A group of St Annes neighbours are up in arms after being ordered to remove their children’s’ toys from a communal garden - or risk having them confiscated.
A number of people living on St David’s Grove said they were told to remove toys, outdoor tables and deck chairs, and a large metal drum used for burning wood from outside their homes by Homestead Consultancy Services, which manages the area.
But Homestead boss David Bentham said the letters were sent out following complaints from other residents, which the company had a duty to uphold.
Sue Sykes, 53, a child-minder who lives on the street, said: “They are essentially telling me I can’t let any children play outside the house which I own. It’s just a nightmare.
“I have got a plastic storage box which I paid £100 for that I put the toys in, and they are saying that I can’t have it, even though it’s right under my front window.
“We pay Homestead £400 a year each for them to take care of the area. It’s supposed to cover a gardener, the painting of properties every two years, and insurance on the buildings.
“Now they are saying everything outside our properties is being lifted. I say that’s theft, but they don’t care.”
David Bentham, managing director of Homestead, said: “We have had complaints from the neighbours about a motorbike parked where it shouldn’t be parked, and complaints of an oil drum positioned in the middle of the footpath.
“This is a communal area that people pay to have quiet enjoyment of and it’s being used for this purpose, and there’s items being left there that their neighbours don’t want to look at.”
A video shared with The Gazette showed a number of people sitting in chairs in the garden while a metal drum burns nearby.
Mr Bentham called the drum “a massive fire hazard” - but Lancashire Fire and Rescue service disagreed.
It said the fire was far enough away from the houses not to be a hazard but that it could pose a health and safety risk due to being left in a communal area.
Dad-of-one Darren Clarke, 46, said he would be willing to remove the drum, but thought it was unfair that the tables, chairs and toys also had to be moved.
He said: “We said we would get rid of the burner bin. But surely they can’t take our children’s toys and scrap them?”
His mum Jeanette, 63, added: “You don’t expect to be told what you can and can’t do outside your own house. We might as well be in a council property if that’s the case.
“My neighbour has had to get rid of two play houses that her kids played in because they complained about that. I have had to move all my granddaughter’s toys from outside my house into another garden further down. I’m fuming.
“We have all gone halves on tables and chairs for the garden and now they are telling us we’ve got to get rid of it. We always keep it tidy.”
Mr Bentham said: “We are simply responding to their neighbours saying they don’t think this is a fair use of their gardens.
“We have asked them to tidy up, which I feel is a reasonable request on land which is owned by their neighbours as well as by them.”
He added: “These are complaints which are coming from their neighbours. We have been asked to act and they are quite right.
“If their neighbours decided to take action against Homestead, we would be in the mire as well.”
A spokesman for Lancashire Fire and Rescue Service, who saw the video of the burning drum in the communal garden on St David’s Grove, said the fire was far enough away from any properties not to pose a hazard, and that it would be perfectly acceptable in a private garden.
However, he said that because it was positioned in a communal garden and was left unattended for a short period of time, it could pose a health and safety risk to children.