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Bucking City Hall! December 1997

Update DECEMBER 1998
woodman, woodman, spare that tree!Blind Dogs Don't Jump Walls

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 strewn path.

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 this summer!

The suggestions offered by North Dorset District Council regarding the wall have been:
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 choices -
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! or,

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

Sign My Guestbook View My Guestbook

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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