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Bucking City Hall! December 1997
or: Blandford - Its Trees - Its People - Its Caring!
or: You can't expect daylight in north facing rooms!
You'd probably travel far to find people as community and conservation minded
as my family take part in path clearing, hedge laying and other community
projects. Show us a wasp, bee, butterfly or any of nature's wonders and
we go out of our way to make sure they are safe - no nasty chemicals for
us. We crush conkers to discourage slugs without poisons. We are not your
full on, sandal wearing, low slung pony tail (and everything else) conservation
fanatics, but to some we might be seen as travelling down the same weed
Where we come adrift from the 'complete conservationist' is in thinking
there is room for everyone and everything - given compromise. To the conservation
freak compromise appears to be a four letter word, they are unable to distinguish
between words such as 'prune', 'coppice' and 'chop down'. A tree causing
problems for people and properties could be pruned or coppiced - this DOES
NOT mean chop it down.
Sorry to be a drag, but some background is needed - following an accident
and an op when surgeons played xylophones with steel rods, screws and a
bone graft on my spine, I'm not as nifty on my pins as I was. I hasten to
add the injury was at the opposite end of my spine from my brain! Brain
box and contents were undamaged. Back to the important bit (no pun intended):
My house faces south, which means several rooms face north. Lovely you might
think if you are an artist - the pure north light for painting by. Not so!
According to an officer at North Dorset District Council (that's in the
UK for those not up on English geography)- if you have a north facing room
you can't expect to have daylight! So - tell that to generations of artists
who have been sadly misled.
In July 1997 I asked NDDC for help. My garden (yard) backs on to
what was a railway line and is now a council owned public walk. There is
a wall at the end of the garden with an embankment on the council side going
down to the walk. A sycamore on the embankment towers over the house and
blocks light (daylight) from ground and first floor rooms, these
need electric light during daylight hours. (According to NDDC this is the
norm for all north facing rooms!). In July 1997 I asked the Council
to prune or coppice the sycamore to reduce its height,
that way we get daylight and the tree gets to stay, but smaller - a reasonable
compromise one might assume. No way, last week (end November 97)
the Council cut off four branches (there are 4 more) that overhung my garden
- but did nothing to reduce the height. According to an NDDC officer, if
I want the height reduced I have to PROVE the tree is blocking light by
paying for a surveyor to assess how much light is being blocked! Nothing
so simple as coming into the house and trying to read in those rooms without
the help of electric light - that ain't proof!!
I also asked for help regarding a problem with the wall - you can guess
the outcome - zilch. This old Victorian brick wall is about seven
feet high (just over 2 metres) on my garden side, but on the council owned
side the earth levels are only two or three feet (about 1 metre) below the
top. Large dogs often jump over and become frantic because they can't jump
back, youths use the garden, house, people and pets in the garden as target
practice to throw stones or fireworks (some ambitious ones even try to see
how far they can pee)! Not to labour the op bit, but after major spinal
surgery a fall could be damaging, mixing it with large dogs or trying to
dodge stones, fireworks or worse are not recommended recreations. To date,
first week of December 97, nothing has been done - you will have
quickly noted this has put the garden off limits for me for the whole of
The suggestions offered by North Dorset District Council regarding the wall
a) plant brambles close to it - being an invasive plant it will come
into my garden to create another problem, while not deterring dogs.
b) lay a 'dead hedge' next to it - in the nature of things dead hedges
rot down and would add yet another layer to the already high earth levels,
while not deterring dogs.
c) put up several strands of barbed wire to about a foot above the height
of the wall - great for the animals - now I end up with vets bills!
Might deter dogs (blind dogs don't jump walls!), but youths can still
throw things through.
d) if not barbed wire, then strands of ordinary fencing wire on metal
supports - where am I living Pentonville (Alcatraz)! - Again, might
deter dogs, but youths can still throw things through.
The simple solution of reducing earth levels by digging was dismissed with
the statement 'I'm not an expert, but if we reduced the earth level
it could destabilize the wall'. The obvious solution of getting an 'expert'
seems to elude these worthies. I pointed out, several times, I needed
to put a large support structure on MY side of the wall because it was being
pushed into my garden by the high earth levels on the council side.
I have been told by council officers not to keep telephoning them (five
times in five months), mine is not the only problem(!), while they are talking
to me they cannot find time to do their job! Another officer kept telling
me to keep quiet because he wanted to talk - though how he could answer
my questions when he hadn't let me ask them made me wonder whether he was
clairvoyant. He also said that for me to complain the tree stopped daylight
to my bedroom and that I needed electric light during the day when I am
taking enforced backrest was 'EMOTIONAL'!! As he said, "It's people
cause problems not trees"!
In July 97 I asked for the sycamore to be reduced in height and the
earth level behind the wall to be reduced. So far (first week December
98) NDDC have succeeded in cutting down a tree nobody complained about,
lopping four branches off the sycamore and building a dead hedge at the
top of the embankment butting up to a wooden shed in my garden. The sycamore
and the earth behind the wall remain as high as ever.
Score so far Trees 1 - Humans 0.
I spent last summer in one room in the front of the house - where I can
get daylight - unable to use the garden because of dogs, stones and fireworks.
If the council have their way that one room will be my world - and a council
officer suggested wanting these problems sorted was emotional!
Having read this, I realize I could be on to a money spinner - I have three
1. Sue the council for the cost of building a support structure for the
wall and the emotional distress they caused by effectively imprisoning me
in one room and their inept handling of this matter (is that emotional or
mental abuse?) - or,
2. more enjoyable perhaps, find a playwright to turn this into one of those
good old fashioned British comedies that take the p---- out of authority!
3. Devise a gameshow based on 'I'm not an expert but . . .'
What should I do? - What would you do?
Suggestions on what to do would be gratefully received, so long as they
don't require me to accomplish impractical gymnastics or anything requiring
strength and thrust (the sycamore has to be all of 45 - 50 feet high - difficult
to handle and aim!) - sign them on to my guestbook - or if you feel real
energetic e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org
My Guestbook View
Update December 1998
Well after involving a local Town Councillor, a District Councillor and
a very senior executive officer from the District Council there has been
some progress made. I paid for a two foot high trellis to be fixed to the
top of the wall. The original middle ranking council officer had said I
needed permission and it had to be fixed to my side - the senior officer
agreed it looked good as it was and was low enough on their side not to
need permission. The middle ranking officer couldn't understand my concerns
about the fire risk posed by a dead hedge leaning against my shed - he pointed
out that the shed was made of dead wood (ever seen one made of live!). The
dead hedge was removed at the word of the senior officer! This was done
by June 98 so I was able to enjoy the garden for most of this summer. A
council engineer has supposedly said that moving the earth on the council
side could destabilize the wall (although so far as I know he has not seen
the site), however the senior council officer has said that the Council
will provide thorned roses (instead of the brambles originally suggested)
to stop animals and kids getting close to the wall. The sycamore tree is
still there, but at least some progress has been made. Not bad progress
for two and a half years! Hopefully there will be a new tree officer at
some stage who will see the wisdom of cutting down non native sycamores
and encouraging the growth of native trees such as ash and beech, but this
might take some time, we'll probably be looking forward to the end of the
first decade of the new century by then!
This site is becoming a bit
like Topsy - it just grows - mostly out of my own experiences and opinions
(and I got plenty of those), but there must be a lot of people out there
who find 'bucking city hall' a hard task - if you found this page perhaps
some of the city hallers will as well - how about submitting your story
for this 'Bucking City Hall' section of my site, if I find it amusing, moving
or just plain interesting I will probably extend this section.
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