Neighbours who spent three months building rockery forced to remove it

Neighbours who spent three months building a rockery outside their flats are forced to remove it by council over health and safety fears

  • Neighbours at block of flats in Bournemouth created rockery during lockdown  
  • Display included low-level walls, plant pots, a flower border and a shingle bank 
  • The council ordered to demolish it due to worries over loose stones and rocks
  • John Supron, who helped build rockery, said it was ‘health and safety gone mad’

Neighbours who spent three months building a rockery outside their flats have been forced to remove it by the council over health and safety fears. 

Town Hall bureaucrats feared tenants could trip over some of the rocks and slabs that formed part of the display built into a grassy bank.

Occupants in the council-run block of flats in Westbourne, Bournemouth, Dorset, created the rockery during lockdown.

Those who took part in the project included a former builder and retired landscape gardener.

Neighbours John Supron and Neil Logan pictured in front of the bare earth after they ordered by Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council to remove the rockery

They wanted to smarten up the grounds at the front of the sheltered accommodation which had been covered by overgrown bushes and brambles.

The display included low-level walls made from stone, plant pots filled with conifer bushes and palms, a flower border and a shingle bank.

But after finishing the project they received a visit from an official from Bournemouth Christchurch and Poole (BCP) Council and were told they should have sought permission before undertaking the work.

The group were then ordered to demolish it due to worries over loose stones and slabs.

John Supron, who helped build the rockery, accused the council of ‘health and safety gone mad’.

The 71-year-old retired construction worker said all the materials used had been donated by a nearby builders yard.

Mr Supron said: ‘That part of the grounds was in a right state before we out the rockery in.

‘We had overgrown bushes which were full of nettles. There were overgrown weeds and they were all taken down and we put rockeries there with plants, we made it look really nice.

‘The rockery was mainly done by one of my neighbours who is a former landscape gardener so it was all done to a high standard.

‘We made it look nice and as soon as it was done the council came down and said they were going to take away the materials used.

The rockery created by the flats’ occupants before it had to be removed. They wanted to smarten up the grounds at the front of the sheltered accommodation

‘So we removed the display in order to keep the materials which are now in a big pile on the grounds.

‘It took us about three months to build and we took it apart in a day. The council were saying we should have got permission to do this for health and safety purposes.

‘The council said that someone walking on the grass above it could slip and hurt themselves even though nobody walks along there anyway.

‘It’s health and safety gone mad.’

Mr Surpon also accused the Council of double standards, saying: ‘We also bought a lawnmower to look after the grass out the front and put up and painted a new fence.

‘The council talk about the rockery having to go for health and safety reasons but they are still happy for us to do those more grubby jobs.

‘There are double standards from them. Literally right across the road is where they pile up tarmac for roadworks.

‘The pile has no cover and eventually it’s going to turn all of our windows black. They are concerned about health and safety but only when it suits them.’

The area pictured after the rockery was removed. The council feared tenants could trip over some of the loose rocks and slabs that formed part of the display built into the grassy bank

The council encourages residents in the sheltered housing to become involved in ‘communal gardening’.

But BCP Council said they had no choice to ask for the rockery to be removed as it did not have permission.

A spokesman said: ‘We are passionate about our communities and we are always pleased to see residents take an interest in helping look after communal gardens.

‘It shows that they take pride in where they live and improves the appearance of the area.

‘However, a significant amount of work has been carried out at Ivy House and whilst some of it does look nice, it has been undertaken without our permission.

‘The council is responsible for maintaining the communal gardens and there are loose stones and slabs which now raise concerns about safety and ease of maintenance.

‘We are happy to meet with residents to agree on what appropriate steps we can take to improve the area.’

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