A HOMEOWNER has been locked in a “barmy” four-year battle with council bosses over a hedge that is planted between his garden and school land.
Mitch Wilson, of Alnwick Close, Hartlepool, pulled down a rotten old fence at the bottom of his back garden, which backs on to Clavering Primary School’s field and wildlife area, four years ago.
The 60-year-old instructed a gardener to plant a hedge in its place and left him to it while he went to work.
But the hedge was planted almost 2ft the wrong way, onto the Hartlepool Borough Council-run school wildlife area land.
A row broke out between council chiefs and Mr Wilson about the hedge’s intrusion over their border, but eventually they “promised” him that the hedge could stay.
Then the council built a 70ft-long wooden fence just along the back of Mr Wilson’s property behind the bush, securing only a small section of the wildlife area which also backs onto several other properties. The council-built fence does not stretch beyond the length of Mr Wilson’s land.
And this is despite the school playing field already having a complete wire fence around the full perimeter of it.
Mr Wilson believed this would be the end of the matter until he removed the last remaining 8ft rotten section of his fence to the left of the controversial bush, and planted more hedge shrubs in its place, on his land.
This sparked the hedge war to erupt again earlier this year when the council wrote to him saying they wanted to erect another new fence along the back of Mr Wilson’s, and his next-door neighbour’s, gardens, on the original border and that the bush would have to be moved.
Mr Wilson argued that birds had built nests in the growing hedge and used the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, which states it is an offence to damage or destroy a bush in which wild birds are nesting, to win over the council.
But last week the father-of-two received more correspondence from the local authority, again saying the bush would have to go as they wanted to go ahead and build the new fence.
Mr Wilson told the Mail: “It’s been an absolute nightmare and totally ridiculous at the same time.
“It’s barmy and this has been going on for four years now and all over a tiny bit of land that the hedge is on.
“Four years ago they said the hedge could stay and they built a fence behind it.
“Then last year I had to fight them again when they wanted to build a new fence and they agreed to leave it.
“Now they’re back in touch with me saying they want to get rid of the hedge to build this new fence.”
He added: “The fence that’s there is only four years old, why waste good money on building another one? They’re just chucking money away.
“We’re supposed to be in times of austerity and schools are crying out for money so it’s hard to understand why they want to build a new fence.
“Aside from that they’re going back on their original word that I could leave the hedge there. If I move it now I think it will die and there’s wild birds that nest in there. It’s been a right carry on, it’s quite unbelievable.”
Mr Wilson says that he has even offered to buy the piece of land from the local authority but to no avail.
A council spokesman said: “It came to light four years ago that part of the school fence bordering Mr Wilson’s property had been removed and that Mr Wilson was occupying land that belonged to Clavering School (which is in council ownership).
“Although we chose not to pursue the removal of the hedge at the time and we installed a new section of fence adjacent to it, we informed Mr Wilson that it in no way altered the legal ownership of the land or the legal boundary.
“The fact remains that the hedge should not have been planted on the council’s land in the first place.
“Subsequently Clavering School has highlighted that a part of the perimeter fence bordering Mr Wilson’s property has again been removed and this is a security issue for the school, particularly as dogs are now gaining access to the field.
“As a result we have now decided to replace the fence along its proper boundary with Mr Wilson’s land, as we are fully entitled to do so.
“This is in line with the wishes of the school’s governing body and headteacher.”
But Mr Wilson said: “I’m going to fight it all the way and we’ll see what happens over the next few weeks.”