A COUPLE who denied their 65ft trees made their neighbours’ lives a misery have lost their fight to stop them being chopped down.
George Alcock and his wife insisted their lives were being ruined by a row of 65ft spruces owned by businesswoman Katie Drummond and her husband Alasdair in the village of Dunlop, Ayrshire.
The Alcocks said they were unable to use their garden because of dampness and believed their mental health was suffering as a result of living in the shadow of the trees.
They also claimed their home was kept in darkness and that they had to keep lights on inside the property all year round.
But the Drummonds denied the allegations and insisted there were enough gaps to allow sufficient natural light into the Alcock’s property and garden.
The Alcocks turned to East Ayrshire Council under high hedge legislation and the authority subsequently ordered that the trees be cut to 30ft after ruling they were ‘causing detriment’ to the Alcock’s lives by restricting light and casting an ‘overbearing’ shadow on their home.
The Drummonds appealed the council decision to the Scottish Government and argued that officials failed to follow high hedge regulations because the trees do not form a hedge as they are spaced apart and do not create a barrier to their neighbours’ home.
However a government reporter has now upheld the council ruling and ordered the trees be chopped down.
In a document to the government, the Drummonds said: “The trees are a natural boundary to our property and provide privacy, and are very much part of the rural and natural landscape that we are surrounded by within the conservation village where we live.
“We absolutely would argue that they are not a hedge and were never planted as a hedge.
“The majority of them are spruce trees which would not be a tree that anyone would choose to plant as a hedge.
“They are part of a natural boundary line in keeping with the rural landscape that we are privileged to live in.
“Our trees do not form a barrier to light.
“Furthermore, they are spruce trees and therefore would not be classified as a typical tree planted to form a hedge, nor are they a shrub.
“Their branches are sparse and let lots of natural light and sunlight through.”
The Alcocks said: “There are approximately 20 trees in a row that cover the width of our house, the next door neighbour and her two neighbours, that block out any sunlight for most of the day for most of the year to our property and garden.
“The majority of the garden is constantly in shade, making it difficult to utilise the garden throughout both summer and winter months.
“The lawn never dries out and is constantly soggy, making it difficult to cut.
“The house is cold and dark – heating and lighting are constantly used to supplement this.
“We have invested in two skylight windows to try and counteract the lack of light. However, this is still insufficient.”
They added: “Living in continuous ‘shadow’ causes frustration, stress and low mood on most days when we could benefit from access to sunlight, which for most is a reasonable expectation.
“The trees are overwhelmingly obtrusive.
“When you’re living with ‘overwhelmingly obtrusive’ every single day, it has a huge impact on overall mental health and wellbeing feeling restricted and barricaded in.
“It is truly upsetting on a bright sunny day not to be able to enjoy the warmth and the sun that is available to others.”
Government reporter Sue Bell said: “I have considered the appellants’ view that the trees were not planted as a hedge, but are part of a natural boundary line. I have not been provided with any evidence to either support or refute this claim and note that the trees pre-date construction of the appellants’ home making it difficult to determine the original function and purpose of the trees.
“Given the type of trees and their regular arrangement, I find that it is highly unlikely that they occurred naturally.
“In conclusion, irrespective of the purpose of the recent management of the trees, based on their type; their location within the appellant’s property and relationship to the appellants’ boundary; their arrangement of planting; the distance between the stems; and the coalescence of the canopy, I conclude that the evergreen trees do form a hedge.
“I have considered all of the other points raised in representations, but there are none that would lead me to reach a different conclusion.
“Whilst I note the obvious attachment that the appellants’ have for the trees that form the hedge, I accept the assessment made by East Ayrshire Council that they are having an adverse effect on the reasonable enjoyment of the neighbouring property and must be reduced in height.
“I therefore dismiss the appeal.”