A NSW couple has taken their neighbour to court over trees they claimed blocked their views of the ocean from their coastal home.
William and Roslyn Akhurst have lived in their Forster property, on the NSW north coast, since 1987 and have enjoyed views of One Mile Beach, Cape Hawke and the ocean from their living area, kitchen, and rear balcony.
In the recent past, trees in their neighbour Claire Fletcher’s property have grown to obstruct these views, they said in an application to the Land and Environment Court.
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On her property, Fletcher has several trees that “provide screening and contribute to (her) garden”.
“In the absence of the trees, the (Akhursts) would be exposed on their rear balcony, from which they overlook (Fletcher’s) house and rear yard,” Acting Commissioner of the Court John Douglas said in a decision handed down last week.
William Akhurst, who works as a solicitor, wrote letters of demand to Fletcher on several occasions, proposing pruning and maintenance of her trees to a height of 2.5m to relieve the obstruction.
However, all the letters were sent to the wrong address and to a disused email.
Fletcher was first notified of her neighbour’s request when they made their application to the court.
At the time, she was recovering in hospital from surgery, so the application was served on her daughter, Raelene.
In their application, the Akhursts asked the court to make an order for Fletcher to have all six trees blocking their view pruned and maintained at a height of no more than 2.5m above natural ground level.
In response, Fletcher agreed one tree could be removed or pruned to 2.5m and other trees could be pruned to the height of other trees near the properties’ boundary.
However, Fletcher’s son claimed one tree in particular had great sentimental value for his mother and opposed to pruning the tree to 2.5m because it “would not survive” such harsh pruning.
He also noted the tree is an “integral part of the garden design and attracts abundant birdlife”.
Fletcher’s daughter added that the tree “provides privacy, heat absorption, and shade, which was particularly important as her mother was sun sensitive following chemotherapy”.
Ultimately, the Akhursts application was unsuccessful as the onus to prove their case was on them and they failed to address key jurisdictional requirements according to the relevant act, Douglas said.
“Nonetheless, the pruning proposed by Nathan Fletcher in the respondent’s alternative orders … would lead to a marked reduction of the applicants’ view obstruction, without significantly compromising the trees’ benefits to the respondent,” Douglas said.
“Opportunity may therefore exist for further negotiations between the parties.”
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