Published: 15:35, 03 March 2021
| Updated: 16:38, 03 March 2021
Homeowners have been told they cannot trim troublesome trees which they claim are denying them a "right to light" and plunging their homes into "depressing darkness".
Dartford council will decide later this month whether an order protecting four mature sweet chestnut trees in Ferndell Avenue, Joyden's Wood can stay in place.
Each are between 60-70ft high prompting ongoing concerns of "overshadowing" for neighbouring residents in Summerhouse Drive.
They claim the authority has refused to consistently maintain the growing trees and their overextended limbs to a reasonable size, denying them a "right to light".
Roots are also being blamed for cracks appearing in the outside walls of homes and damage caused to fence posts.
But the council says the trees have been properly maintained for many years and have been reduced in height and thinned at the request of residents.
They explained there was no evidence of structural damage to homes and say with no leaves at present there should be no issue with light.
However, Summerhouse Drive resident Richard Jones, whose home is affected, claims all "reasonable requests" to prune branches and cut back overhanging foliage have been ignored.
"This has been a long running battle that my neighbours and I have had, with Dartford council over a great many years," the former communications chief said.
"The darkness that we suffer because the trees block out daylight, grossly affects the pleasures of family life because our home has become so depressingly dark."
Neighbours backed a petition to voice their grievances but Mr Jones says the council instead responded by putting a provisional tree preservation order (TPO) in place in December.
A TPO is made to protect specific trees or a particular woodland from deliberate damage and destruction.
They prevent the felling, lopping, topping, uprooting or otherwise wilful damaging of trees without the permission of the local planning authority.
According to the council the trees were perceived to be at risk and worthy of protection from an aboricultural point of view.
Sweet chestnuts can grow to heights exceeding 100ft and can live for up to 700 years.
Mr Jones claims all efforts to prune the trees so far had been piecemeal and restricted to "a few twigs" here and there.
He also says he has been forced to purchase extra brown recycling bins from the council, at his own expense, to clear hundreds of conkers which have landed in his garden.
The NHS contractor warned: "Eventually it will cover the whole of the road and the whole of my garden."
With no end to the problem in sight Mr Jones has instructed an independent chartered surveyor to conduct a right of light report on his own home.
The report concluded: "The results show that based on the traditional methodology used to assess right to light cases there is an actionable loss of light to the ground floor bathroom and living/kitchen/dining room as a result of the neighbouring trees."
However, it explained cases are rarely straight forward –especially if branches allow for light to penetrate through the foliage – and so far as negotiations and legal action were concerned, it was considered a "grey area".
But Mr Jones insisted: "We have a right to light the council are not taking any notice of."
"It has got worse since lockdown. It is so depressing - they just don't care.
"All we are asking for is to be reasonable, to behave in a reasonable manner to the electorate."
Dartford council spokesman Caroline Green said: "The council is aware of residents’ concerns with a row of mature sweet chestnut trees that runs along the edge of Ferndell Avenue, Joydens Wood, four of which are covered by a TPO.
"These trees have received appropriate maintenance over many years, and have previously been reduced in height and thinned in order to deal with any concerns.
"They are currently bare of any leaves, so there should be no issue with light, and there is no evidence that the trees are causing any structural damage to nearby properties.
"The provisional TPO was made in December 2020 because the council considered the trees to be at risk, but this matter will be reviewed and any concerns from local residents will be taken into account, at our Development Control Board meeting on March 18 2021."