The cul-de-sac treespiracy: Homeowner claims neighbours are trying to get his 300-year-old oak cut back by faking complaints to council in HIS name… as locals complain leaves are damaging their cars

  • Gary Saunders has a 45ft Turkish oak in his garden near Great Yarmouth
  • The 300-year-old oak has had multiple unsolicited attempts to cut it back  

A battle is raging in a leafy cul-de-sac over a 300-year-old oak tree that residents are allegedly trying to chop back without permission, as they claim it is blocking out the light. 

Retired garden designer Gary Saunders, 71, who has the 45ft tall Turkish oak in his garden near Great Yarmouth claims he is a victim of a ‘conspiracy’ by a group of neighbours targeting his tree. 

He alleged that tree surgeons arrived unannounced with chainsaws – hired behind his back to trim the towering Quercus Cerris which is protected under a Tree Preservation Order.

He says his neighbours have also twice asked for council consent to cut back the tree in the last 21 months, with applications wrongly suggesting they were being made by Mr Saunders.

Three anonymous neighbours told MailOnline that the tree is causing them a series of issues, with bird mess from crows damaging car bonnets, leaves and twigs regularly blocking gutters and light to rooms blocked.

Gary Saunders, 71, and his wife Elizabeth claim they are victims of a ‘conspiracy’ by a group of neighbours targeting their tree

The tree was once part of an estate for a stately home before the cul-de-sac was built around 30-years-ago 

Mr and Mrs Saunders insist that they care for the oak properly and have hired tree surgeons three times to control its spread of branches since they moved into their detached home in 1994

He and his wife Elizabeth, a retired primary school deputy head, insist that they care for tree properly and have hired tree surgeons three times to control its spread of branches since they moved into their detached home in 1994.

They also claim that they collect around 60 bin bags full of leaves from the tree and others in their garden and dispose of them to stop them blowing around every Autumn.

But three of their neighbours who have declined to be named have claimed that bird mess from crows currently nesting in the tree has damaged car bonnets, and that leaves and twigs from it regularly blocking their gutters and drains.

They have also voiced concerns about the tree blocking out light into their living rooms and gardens, and potentially hampering TV reception.

One neighbour said: ‘We are having to pay for the costs but he doesn’t seem to want to help us.

‘Someone needs to take responsibility for the damage. We don’t want it cut down, we just want it trimmed and tidied up.’

Mr Saunders said he only found about the second attempt by neighbours to trim the tree in June this year when he saw his name on a council notice detailing the application stuck to a lamppost at the end of his drive. 

One resident blamed Great Yarmouth Borough Council for making mistakes on paperwork that lead to the applications appearing to be from Mr Saunders

Mr Saunders said his problems with neighbours began around ten-years-ago when men with chainsaws suddenly turned up in his garden to trim the tree

Another resident blamed Great Yarmouth Borough Council for making mistakes on paperwork and being to blame for applications appearing to be from Mr Saunders.

Mr Saunders who has Royal Horticultural Society qualifications claimed that another neighbour had bizarrely told him that the water dripping from the tree was potentially heavier than rain falling from the sky, and more likely to damage driveways.

He said the tree was once part of an estate for a stately home before the cul-de-sac was built around 30-years-ago.

Mr Saunders added: ‘We are lucky enough to have loads of trees around here and they have been shedding their leaves for hundreds of years without any problem.’

He said his problems with neighbours began around ten-years-ago when men with chainsaws suddenly turned up in his garden to trim the tree.

Mr Saunders explained: ‘They were slinging ropes up the tree and I asked them what they were doing. They claimed that a neighbour had told them that the council had given permission for the tree to be trimmed.

‘I challenged them and said I wanted to see the permission in writing. Of course, it didn’t exist, so they went away and did not come back.

‘Neighbours told me that birds were pooing on their cars, but that is not a good enough reason to trim a tree with a TPO on it.’

Mr Saunders said an application to trim 5m from the top of the tree was put in by one of his neighbours in June last year, leaving the name of the applicant blank, but giving his address on the form.

The first thing he knew about it was when Graeme Watson, the council’s aboricultural officer, turned up on his doorstep and asked why he wanted to cut back his tree.

Mr Saunders said the first thing he knew about the fake council application was when Graeme Watson, the council’s aboricultural officer, turned up on his doorstep and asked why he wanted to cut back his tree

Mr Saunders and wife Elizabeth of Bradwell near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, pictured next to their towering oak tree in their garden which neighbours want to cut back

A view of the home of Mr and Mrs Saunders near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, with the Turkish oak tree in their garden

Mr Saunders said: ‘I was shocked because I didn’t know anything about it. I didn’t know what he was talking about.

‘He could not see any arboricultural reason for the work to be done, and I told him that I did not want the tree worked on.

‘What upset me was that the form did not give the applicant’s name, but gave my address and stated that the applicant was the owner of the tree.

‘Later in the afternoon, one of my neighbours came round, telling me that he had permission to work on the tree.

‘When I told him that he didn’t, he started shouting. Later I sent him a note asking him to desist from intimidating and threatening me.

‘The council considered the application, even though it was not from me, and dismissed it.

They described the tree as ‘positively contributing to the street scene’ and being part of a wide range of established trees in the area.’

Mr Saunders said he only found about the second attempt by neighbours to trim the tree in June this year when he saw his name on a council notice detailing the application stuck to a lamppost at the end of his drive.

He added: ‘I was not best pleased. The notice was seeking consent to cut branches back 3m from all around the tree.

‘But it was using my name, claiming that I had applied to do the work. I got hold of the tree officer again, and he came round saying, ‘I assume this is not you’.’

Mr Saunders said that the council expert had ruled that the work did not need to be done to the oak and might well kill it by causing ‘large unmanageable wounds within the tree’s canopy’.

The council rejected the application after a report by Mr Watson said that the size of a tree and its proximity to homes causing loss of light ‘should not be a catalyst for works to be undertaken’.

Mr Saunders said: ‘The main reason we bought the house was because it is in a central position with trees on all sides.

‘I love trees and I have planted a range of them since I have been here. It just feels like my neighbours have a conspiracy against my tree.

‘I don’t understand why they keep on trying to get it cut it back when it is not doing any harm. It has never caused any damage as far as I am aware. I just want them to stop.

The neighbour who was behind the recent application to trim the tree claimed that a council mix-up led to the wrong name being used on the form.

Great Yarmouth Borough Council has been approached for comment.

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