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Property tycoon ordered to cut down towering hedge that blocks neighbours’ sunlight

Disgruntled neighbours demonstrating the sheer height of the Dyers' 26ft Leylandii hedge
Disgruntled neighbours help to demonstrating the height of the Dyers' 26ft Leylandii hedge, the top of which does not fit in this image - CHAMPION NEWS SERVICE

A property tycoon and his wife, who erected a hedge that grew to 26ft high alongside a helipad at their Surrey home, have been defeated in a three-year legal fight which turned their idyllic village into “a battlefield”.

One neighbour complained that the Leylandii hedge installed by Mark Dyer and his wife Clare blocked light from the front of his property and completely obscured the views he had previously enjoyed over the countryside.

In turn, Mr and Mrs Dyer accused what they claimed was a “menacing gang of neighbours” of harassment, following the building of the helipad in their field in the hamlet of Brook.

But a judge has now handed victory to neighbour Dr Andrew Cross by ruling that the height of the hedge must be substantially reduced.

Dismissing a challenge by Mrs Dyer to a planning inspector’s 2023 ruling, Judge Karen Walden-Smith has ordered that the hedge be cut back to a height of about 16ft.

The decision has been welcomed by Dr Cross, 64, and his allies.

The Dyers' neighbours (L-R) Dr Andrew Cross, Susan Small and husband David Small, Patricia Webb, who objected to their planning applications
The Dyers' neighbours (L-R) Dr Andrew Cross, Susan Small and husband David Small, Patricia Webb, who objected to their planning applications - CHAMPION NEWS SERVICE

Speaking outside court, he said: “My family and I are delighted with this decision, which comes almost three years after my high hedge complaint was lodged.

“The hedge is less than 15ft from my front boundary. The hedge towers above the chimney pots of my home, reducing light, and has a very overpowering effect on the entire frontage of my property.”

During a previous hearing, the High Court in London heard that the Dyers, both 59, moved to Brook 25 years ago, buying a sprawling country home, Cheynes, which now boasts a pool and tennis court.

But over the years that followed they ruffled their neighbours’ feathers by submitting more than 50 planning applications in relation to Cheynes and two nearby cottages owned by Mrs Dyer.

In 2007, they clashed with council planning officers after building a helipad in their field, which they were ordered to rip up by way of an enforcement notice.

However, the dispute with their neighbours continued and the case reached court in May last year when the Dyers asked for an injunction against Dr Cross and three others – retired bank executive David Small and his wife Susan, along with charity trustee Patricia Webb, all in their 70s and 80s – to prevent them objecting to their planning proposals.

The Dyers’ legal team claimed they had been victims of a “personal vendetta” by their neighbours, who they claimed used planning objections as a “device” to thwart perfectly reasonable expansion plans.

They claimed that Guildford borough council had been bombarded with “spurious and unmeritorious” objections to their planning proposals, and alleged specific acts of alleged harassment.

A High Court judge has ordered that the hedge be cut back to a height of about 16ft
A High Court judge has ordered that the hedge be cut back, as it towers over homes and their occupants - GOOGLE MAPS

However, the neighbours’ lawyers claimed the Dyers were deliberately painting innocent acts in a sinister light.

Last July, Judge Dexter Dias KC declined to grant a temporary injunction and ordered the Dyers to foot their neighbours’ legal bills, estimated at £200,000, ahead of a full assessment of the costs.

Lamenting the situation the neighbours have found themselves in, the judge said: “Village life in England is one of the glories of this country, but a different side of its underbelly is on view in this case.

“While it’s said that an English person’s home is their castle, here it’s become in some ways a battlefield.”

Central to the dispute was the Leylandii hedge, which has been in place since around 2007 and which Dr Cross first complained about in 2021, after spending the Covid-19 lockdown researching planning law.

Guildford borough council agreed that the hedge should be lopped to a height of 14ft, but that was tweaked to 16ft by a planning inspector after an appeal by Ms Dyer, who had tried to get the whole order overturned.

In her appeal decision, the planning inspector said it was likely that the hedge caused a “significant obstruction of daylight and sunlight to habitable rooms” at Dr Cross’s home, Cannons, and created an “oppressive outlook.”

The inspector wrote: “In this case, the height and length of the hedge obscures most of the field of view from the windows and the frontage of Cannons. In my judgment, the height of the hedge therefore has a harmful and overbearing and over-dominant effect on the outlook from Cannons.”

For her part, Mrs Dyer complained that reducing the height of the hedge would result in a loss of privacy at her property.

But the inspector said a hedge height of no more than about 17ft would be sufficient to protect the privacy of the Dyers’ home, with the top of Dr Cross’s upper windows less than about 16ft high.

Following a short hearing, Judge Walden-Smith rejected Mrs Dyer’s application for a full judicial review challenge to the planning inspector’s decision.

The order means Mr and Mrs Dyer will have to cut the hedge back initially to 16ft and then maintain it at no higher than 17ft.

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