Kirdford neighbours distraught as oak trees are felled

Fiona Mason with the remains of the oak trees which have been felled over the road from her house in Kirdford
Fiona Mason with the remains of the oak trees which have been felled over the road from her house in Kirdford

A long-running dispute between neighbours over two huge oak trees at Kirdford came to a head last week when tree surgeons arrived and felled them.

For six devastated householders in Herons Close, it meant they had lost their two-year battle to keep their privacy.

For the owners of Blyth Cottage it meant they could finally look forward to getting subsidence damage to their home repaired.

It is the sort of quarrel which could have caused a bitter feud, but both sides in Kirdford are keen to stress it is nothing personal.

Adam Mason said he was distraught to come home last week and find the oak trees felled: “It has opened a gaping great hole between us and other properties which is unacceptable, but we don’t have a problem with the man who owns the cottage, his property was obviously suffering and it’s unfortunate.”

The cottage owner, Victor Coleman said: “We accept our neighbours have a gaping hole and it’s a very unfortunate situation. We have lost privacy as well, the gaping hole works both sides of the fence.”

It all began when Mr Coleman’s insurance company applied to Chichester District Council for permission to hack down the trees when his home fell victim to subsidence. Permission was refused and neighbours breathed a sigh of relief. But earlier this year the insurance company was finally given the go-ahead.

“Our big problem is with his insurance company and their cohorts who have shown no mercy whatsoever and have been pretty ruthless,” said Mr Mason, “They just want to keep costs down and have taken the easy route by felling the trees. I believe the loss of the trees providing a border between us and other properties will devalue our properties. It has also opened a gaping great hole which is unacceptable.

“Why couldn’t the insurance company underpin the cottage,” he asked, ”It’s our big bone of contention, they have just decided it’s cheaper to chop the trees down.”

He is also mystified as to why permission for the felling was suddenly given when he did not believe there was new evidence.

But Mr Coleman told the Observer there was new evidence. “The insurance company had DNA tests of the roots under our foundations carried out and found a specific match to the two trees which have been felled.

“Our house has cracks caused by subsidence. There were two solutions which were to fell the trees taking water from the clay under the house or to underpin, which would have cost an additional £35,000.

“They also looked at putting in a root barrier, but the engineers said it would be so close to the trees they might die and it would also be too close to the house to be of benefit.”

Mr Coleman said it had been a difficult time between him and his neighbours.

“We have had problems, but we have resolved them. We live in close proximity and we all want to live together. We also regret the loss of the trees.”

And in a spirit of harmony Mr Coleman and all his neighbours are sharing the large piles of logs from the two oaks.

Mr Coleman is putting up a 6ft fence and his neighbours are planting hawthorn trees.