Winchester couple left with £1,000 bill after Hampshire County council cause damage to their garden (From Hampshire Chronicle)
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Winchester couple left with £1,000 bill after Hampshire County council cause damage to their garden
IT’S your responsibility.
That’s what an elderly couple near Winchester were told after a tree in their back garden was removed without notice, smashing their green house and newly-decorated garden, and leaving them with the £1,000 bill.
The ‘offending’ tree, which sat at the bottom of John and Gillian Chapman’s back garden in Sutton Scotney, was cut down in February by Hampshire County Council after complaints from neighbours during high winds.
The broken branches were left strewn across their garden shed, green house and plum tree – all of which have been damaged.
The mess, which has been left for over a month, is obstructing a large area of Oxford Road property’s back garden, and Mrs Chapman said she received no prior warning from the council.
“I was speaking to my next door neighbour and she said ‘Jill, I think they are out there cutting your tree down’,” she said.
“I didn’t think they could be because it was so windy. When I saw the devastation in the morning I was horrified.
“Hampshire County Council was going to charge us £1,000 for the call out.”
It was not until Itchen Valley County Councillor Jackie Porter stepped in that HCC waived the fee.
However, the retired osteopaths have since been told because the tree belongs to them, it is their responsibility to clean up the aftermath, and the county council are refusing to help.
Mrs Chapman, 73, said: “We have booked in for a tree surgeon to come and clean it up on April 17. That is the earliest he could come because he is inundated with work at the moment because of all this terrible weather.
“He has lived in Sutton Scotney since he was a boy so said he would help us.”
Even at the reduced rate the couple will still have to fork out £550 to see their garden back to tip top condition.
Jackie Porter said she thinks the council made a hasty decision to cut back the tree.
“The least they could do is come and clean up the mess,” she said.
“Mr and Mrs Chapman were already coping with a lot that weekend – the water was lapping at their front door. They were lucky their chickens weren’t killed by the branches as they were cut down, but their greenhouse was smashed.
“The County has an efficient tree team that could do this job in hours.”
Hampshire County Council's executive member for Economy, Transport and Environment, Cllr Sean Woodward, said the council's highways team was alerted to the tree dangerously swaying in the wind after calls to police from concerned neighbours.
He said: "Having unsuccessfully tried to contact the property owner, and even though the tree was on private property, a decision was made to put public safety first.
"As this matter concerned a tree on private property, it really is a matter for the owner's insurance, and the council has offered to fully support them in any insurance claim by providing evidence of the situation.
"I have also asked officers to consider if there is anything further that we can reasonably do to support removal of the remainder of the tree."