A well-known botanist has been fined almost £2, 000 after ignoring council orders to clean up his “junk yard” front garden.
But Anthony Hamilton, who has campaigned hard against the local authority in recent years, alleges the action was part of an ongoing grudge match, and labelled it a “cynical attempt to raise money”.
Mr Hamilton, 75, of Southcourt Avenue, says the rubbish pile began to grow after he started building an extension in 2011, and that he made sure the local authorities knew of the works, and understood there would be mess.
But officers from Rother District Council (RDC) and East Sussex County Council (ESCC) deny any kind of arrangement with Mr Hamilton, who worked as a university lecturer in plant sciences before retirement.
Council officers say the garden had become a “blot on the Bexhill landscape”.
Mick Adams, RDC enforcement team leader, said the garden was having a “harmful effect” on the local area.
“The condition of this property, which was more akin to a junk yard than a domestic garden, was an eyesore in what was otherwise a neat and tidy residential street,” he said.
RDC officers first visited the property in January 2013, and issued an enforcement notice the following month.
Mr Hamilton believed he had an understanding with ESCC that gave him some leeway while building works were being carried out.
He ignored the notice, and after a follow-up visit in November 2013 found no improvement, RDC officers brought charges under the Town and Country Planning Act 1990.
At a hearing at Hastings Magistrates’ Court on Tuesday, July 29, Mr Hamilton admitted the charge and was fined £1, 929.
Yet after the hearing, Mr Hamilton, a regular contributor to the Observer’s letters pages, said: “This is sheer opportunism. I had an arrangement with ESCC, I approached them before my building work started.
“This situation should never have happened.”
He also alleged the attention on his garden was connected with his long-standing habit of asking awkward questions at RDC meetings.
Since 2009, Mr Hamilton has been a consistent thorn in the side of the council, campaigning on, variously, the choice of plants in the West Parade Next Wave development; the design of the shelters for that same development; and the response time for a consultation on the project.
An ESCC spokesman pointed out that the enforcement order related to Mr Hamilton’s garden, which has nothing to do with them.
When asked about the case, Tim Fletcher, spokesman for Rother District Council, said: “The offence Mr Hamilton was convicted of relates to rubbish being kept on his private property.
“Any conversation he may or may not have had with county council about alterations to the location is of no relevance to this case.”
Mr Hamilton vowed to continue with his building work, albeit with his now tidier garden, and added that he “refuses to be intimidated” by RDC.
“I shall also continue to raise embarrassing questions at Council meetings,” he added. “Until the seafront fiasco job is properly done.”