Council is wrong to stay silent on trees row

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IT is easy to see both sides of the argument in the dispute over a row of trees next to Wicor Primary School in Portchester.

Certainly the pupils of the school have spoken eloquently of their fears that the trees might have to chopped down.

The youngsters regularly draw pictures of the silver birches as they mark how they change over the seasons of the year. They study the wildlife that lives in and around them and in doing so, they develop their love of nature.

But on the other side of the fence – quite literally – is homeowner David Wickwar and it would be hard not to have sympathy with his predicament.

Trees being trees, they have grown and grown since he moved into his home six years ago.

Now, he says, they have reached a height at which they are having a detrimental effect on his life. Light is blocked out, gutters clogged with debris, and he suffers hay fever symptoms.

Now the matter is to go to court, with Mr Wickwar seeking compensation plus the compulsory destruction of some trees and the lopping of others –unless a compromise can be found.

Perhaps it lies in an agreement to chop back the trees regularly – leaving them standing as a source of joy and inspiration for the pupils whilst not being high enough to impose on neighbours.

Mr Wickwar says he’s had to seek a court ruling because Hampshire County Council has ignored his requests for the trees to be pruned.

Unfortunately no-one knows the county’s position on this because, for all the eloquence of the ten-year-olds involved, the county’s legal department has refused to give the public any information on the matter, saying it is sub judice.

What nonsense! A case, if one is held, will be determined by a judge at Portsmouth County Court. We have every confidence that he or she will be fully able to determine the issue without being unduly influenced by the public knowing the basis on which the council is spending our money on contesting the matter.

It’s another example of a local authority needlessly withholding information from the public.

his health is suffering from hayhe is AN ANGRY pensioner is taking Hampshire County Council to court to force a neighbouring primary school to cut down trees bordering on his property.

David Wickwar, of Hatherley Crescent, is suing the council for £5,000 for the damage he claims a line of silver birch trees belonging to Wicor Primary has caused to his property and his health.

The 67-year-old, who moved into the area in 2005, wants the council to fell eight silver birch trees and reduce the height of between 14 to 22 more along the 175ft boundary he shares with the school from 30ft to 10ft.

If these demands are met he says he will drop the case.

He told The News: ‘The trees are a perpetual nuisance, shedding leaves, seeds which cause allergies and are giving me hay-fever type symptoms, and branches all the year round, blocking gutters and drains. They also stop light coming into our living room.

‘It requires a lot of work to unblock and clear it all away to prevent damage, which as a pensioner I am unable to do.

‘The council does not maintain the trees which just grow bigger every year. All my requests to them to trim them have been ignored.

‘My wife Sylvia and I are being prevented from enjoying our property. We don’t have a problem with nature but nature didn’t put those trees there – people did.’

Mr Wickwar’s action has been met with strong opposition from dozens of youngsters at Wicor who have started a petition to “save our trees”.

Elizabeth Harbridge, ten, said: ‘There is a lot of wildlife like birds and insects in our trees and getting rid of them would be terrible.

‘They are an important part of our school life. We draw the the trees, watch them as they grow and change throughout the seasons, and even take shelter under them on hot days.’

Ella Catford, ten, added: ‘More than 200 people in the community have already signed our petition because they don’t want our trees to be cut down.

‘The trees not only help our learning but they are also living creatures in danger. We have birds nests and other wildlife who should be protected.’

Toren Hill, ten, described the moment his class was told the news. He said: ‘There were gasps of shock and then pure silence.

‘We love our trees and we are going to do everything we can to make sure they are protected. We’ll even clean our neighbour’s gutters.’

Isaac Lee, ten, warned the precedent this case could set. He explained: ‘If our neighbour wins, what will stop others telling us to cut down all our trees, and trees in schools across the country would be at risk.’

A council spokeswoman was unable to comment on the details of the case. She confirmed: ‘Legal proceedings have been issued against Hampshire County Council regarding the trees.’

A conciliation meeting is due to take place on September 5, and a date for the hearing has been set on December 6. Both will take place at Portsmouth County Court.