Residents’ fury over ‘battle zone’ garden clearance

Pearl Marlborough is angry with the council over trees felled in a neighbouring property.
Pearl Marlborough is angry with the council over trees felled in a neighbouring property.
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FURIOUS residents say they may move after county council attempts to clean up a dilapidated house left their area looking like a ‘battle zone’.

Neighbours living near the house in Gillsmans Hill, St Leonards, were shocked when East Sussex County Council (ESCC) workers razed all the overgrown vegetation around its property that has stood empty for many years.

They say their houses have been left exposed and are angry they were not consulted, but ESCC says the decision to completely clear the site followed reports of crime and anti-social behaviour there.

Pearl Marlborough, who lives in the cottages behind the house, was outraged.

She said: “They came in without warning and hacked down every single tree and shrub. They have left the place looking like a battle zone. Their attitude seems to be it is their land and they can do what they like. They didn’t even have the courtesy of sending us a letter.”

She said that no maintenance at all had been done in the garden for the past seven years and claims that ESCC officers told her the trees could be dangerous.

“How can a sycamore or a wild cherry be dangerous?” she said. “It was a bit like a wilderness but at least it was a live wilderness - there were quite a lot of birds and small animals there.

“We have lived here for 14 years and have been very happy but now I feel like I want to move out. We are completely exposed to traffic now which we have never been before.”

The county council brought a host of houses in the Gillsmans Hill/The Green area ahead of a mooted road widening scheme for the link road project but some have stood empty for up to 25 years. Last month, Cllr Phill Scott told the Observer he wanted to see the homes brought back into use for the local community, and Mrs Marlborough and her neighbours say they have no issue with those plans.

A spokesman for ESCC said: “We were concerned that the grounds of the property had become overgrown and had suffered from illegal tipping. We also received allegations of drug-related activities being carried out on the site. Following complaints sent in to us via email in May, we instructed a contractor to clear the site of all rubbish and overgrowth. We are sorry that this has caused upset.”

But Paddy Stephenson, a St Leonards planning campaigner, said the ESCC actions were a ‘disgrace’ and said residents would be fined if they chopped down trees without following the proper processes.