Shocked residents have accused a house-building giant of a “disgraceful” land grab after being told to hand back part of their gardens just months after moving in.
Homeowners on a new development in Cottam say the bombshell announcement, which will see Wainhomes snatch up to three metres off their property, is due to be carried out this week because a fence has been built on the wrong line.
One resident will have to rip up £2,000 of new decking and £600 of turf when workmen move her rear fence closer to the house.
Another will be forced to move flagstones, a shed and a children’s trampoline as the builders reclaim a sizeable portion of her back garden.
Yet some of the householders claim the message from the company, which built the six houses in Harvester Drive as part of the huge Paddocks development on Sandy Lane, is simply: “It’s not up for debate - we’re doing it whether you like it or not.”
First-time buyer Gemma Barnes, who only moved into her three-bedroomed semi with partner Christopher Sharrock in September, stormed: “It’s disgusting. We couldn’t believe it when we got a letter saying they wanted some of our garden back.
“This is our first home and it’s a real shock. They aren’t big gardens to start with. But to be told after just six months in the house that you have to give back up to three metres of your garden because they made a mistake is shocking.
“And it’s the way they’ve gone about it. As far as we’re concerned we bought this house thinking the garden was this size. So, to me, for builders to just come in and snatch back some land is disgraceful.
“We’re going to lose from about a metre at one side to probably two metres at the other.
“We’ve tried speaking to our solicitor. But she has basically ignored us. The majority of us are all represented by the same firm - a firm that Wainhomes recommended.”
Next-door neighbour Carley Crook faces having her expensive decking and lawn area torn up and reconstructed when contractors reclaim a triangular piece of her garden.
She claimed she had approached Wainhomes about compensation for the work needed to put her garden back together and had been told: “Get an estimate and we’ll have a discussion about it.”
“They are not saying they will pay for it, just that they’ll have a discussion with us about it,” she said. “Their attitude stinks.
“The letters we have had are just awful - just implying they’re doing it whether we like it or not.
“To be honest we wouldn’t have bought the house if we’d known it would end up having a smaller garden.
“We have contacted the Land Registry to see what they say and they have just told us there are no exact measurements where the boundary is. On the plans we saw before we bought our house, the gardens were all oblong. The boundary fence was straight.
“But the new plan that Wainhomes have sent us shows the boundary is now at an angle, meaning we all lose different amounts of garden. I lose from a third of a metre to almost a metre, but others further along lose a lot more, up to three metres.”
Harvester Drive is on The Paddocks development which was given council approval in 2017 and includes up to 213 houses off Sandy Lane, to the north of Hoyles Lane.
It is part of a house-building bonanza which is seeing thousands of new homes being built across the north of Preston.
Gemma Barnes added: “It’s ironic, but across the road Wainhomes have hung a sign on the fence which says: ‘Think quality. Get it right first time.’ It’s a shame they didn’t get it right with our fence.”
Wainhomes say they have apologised to the residents after the fencing at the bottom of their gardens was wrongly situated.
All the company was doing, said a spokesman, was taking back land which the householders did not own.
In a statement Wainhomes said: “The rear fence line to these properties has been erected in the incorrect position and does not follow the legal boundary of the plots which the owners purchased. The owners are therefore occupying land which legally belongs to the company.
“We have readily acknowledged that this is the company’s error and we have apologised accordingly.
“We first notified the purchasers of the issue on 13th December 2019 advising them that we would be erecting the fence on the correct legal boundary in the New Year.
“Further letters were sent earlier this month advising the purchasers that the fence realignment works were due to commence and, as a responsible housing developer, we offered to meet any concerned owners.
“Those discussions with the purchasers are ongoing as we appreciate that there is a level of inconvenience which we are endeavouring to keep to an absolute minimum.”
Wainhomes is one of the North West’s leading house builders and has at least 25 developments currently under construction across the region, including Barton, Clifton and Catterall. It is building a further 12 in the South West and eight in the Severn Valley.
Figures for the year ended June 30, 2019, show the company successfully completed almost 1,000 home sales - a record. Its parent company the Wain Group achieved sales totalling £235m in the year - up from £197m over the previous 12 months.
The incident in Harvester Drive is not the first time Wainhomes has found itself at the centre of a land grab dispute in the North West.
In 2012 the company was accused of “stealing” half of a woman’s garden in Blackrod near Bolton while she was at work.
Amber Addison claimed she returned home to find contractors had moved her boundary fence, taking off a chunk of her garden.
She later said Wainhomes had told her an error in the way the garden had been laid out meant she didn’t own all the land.