'My garden is dropping into a ditch - and it's going to take my replica signal box with it'
A householder from Euxton is calling for action to protect his back garden – before part of it disappears into a drainage ditch.
Peter Gammon says that erosion caused by a surface water drain is threatening to cause a complete collapse of the embankment to the rear of his home on Earls Way.
The 67-year-old railway enthusiast has been forced to dismantle a shed designed in the style of signal box after the land on which it stands visibly started to tilt towards the watercourse.
Peter claims that Chorley Council had previously indicated that it would carry out the necessary work to stop the slippage by diverting the open drain into a nearby playing field – but has now moved the goalposts. Back in May, the authority asked nine households for a contribution of £7,000 each towards half the total cost of the project, which is estimated at over £120,000.
However, Peter says that in several years of earlier correspondence on the subject, there had been no suggestion that residents would have to stump up such a significant amount.
“This has gone on for a decade and I have emails from people employed by the council saying things like they ‘would not abandon us’,” Peter recalls.
“Late last year, I was led to believe that work would start soon after Christmas and then they changed their position. Well, the time for talking has passed and the problem needs addressing now – because this land will not survive a bad winter.”
Having contacted his neighbours, Peter believes that his is one of only three properties, not nine, affected by the erosion – pushing up the price each of them would have to pay for a remedy to over £20,000.
He also says that the council has come to several different conclusions over the years about who owns the land through which the ditch runs – the latest of which acknowledges that Peter’s ownership stops short of the drain itself.
“If our boundary line comes before the actual drainage area where the water is flowing, then how can it be anything to do with the residents?” he asks.
“Whoever owns the land, the fragility of it is being caused by the water. So any funding for this work shouldn’t be sought from the residents, but recovered from [water company] United Utilities.”
But the firm said in a statement that “the asset we have responsibility for in this location is working as designed and is not contributing to the issue being raised”.
Meanwhile, Chorley Council has said that any actions which it has taken to date – including stabilising Peter’s signal box shed in the short-term – were “goodwill gestures”.
The authority’s leader Alistair Bradley said the council had been doing what it could to resolve “a really difficult issue for the residents affected”.
“We are not responsible for the slippage or the cost of any remedial works, but to help out we have come up with a proposal to divert the watercourse that would solve the problem and benefit those living in the properties that back on to it,” Cllr Bradley said.
“We have offered to facilitate and manage these works and fund half the cost, because we appreciate that it is a lot of money – but so far we haven’t had any response from the residents.
“If any of the residents feel they have been misinformed in the past and given the impression that the council would fund all of the works, then we apologise for this – but it is a matter on private land and, as such, the liability falls with the landowner,” he added.
For Peter and his wife Susan, as well as the unknown date on which a section of their garden may slide into oblivion, they are also faced with a fixed time by which they need to find new insurance for their home.
“Our current provider is exiting the market in less than three months’ time and no other insurer is going to touch us as things stand.
“I don’t want to use the term human rights, but I must have rights. All of the council officers are very decent people, but I think they have been badly advised.
“I’m retired and I should be sitting in that signal box sipping a gin and tonic, not worrying about when it is going to fall down the embankment – or how much we’re going to have to pay to stop that happening,” Peter says.