Will Howell is furious with his local authority
Will Howell, 49, owns a flat on a block of council-owned homes and, until three years ago, had his own garden along with his neighbours in the council-owned flats. However, Birmingham City Council has since paved over the gardens to create a communal space, something it says other residents have enjoyed.
I just want them to do the right thing. They had their chance at the beginning and made their excuses. They have just left me in the lurch
The dad had only agreed to it on the basis he would get a new garden – but that still has not happened, despite the work being carried out in 2018 after a consultation.
Speaking to Birmingham Live, Mr Howell said: “A council officer said it was obvious I didn’t mow my garden and asked why I would miss it, and what the problem was with making it a communal garden.
“I conveyed to him the garden is part of my property – it is registered with the land registry.
“It’s my own private garden. The kids used to play in it.
“Just because my garden is overgrown doesn’t give Birmingham City Council the right to take my garden and turn it into a communal area.”
Mr Howell, a performance manager in the building industry, moved into the property with his partner at the time along with their children – now 19 and 17 – in 1997, before purchasing it in 2003.
At the back of the property in Shard End, Birmingham, were six separate gardens with six sheds made out of brick, measuring around 2m x 2m x 1.5m, he said.
The communal patio which has replaced residents' gardens
Mr Howell added: “You could fit the kids’ bikes in there and my own cycle in there. They replaced that with a one-metre cubed box.
“They said they would replace it like for like. You couldn’t fit a kid’s bike in it, just a couple of Wellington boots.”
The garden itself was 8m x 5.26m and had a picket fence surrounding it. Mr Howell said it was overgrown because he didn’t have time to tend to it due to work.
He said he was promised the garden would be reinstated following the work – and Mr Howell agreed to it at that point.
But after work finished in 2018, he did not hear from anyone about when a new garden would be put in place, and despite chasing – it is still not in place today.
He said: “They seemed to make promises when they needed to do the work and they went missing afterwards.
“I wasn’t asking for anything over and above. I was just asking for my garden to be put back the way it was. You can’t go round making promises to people and then take their garden away.
“That garden was seriously missed during the Covid period.
“My niece and nephew don’t like it out the back because it’s open to anyone. There are dogs chained up and there’s no private area.
“I just want them to do the right thing. They had their chance at the beginning and made their excuses. They have just left me in the lurch.”
The homeowner remains in dispute with the council
He has also been told by the council he owes £25,000 for the rest of the refurbishment work to the building carried out at the same time, including insulation, rendering, a new roof and an air intake system.
This has now been registered against his property, meaning he would have to pay it off from the proceeds of the sale of the flat.
He said: “That’s more than I paid for the property in the first place.”
Birmingham City Council, controlled by the Labour Party, said it would be working with Mr Howell on a “suitable solution”.
A spokesperson said: “The improvement works were completed to the block as part of a Capital Improvement Programme - as part of any improvement work, consultation does take place with residents who are contacted throughout the process.
“In relation to the Heath Way, the area was identified for major refurbishment, as the gardens at the back were significantly over grown, and unusable to families and residents within the blocks.
“Whilst we do ensure we take into account individual concerns as part of the overall consultation a wider decision has to be made for the benefit of the whole block.
“The work that took place significantly improved the lives of residents in these blocks and the feedback that was gathered from the wider community has been extremely positive.
“In relation to Mr Howell’s concerns a member of the homeownership team will be contacting him to discuss his individual issues further and work with him on a suitable solution.”