22 September - Don’t dare to be different, Bexley council might sue you - Click any image for photo gallery (13 images)
Today Bexley council intends to decide if a Section 215 Untidy Sites Act Notice should be issued to compel a resident to clear some less than expertly built garden structures because of complaints from a neighbour. The photographs taken yesterday show rubbish stored on the roof of two dilapidated sheds, a badly rotted garage door that provides a ready access for rodents and has not seen a paint brush for many a long year and decking to provide shelter for any wildlife that requires it. There is no lawn to speak of, just odd clumps of grass and a rear fence on to a railway line that is not in a particularly good state and hides oddments of garden rubbish that have found their way over it. None of it is what a keen gardener or house proud resident would want to see. But that description and the photographs are not the subject of Bexley council’s attentions, what you see here is the less than award winning rear garden of the complainant to Bexley council, their victim’s neighbour.
The victims are a married couple and their garden is not the traditional lawn and flowerbeds but is described by a local beekeeper and conservationist as “a model bee garden” and “of great benefit to wildlife in general and bees and butterflies in particular”. It also includes some old sheds and fruit cages which are similar in appearance to those on nearby allotments and secluded from view by many trees. It’s not at all like most gardens but I can see a certain amount of charm and quaintness in it (see photo gallery) but much more importantly the owners love it and regard it as their hobby and outlet for self-expression. It is certainly not ‘derelict’ as defined and illustrated (see example left) in the Section 215 legislation and guidance to councils; so why might Bexley council champion the owner of a neglected garden against another who spends a lot of time on theirs?
One reason could be is that the lady of the house has long been a thorn in Bexley council’s side. She writes letters about them to newspapers and is not reticent when it comes to reporting them to the Local Government Ombudsman. Another thought that worries the lady is that she claims to have been set upon by her neighbour with a large builder’s spirit level, knocked to the ground and held there, following which Bexley council’s friends in the police did not cover themselves in glory.
Her intention that day was to retrieve articles allegedly removed from her outbuildings without permission but one of her complaining neighbours video’d proceedings.
The victims reported the neighbour to the police and when they eventually arrived they arrested the wife, made door-to-door enquiries and then charged her; the neighbour later offering video evidence that the petite lady had assaulted him. The case against her collapsed when the Crown Prosecution Service saw the video evidence; it showed no assault. The police have sent a letter of apology for their conduct, from Borough Commander Stringer no less. The lady victim fears that having crossed Bexley council’s uniformed wing there will be retribution.
The preceding paragraph has been confirmed by the lady’s legal adviser and documentation. Why the police took no action over the neighbour’s allegation of assault which proved groundless remains a mystery. Bexleyheath police doesn’t pursue those they see as their friends. Now the lady fears that Bexley council is intent on descending on her mob handed to serve an enforcement notice.
The victims say that the complaining neighbour has been steadily encroaching on their land by levering over or otherwise moving the fence. Within the past week tensioned strings have been tied to trees which have the effect of pulling the fence in the desired direction and another string stretched between the house and the victim’s side of the fence post at the rear of the garden shows the fence to be noticeably curved towards the victims’ garden. The photo gallery attempts to illustrate the effect.
A further complaint is that the ‘eyesore’ of the garden structures can be seen from nearby house windows. I climbed on to the roof of one of them to see if this could be true and found it wasn’t. See photo gallery. I also twice rode on the train that passes by on an embankment at the end of the garden to see if it stood out in any way. It did not, it was barely visible and not the worst sight among nearby rear gardens.
To my mind the garden is not derelict, it is looked after constantly; so how can it be derelict? It is possibly eccentric and won’t appeal to everyone, but why should it? It’s not easily seen from outside so why should anyone else be interested? The victims are convinced there is a connection with those constantly critical letters in the local press.
Something else Bexley council seems unwilling to take into consideration is the victim’s diagnosed Asperger Syndrome; for that of course no help is forthcoming from Bexley council. Another indication of Bexley council’s perversity is that they have granted planning permission for a traditional brick built extension to their victims’ house. Negotiations are going on with a builder now. For that the second-hand outbuildings closest to the existing house are coming down anyway. Why can’t Bexley council wait? Why does it take sides with those who assault ladies old enough to have a free bus pass? Maybe after today’s visit we will know a little more.