POLICE were called after a long-standing row over a strip of land culminated in a stand-off between a garage boss and council officers.
Garage on the Green owner Gary Hepple said he has used a strip of land near his Station Road business, in Ryhope, to park cars for sale for the past 26 years.
He also registered a caution title with the Land Registry in 2010 to protect his interests in the land, which can only be done if it is previously unregistered.
But residents have branded the vehicles, which are kept in front of a row of terraced homes, an “eyesore” and a “blight on the village”.
And Sunderland City Council served him two enforcement notices in April, and said he could be prosecuted if he carried on using the land in Stockton Road.
Mr Hepple has apologised to residents and said he stopped parking the cars from the beginning of this month, with any vehicles there belonging to his staff.
But Mr Hepple accused the council of “bullying” him.
He claims he has repeatedly asked for help relocating to other premises, only to be told the council cannot help as his is not a manufacturing businesses.
When council staff arrived yesterday morning to place planters on the land, Mr Hepple says one of his nine staff confronted them in fear of losing his job. Police were called as the row threatened to get out of hand.
He said: “It came to a point but I wouldn’t say I confronted them.
“But I definitely decided that was enough.
“I’m sick of being bullied, I’m sick of feeling downtrodden.
“I’m very, very scared for the future of my business and I needed to make a bit of a stand, and the council enforcement officer decided that one of my staff was obnoxious for fear of his job and phoned police.”
Claire Jackson, of Stockton Road, is one of the many residents who have spoken out against Mr Hepple’s use of the land.
She said: “Garage on the Green seem to think they have a presumptive right to use that land to park their vehicles.He has side-by-side vehicles for sale and it’s an eyesore.
“We have this lovely green and entrance to the village and all you see is a car parking lot.
“A number of residents have been very angry about this situation.
“I have lived here for three years and it’s an absolute nuisance and restricts the view for pedestrians and motorists.
“I would describe it as a blight on the village.”
Councillor James Blackburn, Sunderland City Council’s portfolio holder for city services, said: “The council has been working with Mr Hepple and continues to do so.”