‘I’m absolutely devastated’: Campaign started for Willingdon pond enthusiast

A campaign has been launched for a Willingdon man who has dedicated his garden to improving biodiversity because he’s been told by the council to clear it in a month.

Tuesday, 9th March 2021, 2:58 pm

Peter Birchall, known to many as Pete the Pond, has a garden full of ponds, flowers and rare pond plants.

He works with a number of organisations including the National Trust, and has a YouTube channel which follows his work around biodiversity.

On March 3 Peter said he was told by Wealden District Council to remove all the features in his back garden by the end of the month because the council sees it as a ‘commercial enterprise’.

Peter said, “The negative impact of removing everything from my garden is so heart wrenching that it will cause a loss of possibly the most important native aquatic plant library of endangered species including wildlife in the UK along with the destruction of habitats I’ve built and rely on these plants.”

“I’ve spent the last 20 years sharing my garden with the community to educate the next generation and help the environment flourish. I’m devastated that the council has sent enforcement officers over to tell me that I need to clear my life’s work.”

Since this came out, local resident Daniel Stevens has set up a petition for Peter which has more than 6,500 signatures already.

Daniel said, “This article really resonated with me and made me feel angry at the unjust of it all so I have created a petition in the hopes of stopping Wealden District Council from going ahead with their demands.

“A lot of the local community also seem very upset and angered at this decision by Wealden District Council.”

Peter has also teamed up with one of the students he taught 20 years ago, Josh Babarinde OBE, to urge the council to think again.

Josh said, “Pete came into my school when I was a kid to show us tadpoles and frogspawn from his garden. It was brilliant.

“It’s a huge mistake that Wealden District Council want to clear the garden that made that all possible.

“I know there are so many others – students, teachers, parents and more – who have great stories to tell about the impact Pete, his garden, and his generosity have had on them. We need Wealden to hear them.

“That’s why I’ve reconnected with Pete to launch an appeal collecting stories from people far and wide who, like me, have been touched by his kindness and his commitment to the environment.

“We will present these stories as part of a package of evidence to Wealden District Council to urge them come to a compromise that protects Pete’s life’s work and the benefits it brings to the local environment.”

Peter said, “The support I’m receiving from the community is completely overwhelming, I’m under serious pressure right now which I felt in the beginning putting me on a path to a metal breakdown, and the support is beyond belief. Reading some emails and messages from how far my situation has travelled is absolutely amazing, my petitions have reached Germany, Canada and Hong Kong.

“I’m feeling at my wits’ end, and I’m absolutely devastated and shocked by what I’m being told to do.”

Members of the public can submit their Pete the Pond stories until March 19 here: http://bit.ly/petethepond

To sign the petition, go to: https://bit.ly/3l6nLWs

Daniel has also created a YouTube video about the situation: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSmrhcTaOLQ