Washington man facing £1,800 bill for chopping back trees outside school

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A ROW has erupted over who should stump up £1,800 to replace 12 cut-back trees.

Gardener Terry Hall has been sent letters by legal chiefs at Sunderland City Council, urging him to pay up after he “pruned” the row, which ran behind a fence next to Albert Place allotments, in Washington.

The taxi driver has vowed not to foot the bill, saying they overshadowed his corner plot and affected his crop and that he thought he had gone through the proper channels to sort the problem.

However, the trees were on private land at Columbia Grange School, which insists Mr Hall should pay for the “damage” he caused, as otherwise the money would have to come from already-stretched budgets.

Mr Hall, of Avon Terrace, said the issue had been ongoing since 2003.

He claimed the trees had been planted closer to the fence than they were originally supposed to be, therefore overshadowing his plot and making it much harder to grow vegetables there.

“They were about 18ft high. By midday it was like an umbrella going over my allotment.

“I wasn’t getting anything from my garden or greenhouse. You must have natural light to grow things.”

He told the Echo he has tried to get the issue sorted, but in the end went around the fence and pruned the trees himself.

“It was exactly a year ago when I did it. But they didn’t even notice until five months ago,” he said.

“The school got the police out. But they said it was a civil matter.

“Now I’m being chased by Sunderland Council for £1,857.58, because I was too honest owning up.”

The letter, signed by the head of law and governance, wants money for clearing the trees and stumps and new silver birch, English oak, common ash and whitebeam.

Mr Hall said he had spoken about the issue to the former allotments supervisor, who has since died.

“I thought I had gone through all the proper channels,” he added.

“I’ve told them I’m not going to pay this. I’ve asked them to come out here, but there’s been no response at all.”

Columbia Grange, a co-educational school for children with severe learning difficulties or autism, said it was “disappointed” at Mr Hall’s reaction to the bill, as the money would otherwise have to come from its own budget.

Headteacher Katherine Elliott said the school was “shocked to see the extent of the damage,” but claimed Mr Hall admitted trespass and criminal damage, so chose not to pursue legal action.

“Instead we chose to give Mr Hall the opportunity simply to pay to replace the 12 trees which were damaged, and to cover the additional costs of removing the stumps and restoring landscaping work.

“When the work was originally being planned in 2003, we took advice to make sure the species of tree to be used would not create any problems to the allotments in terms of height or foliage.”