Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Taking a fence 2


It is a nuisance to have to waste time and energy on neighbour disputes, and I know a lot of you have had all kinds of problems with selfish or thoughtless people encroaching on your property. In comparison to the things I've read on other people's blogs I know I'm dealing with a pretty small and insignificant dispute, but it's an annoyance nonetheless.

I've already blogged about my next-door neighbour's decision last year to put a solid six foot fence along the entire length of my vegetable garden, in place of an open latticework fence which allowed the sunlight through. The impact of this has been noticeable over the last season. The fence runs along the south side of my garden, so the vegetable plot now gets no direct sunlight at all during the spring and autumn months, and even in summer the strip of permanent shadow is two or three feet wide, reducing the amount of growing space I have. It would be annoying enough if it was their fence boundary, but it isn't - it's ours. But in the interests of maintaining neighbourly relations, I decided not to put in a formal complaint about it. The fence does bring me some benefit to compensate for the loss of growing space; being in shade all through the winter does reduce the weed growth, and at least the fence now gives me some privacy and prevents the bloke next door from dispensing unsolicited gardening advice, which he was wont to do with tedious regularity.

Last week, however, I went out into the garden and found the neighbour perched up on the fence nailing a trellis panel on top of it, raising the height of the fence by another 12-18 inches. "It's just decorative", he said when I challenged him about the further loss of light it would cause to my growing area. Thanks a bunch. He was obviously a bit self-conscious about doing the work while I was working out there, and stopped for the rest of the day. As I've always got on fine with them, I thought the best thing to do would be to make a conciliatory approach explaining my concerns. I wrote a polite and friendly letter asking them to reconsider their plan to put trellis panels along the whole length of the fence, explaining the impact their six foot fence has already had on my property and hoping they would understand how much my vegetable garden means to me.

I got no response, but the next morning I found that they had snuck out early in the morning before I was up and nailed the trellis panels up all the way along. As a concession, they had put them slightly lower than they were originally going to be, but they still add to the height of the fence. I was not happy, to say the least, and I told the neighbour so the next time he stuck his head up over the fence. His response was that he'd rung the council planning department and they'd told him that he could basically do what he liked (thank you council), and if I didn't like it I'd have to take out a civil action. We had a good shout at each other but the selfish old bastard knew there wasn't anything I could do once he'd got the panels up - which is probably why he did it while I wasn't around.

To be honest, it's not the further erosion of my vegetable plot that bothers me; it's the disappointment that after seven years of being decent neighbours to them, and asking them nicely not to do something which impacts on my garden, they deviously went ahead and did it while I wasn't looking, and rather than listen to my concerns just told me I'd have to take legal action to get it removed. I'm well within my rights to do so, but I've got better things to do with my time and money than lining solicitors' pockets. I'm just baffled as to why they are being such arseholes.

Maybe the arseholeness was there already and I'd chosen not to see it. I already knew that the woman next door bad-mouths the neighbours while being friendly and polite to their faces. The first inkling I had that I was on the receiving end of this was when they asked me to go round and be a witness on some legal paperwork they were trying to get signed. Their daughter, who is about the same age as me, was there and I smiled and said hello ... and she scowled at me as if I'd just been caught trying to burn down an orphanage. I can't ever remember being greeted with such contempt and disgust by someone I've never met, and I thought oh well, it says more about her than it does about me. But then it transpired that her mum doesn't have a good word to say about anyone and has probably given her the impression that all the neighbours around here are freaks and degenerates. It's also telling how often they have offered me things during their clear-outs which have turned out to be broken. Plant trays with splits down the side, baskets where the handles have come off. They make a show of being kind and neighbourly when they are simply dumping worthless junk.

And now, following my shouting match with the old bugger last week, they have decided to take things a stage further and are now about to put up a solid six foot fence along the length of my greenhouse, where the one remaining lattice panel had been letting some light through. Clearly the chance to cast a permanent shadow over my greenhouse and render one side of it useless for growing plants was too great a temptation to resist. You have to feel sorry for people who are that small-minded, because it's really a symptom of how unsatisfying their lives are. Again, I've got better things to do with my time than getting involved in legal action, but I did take a few moments out of my busy schedule to draw an unwieldy erect phallus on the side of my rainwater butt to give him something to look at while he's working. Does that make me mean-spirited as well? Perhaps, but it's more fun than a solicitor and if he's going to behave like a prick then he may as well have one to look at. Besides, "it's just decorative".

27 comments:

Rhizowen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rhizowen said...

You start by burning your bridges and you end up burning fences. I hear larch lap makes excellent biochar......

Did the phurejas pull through?

Joanna said...

So sorry to read this ... it's so dispiriting having neighbours like that, and you find yourself using up energy thinking about things which are basically worthless - and then you find yourself behaving in ways you'd really rather not, if only they could be a tiny bit more generous about something so small yet significant. Is there any way you could move the plot or the greenhouse to get a little more light?

IAP said...

Some relaxing music will help.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vMnLoOnrwbg

Nellie said...

Are these the same neighbours that hate weeds? A well aimed seed bomb maybe?
I really feel for you,this would really upset me.

Jess said...

Now that they've put up such a solid fence, perhaps a rooster or two might be a nice addition to your vegetable garden. They can pull any errant weeds that come up, provide a dash of color and entertainment to your yard, and perhaps a semi-regular thank you serenade for the neighbors.

That's what I would do. ;)

Randy Emmitt said...

Rebsie,

This is a bad situation. I would no like this one bit. Bad neighbors indeed. We have neighbors with peacocks...

I had a customer that was buying the house next door so he could evict the tenets. I thought they could not be that bad. Later that day these two women got into a cussing and shouting match that lasted 4 hours until the cops came to quiet them. Bickering over who know what too.

Randy Emmitt said...

That is it get some peacocks they are loud and call all night for 4 months during the breeding season.

Cabbage Tree Farm said...

Oh dear. I really feel for you even though I don't know you! We've had some terrible problems with our neighbours, slander and false accusations being the main things. Also turning most of our other neighbours against us. Someone has recently called the council about our living conditions - we are in temporary accommodation in a garage/caravan as we need to sell some land to afford to build our house and it's taking a very long time! So I can understand how you must be feeling, especially when you try to sort it out in a reasonable manner and get no co-operation. They unfortunately do sound like assholes to me. I'm not sure what action you can take to improve things, but I like the idea of roosters/peacocks. However, be mindful of the fact that people like this can be very vindictive and it might make matters worse for you. Good luck, hope things settle down.

Patrick said...

I'm really sorry to hear this too. I hope you can find a solution somehow.

I have a similar but different problem at my allotment now, with a gardener who thinks making war with other gardeners and destroying their gardens is what having an allotment is all about.

What is it about gardens that can bring out the best or the worst in people?

BilboWaggins said...

So very sorry to read all this. People like your neighbours can ruin so much for other people and the fact they can get away with it is unbelievable. Sadly, in law I think there is no "right to light" - we found this out years ago when neighbours were considering building a huge extension. Some councils are, however, more sympathetic than others. Your neighbour might well be lying - why don't you phone the planners and see if you can chat someone up and get some support? (Failing that, the local paper - shame the miserable git if nothing else!)

I doubt you will sink so low as to remove and burn their fence whilst they are on holiday but thinking about doing so might make you smile for a moment.

Don't get peacocks. Someone half a mile from us has them and very, very rarely they make their way down the road as far as us. The noise is OK (I wake early anyway) but they are destructive little b*ggers, will pull up your plants and are not suitable for anything othger than large country estates!

Dim Sum Gardener said...

I tend to agree with BilboWaggins. The law can be an ass sometimes but I suspect your neighbour may have embellished the truth when speaking to the council. It is best to speak to your local council and/or see your local councillor for advice and support. Take photos of the fence and date these. Also take photos of the last bit of the fence before the neighbours block the light. If ever you write any notes to your neighbour, take a copy to prove that you have been very reasonable and non-aggressive. Good luck!

By the way, mine decided to set up an office in a converted shed and all week long, including weekends, he and his associates are out there talking at the top of their voices on their mobiles. And on the other side, this octogenarian "lady" likes to spray hose right over the fence (we can't leave any water sensitive equipment outside eg mobile phones, laptop)and oh, she likes to climb up on a plastic table and spy over the fence! I heard that she broke her leg a few months ago....hmmm

pomly said...

If it were me, I think I might build a platform as high as the top of that fence and grow a bunch of things in planters up there. Maybe dandelions.

Paddy Mc said...

I second the roosters/dandelions on a raised planter. The roosters are great weeders and the dandelions are "just a spot of color"

Mr. B said...

A very smart client once told me that the first day in your new home, you should knock on your new neighbors door, and punch him in the nose when he answers. Get it over with and avoid the drawn out semblance of peaceful coexistence.

Anonymous said...

Hmm, a bit late, but did they have planning permission? As far as I know, fences between properties can only be 2m high without PP (and trellis counts towards the height)

Anonymous said...

Planning permission is not generally needed before erecting a fence or wall, provided it is no more than one metre in height if next to a highway, or two metres elsewhere. If you wish to exceed these limits, you will need to get planning permission from the local authority. There are no planning restrictions on the height of hedges.

From http://www.adviceguide.org.uk/index/your_family/home_and_neighbourhood_index_ew/problems_where_you_live_index_ew/neighbour_disputes.htm

richard andrews said...

so sorry that you are having problems i am sitting on my patio laptop in hand reading the nice things from your blog

Oakherder said...

Some great comments. Roosters and, as Pomly suggested, a fence height planter sound like good ideas. You should come and live next door to me, our potatoes and butterflies and cross-breed across our meadow-weed patch!

folk songs said...

Ahh.. take a break, have a cup of coffee.

Anonymous said...

What about painting your side of their fence bright white to make it a bit lighter?
Greetings, Ellen

Anonymous said...

It's the final victory of corporate capitalism over the human spirit. People have been succesfully reduced to atomised consumertrons in a car/mortgage/supermarket/warfare nightmare.
It's cost billions in public relations, advertising and cultural re-engineering to reduce people to this level of selfish stupidity, and in the case of your neighbour it's clearly paid off!

Anonymous said...

turn disadvantage into advantage:

maybe try growing morello cherries along the fence or red/whte currants...other edible plants you could try are listed here...

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Search_Use.aspx?glossary=By+North+Wall

then underplant...some suggested species:

http://www.pfaf.org/user/Search_Use.aspx?glossary=Deep+Shade

plants for a future is a good site - and your interest in plant breeding could find another outlet - they are looking to improve perennial edible species to create long term sustainable edible landscapes...

Anonymous said...

make a piece of trellis on your side of the fence and plant there this:
Fallopia aubertii (Polygonum). It's just decorative;> and because it is south side, it will glide on their side, and their thing is to cut off what goes there. they will be fit all summer :>

Anonymous said...

Hi Rebsie, We had a neighbor from hell who finally moved thanks to what ever it is that allows you to talk to yourself and tell yourself not to do anything rash when the heat of the moment arrives, basically he never got what he wanted as we never succumb to his offer to show him how angry he made us, you know how it works, I killed him with a nice big smile and a polite "hello". For sure I wanted to behead him and bury him under the comfrey patch but my partner advised me to smile at him and it was far more satisfying!
After he bad mouthed us to the street after unsubstantiated claims of all sorts of stuff we apparently did to him, he flooded my partners cellar through her coal hole (its a terrace) he killed our beloved Rowan (ironically and rather bizzare is the fact that a seedling from a previous fallen berry appeared to surface upon him leaving lol)and we had to endure all these silly pseudo legal letters he liked sending us (they were very funny and contradictory) but in the end he had to go....we celebrated and now the garden is being tended by a new neighbor who is lovely, likes cats and has a deep knowledge of organic gardening! There is a God.

Grace of Brisbane said...

We had neighbours like this. They put their fence up and put their finishing touches in the early hours of the morning because they knew what they were doing was morally wrong.

So, we waited until they went away and we tore the trellice down. Naturally, when they questioned us, we didn't know anything about it.

They put cameras up. We sprayed the lens..at night.

Obviously we couldn't pull the fence down (too big) but everytime they re-attached the trellice we pulled it down again.

After the third go, they stopped.

Things like this happen when people disconnect. It is an imprint of today's society to be insular and unfeeling.

How sad.

Henry Björklid said...

Buy this reflecting material - I do not know the name, but anyhow.
Reflect the sun-light south.
Then these very strong lamps. Give the light in the night-time to your garden (and his house).

Why did you stop writing?

Henry Björklid