George Bartlam and wife Judith had planned with precision for their self build project. What they did not expect was a troublesome neighbour intent on stopping the build at all costs.
Self Build Dream
George and Judith had taken early retirement and moved to the Kent coast where they had purchased a small building plot. George explains what happened to the couple. “We’d purchased the plot a year previously and had cleared the site and put up fences at weekends and during our annual holiday. Yes there had been a little vandalism but these days you expect that sort of thing when you don’t live on the site don’t you? We hadn’t met the close neighbours as one side was a holiday let and the other never seemed to be home when we called. We did make a point of dropping off a Christmas card and also a letter introducing ourselves but never received a reply. There again we only had a temporary letter box nailed to the fence and as it was often stuffed with rubbish or pulled off the fence perhaps they had decided against it.
The plans for our bungalow went through with no objections and two weeks after Judith left her job we moved into a caravan on the site. Although we had employed a local builder I intended to roll up my sleeves and help as much as I could with some of the manual jobs. Judith too spent her time looking after the site and doing all the paperwork. There seemed to be lots of it as well! The first sign of trouble was when we found the fence fronting the plot sprayed with lewd comments and threats about our safety if we stayed. We told the police but nothing could be done unless the culprits were caught. The following night we awoke to the smell of burning, the fence was alight and there was a strong smell of petrol. The emergency service was with us within minutes and we were advised to erect some form of floodlights so that any miscreants were warned away.
Close Circuit Television
I went one better and set up a close circuit television system. It was not expensive, we obtained it from our building material superstore and it ran through our video so we could record any activity and also see what was happening. It became compulsive viewing but after several nights of watching dog walkers and courting couples we left it to record and went back to our usual viewing. Not long afterwards we found that the store where our tools were kept had been broken into and several thousand pounds worth of building equipment had gone. What really alarmed us were the petrol soaked rags left close to our caravan that by a miracle had not ignited. The police came back at once. Viewing the security film we could see two dark figures cutting the cable to the floodlight and creeping about the site intent on trouble. Several frames showed two young faces and the police identified them as being known to them. They were the sons of our elusive next door neighbour.
Future in our Self Build Home
Arrests were made and what surprised us most was that the parents knew what their offspring were up to. It seemed that our plot had been their playground for many years and the youths were not happy when it was sold to us for the building of our new home. Furthermore the father had wanted to keep horses on the plot which he had seen as his right. They had no desire to complain against our plans as they had no case against us but instead tried to drive us away. Their actions could have killed us both in our beds. The parents were cautioned by the police and the two boys sent to an institution for correction as they were too young for prison. We built a high brick wall and considered moving away, but the publicity surrounding the case would most likely have put off buyers. Six months later the father of the boys went to prison for another offence and the wife moved away from the area. Judith always says that the good guys won in the end and we are still in our lovely new home by the coast!”