Saturday, 28 November 2020

This crane’s a pain

A WOMAN has won her fight to have a tower crane looming over her back garden removed —

A WOMAN has won her fight to have a tower crane looming over her back garden removed — thanks to the Henley Standard.

Nicola Astles-Jones, of Elvendon Road, Goring, threatened legal action when the 100ft machine appeared last month.

The crane was put up by Leadbitter Construction, of Abingdon, which is redeveloping the sheltered housing complex in Icknield Place for housing association Soha. It was due to remain in place until the spring.

A few days before it arrived on October 29, the company sent a letter to all residents in Elvendon Road whose properties back on to the site.

Mrs Astles-Jones says the company promised the crane arm would not swing over their homes but it broke this pledge within a few days.

When the crane was over her property, it covered a stretch of about 30ft of her 90ft garden. Mrs Astles-Jones, who lives with husband Oliver and children Tristan, 10, and Orla, seven, said: “The letter from Leadbitter didn’t say what the purpose of the crane was and just gave a rough sketch of where it would go.

“They said it wouldn’t swing over our gardens but even at the time I thought it would be hard not to because it’s a fairly small site.

“It first swept over at about 4pm on Halloween. I was getting the kids ready to go out and my son said he’d seen it.

“It is quite intimidating to be honest. It is colossal in relation to our house.

“My children often play out in the garden and I worried about what might happen with all the wind we’ve been having. They kept coming in to say, ‘Mummy, it’s over the garden again’.”

Mrs Astles-Jones said Leadbitter told her it had considered using a luffing jib, a crane with a bendable arm that can be used in tight spaces but decided against this as the cabin would have overlooked people’s gardens.

Another alternative was to move building materials with fork lift trucks but these would be hard to manoeuvre on such a small site.

Mrs Astles-Jones contacted South Oxfordshire District Council as the planning authority but was told it was not a planning issue. However, after being contacted by the Henley Standard, the company began dismantling the crane.

Mrs Astles-Jones said: “I received a letter to confirm that Leadbitter are to dismantle the crane — no apology and no explanation. The letter is glib and I am cross to say the least.

“Shame on them. No matter which way you look at this, their actions have been indefensible.”

Mrs Astles-Jones had also consulted a solicitor with a view to taking Leadbitter to court.

Suspending a crane over someone else’s land is called oversailing and is a matter of civil law. This means it is not a crime and landowners must take private legal action to resolve any issues.

In some instances, people have successfully sued for damages or taken out injunctions ordering construction companies to move their cranes.

In other cases, judges have dismissed claims because they have deemed homeowners’ demands unreasonable.

The redevelopment of Icknield Place was approved last year despite opposition from residents. Soha began demolishing the 27 Sixties flats in July and is replacing them with a three-storey block of 40 apartments for the elderly.

The parish council and neighbours said the building would be too imposing, would overlook homes and was out of keeping with the Chilterns Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.

Soha argued the development was necessary to meet growing demand and that the old flats no longer met modern standards.

Leadbitter declined to comment.

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