A NEIGHBOURLY relationship has been ripped apart by the South Downs National Park Authority, who cut down trees on the bank of the River Rother without written permission from the landowner.
Iping couple Jacquie and Peter Broadway complained to the authority and neighbour Michael Lakin when unstable willow trees from his land started crashing to the ground, threatening their safety and newly-landscaped garden.
But when branches and trees kept falling, keen gardener Mrs Broadway wrote again to the authority, asking for the trees to be made safe.
“About three years ago the trees started falling down,” said Jacquie.
“When the first one fell, there was this incredible noise and we were absolutely terrified.
“I just wanted them made safe. We even wrote to a tree surgeon who said the trees are structurally weakened and likely to fall in the river,” she added.
Mr Lakin, who fronts an internationally-renowned firework company, eventually hired tree specialists.
In a letter to the Broadways, he wrote: “At considerable expense I had the tree trimmed, so it should’ve allayed your complaints and preserved a very attractive tree.
“It was therefore with horror and dismay I learnt the tree had been cut down.”
According to Mr Lakin, a South Downs National Park Authority ranger had told his wife, Amanda Lakin, he ‘wanted to deal with the tree because he was fed up with constant nagging phone calls’ from the Broadways and ‘decided it was easier to do something about it’.
Mr Lakin said his wife ‘did not give him permission to do anything further’.
However, this was ‘ignored’ and the tree was cut down.
“I believe they had no right to do that,” wrote Mr Lakin.
Mr Lakin said the park ranger had been ‘extremely apologetic’ when confronted, and had arranged to plant a new coppice of trees to ‘make amends for his actions’.
Jacquie said: “It was all done by the national park. They told us Amanda Lakin had given them permission.
“With the help of my gardener, I cleared the riverbank of all the mess left by the national park after the tree was cut down, but Mr Lakin said I was trespassing.
“We are pleased, obviously, but people are saying we organised it to improve our view. It’s not true, and I am not a wicked person.”
A spokesperson for the South Downs National Park Authority said: “We obtained the landowner’s permission to remove branches considered to be dangerous from a willow on his land, however closer inspection revealed that much of the tree was damaged and more needed to be removed than originally hoped.
“Willows are quick to recover and shoots from the original plant will soon grow back. In the meantime we have supported the landowner by planting a mixture of native trees, which will improve local biodiversity as well as fill the gap.”
The national park confirmed it had verbal permission and had apologised to the landowner.