Plea to save Jack’s birthday tree house

A TREE house at the bottom of his garden was the dream birthday present for Jack Sanders when he was six-years-old in June last year.

His grandfather made it for him, using wood that had stained dark brown, and placing it on stilts within the canopy of a large leylandi at the bottom of the family’s 25 metre garden in Manor Road, Upper Beeding.

But neighbours complained that the tree house, adjacent to the boundary fence of the two houses, was a breach of their privacy. They told Horsham District Council’s planning department that the tree house directly overlooked a large patio area at the bottom of their garden, which they had already surrounded by an eight foot hedge and seven foot panel fence to ensure privacy and they wanted it to be removed.

They also said that from 25 metres away in the tree house, it was possible to see into their bedroom and bathroom at the rear of their home.

Last week the council’s southern area development committee considered an application from Miss Sanders to retain the tree house for her son.

Planning officer Lisa Da Silva told the committee that the tree house had been built for use by a six-year-old boy. The application was supported by Upper Beeding Parish Council, which saw no reason to refuse permission, and there was also a letter of support from other neighbours of Miss Sanders, who said they had no objection to the child-sized tree house. Because the tree house was built within the tree canopy and in sympathetic materials it could not be seen.

Miss Sanders told the committee: “I have two children, Holly (eight) and Jack (six) and I want them to be able to play creatively in the garden. Jack’s dream for his sixth birthday was to have a tree house and it was built sensitively with appropriate materials. It is hidden amongst large trees and cannot be seen in summer, when there are leaves on the trees.”

She added that if it had been built elsewhere in the garden, it would have been in full view of everyone.

“Also, I can see the neighbouring patio from my bedroom windows and they can also look into my rear windows from their patio,” she said.

The committee was told that because the tree house overlooked and had an adverse effect on the residential amenities of the neighbours in question, permission should be refused.

But Cllr Jim Goddard said his symmpathies lay with Jack and he felt a tree house was delightful for children.

“Can we explore the possibility of restricting the view to the neighbour’s patio instead of refusing this?” he asked.

Other councillors were also sympathetic to finding a way round it and planning office Gary Peck said he thought a decision should be deferred to see if a solution could be found so the treehouse could be retained without so much element of overlooking.

Miss Sanders said after the meeting: “I will gladly put up a screen on the fence side of the tree house to stop any overlooking and will discuss this with officers.”

But the last word came from Jack. “Please, please can I keep my tree house,” he appealed.