr Cassie said: "It's such an injustice, it's unbelievable. I help him with the planting and he helps me with the digging, but now we're being stopped because of petty rules.

"He's a lovely man, he'd help anybody, and it'd be grossly unfair for him to have to leave. I might also have to go because I can't do it on my own."

The pair were informed of the decision to enforce the rule earlier this week after Mr Cassie asked for his friend to be included as a tenant on his own plot.

Mr Robnett said he has been offered another plot which is covered with large tree roots, making it virtually impossible to grow on.

He added: "I'm really angry. It keeps us fit and healthy, it's my only chance to get fresh air.

"I'm not asking a lot but I feel as if they've left us high and dry - it was them who asked me to give up my plot in the first place."

The council has been approached for comment.