FOR 25 YEARS Miriam Weeks and other tenants of two adjoining properties in Crystal Palace have lovingly tended the combined back garden of their homes.
But now, says Miriam, the combined garden has been wrecked – by contractors working for a HOUSING ASSOCIATION.
“What they have cut down so far is
- four apple trees
- some small plum trees
- elderflower trees (you can make elderflower champagne from their white flowers)
- blackcurrant, redcurrant, raspberry amd cherry bushes and most of the small trees in the garden.
“On the large trees they are waiting for the tree surgeons.”
The front gardens of the two properties at 58 and 60 Alexandra Drive are now covered mostly by wood chippings.
Her comments come amid fears that the housing association – Croydon-based AmicusHorizon – could do the same thing to back gardens of other houses they own in the same street.
“They sent us a letter saying they were coming with a skip to take rubbish out of the garden so we were expecting them to just tidy up” Miriam told News From Crystal Palace.
“There was no mention about doing any gardening and no consultation except with one tenant who’s new. “She happily told an AmicusHorizon housing officer her ideal garden. “As far as I know that officer didn’t go to anybody else.
“She certainly didn’t come to me and she knew I’d been doing the garden.”
Miriam says she spoke to one of the contractors before the work started after spotting him in the garden.
“”I explained to him what all the trees were and that I’d been working on the garden for 25 years and he respected that. “He said what they would do would enhance the garden.
“So they did that for two weeks and then the housing officer came down and said ‘No – take everything out, cut everything down.’ So that’s what they had to start doing.
“And the boys weren’t particularly happy about doing it because they knew it would cause upset with the residents.
“That’s when they started cutting down the fruit trees and the shrubs.”
Miriam moved to her home in Alexandra Drive in 1989. “We were a housing co-operative – a tenant-managed experiment which they don’t do anymore. so a lot of people did work on the garden in the first five years but since then it’s been mostly me..”
She describes her reaction to what has happened as “heartbreak, flabbergasted. “Just unbelievable that anyone would do that.
“They haven’t just been taking out the plants they have been taking out property. “They took out the shed which had gardening items, children’s toys, garden bin bags in it.
“We had log piles with wildlife in. “There were insects in the trees. “This is the time birds eggs are hatching – and we’re supposed to be encouraging bees, aren’t we?
“Everyone I’ve spoken to is horrified at what they have done. “It’s not in the spirit of the age, is it?”
ASBESTOS Miriam said she tried to warn contractors about asbestos buried at the end of the garden. “The contractor complained that I was disturbing the workmen and interfering with the work.
“I’d been picking it up for a long time without realising what it was. “I got the housing association to do a survey and it was confirmed but they sent me an email saying it was safe,.
“I know asbestos isn’t safe. “My dad died from an asbestos – related disease.”
And when she tried to film the workmen with her mobile phone “the contractor tried to grab my phone”
Now Miriam has had a letter from Michael Whealer, neighbourhood manager at AmicusHorizon,
In his letter Mr Whealer says contractors have complained that Miriam has been “interfering with their work” .
“They have informed me that you have:
- disturbed and disrupted their works
- interfered with works by insisting that they stop using equipment even though it is being used at acceptable times of the day
- removed items from skips
- photographed them without permission
- videoed them without permission.”
The letter threatens Miriam with “possible legal action” if there is “a repeat of this behaviour”
The back garden, with a combined area of around 70 ft by 60 ft,has now been split down the middle with a fence.
And AmicusHorizon have now written to tenants saying they will be introducing a service charge of £2.99 a week to include cleaning – and ground maintenance……
NEWS FROM CRYSTAL PALACE emailed the housing association with a raft of questions. These are the questions – and AmicusHorizon’s responses:
Were there any complaints by tenants or housing association officers about the garden or her planting of it? If so, please give details.
The communal garden at 58/60 Alexandra Drive belongs to AmicusHorizon. We’re committed to bringing all street property communal areas up to AmicusHorizon standards. We had received complaints from residents about the condition of the garden at 58/60 Alexandra Drive. The consensus from residents and surrounding neighbours was the garden was in a bad state, a potential health hazard, and action needed to be taken.
Did your housing officer go to any of the other people living at 58 and / or 60 Alexandra Drive to ask their views on the garden/s – front or back?
AmicusHorizon carried out a site visit in November 2013 and discussed ideas with residents about what could be done to improve the garden. We asked what they’d like to see, with the aim of creating a communal garden that would leave people feeling proud of their area. Before implementing these changes, the contractors wrote to all residents explaining when work would start. Everybody had the opportunity to express any objections to the scheme before this work started.
If so, what views did they give?
No objections were received prior to the work being carried out. The consensus view was that it would be a positive step to carry out work on the garden to bring it up to standard.
Why was Miriam Weeks left out of this consultation?
Miriam Weeks was not left out of the consultation.
GARDEN SHED AND CONTENTS
Was Miriam Weeks given any prior warning about the shed being removed?
All residents were given specific notice as to when the work on the garden would begin and were asked to remove any items belonging to them beforehand. We spoke directly to Miriam Weeks about the shed and she was advised to remove any personal belongings inside it and in the garden.
Under what rights did Amicus Horizon have this shed removed and destroyed?
The shed was structurally unsound and presented a health and safety danger to all residents. The shed collapsed once the contractors started clearing the bushes around it and the shrubbery and vegetation on it.
Why were some of the contents of the shed given away by contractors to passers-by?
There were no personal goods in the shed. There were some unclaimed items among the debris in the gardens. These were in a very poor state of repair and were assumed to be refuse as residents had been notified to remove any personal belongings.
When did Amicus Horizon become aware there was asbestos buried in the back garden?
We have been aware of low risk asbestos on the site following a report carried out by Tersus in 2012 that categorised it as low risk.
Do you still stand by your claims that the asbestos is harmless? If so,why?
The report, from asbestos specialist Tersus, provides details about the asbestos on this site and how to treat it to ensure it remains safe. Following the clearing of the garden, we have laid down a membrane over the top soil and wood chip has been overlaid on this.
What other properties in Alexandra Drive does Amicus Horizon own or lease? please give a full list of properties. Will these gardens – front and back – be subjected to similar treatment?
As we’ve previously stated, we’re looking at improving communal areas for all of our street properties – following due consultation with residents.
What compensation will you give Miriam Weeks for the loss of children’s toys, gardening implements, etc?
Miriam Weeks would need to formally put in a compensation claim. This would be assessed in line with our compensation policy.
When will you be replacing the shed?
We will continue to consult with both Miriam and the other residents of 58/60 Alexandra Drive to discuss what continued improvements they would like to see made to the communal garden.