Willingdon’s Pete the Pond saga isn’t resolved after all

A man from Willingdon who works in biodiversity has agreed to move his garden plants after orders from the council.

Tuesday, 16th March 2021, 10:25 am

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

He works with 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’.

Last week Wealden District Council said the problem had been resolved.

The statement from the council said Peter Birchall was being ‘very co-operative’ by ‘seeking to tidy the land and relocate his pond plant enterprise’.

However, the council has now said it is ‘continuing to work with Peter Birchall to ensure a solution can be found’.

This new statement comes after Peter said, “At present myself and a good friend are negotiating over these issues with the Wealden council officers but at present nothing has been fully resolved yet.

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

The most recent statement from the council said, “We are continuing to work with Peter Birchall to ensure a solution can be found which protects the unique quality of his wildlife garden and also maintains the residential qualities of the area in which he lives. Unfortunately, there is nothing else we are able to add at this time regarding this specific case.

“As with all planning enforcement matters, we aim to negotiate and reach an agreed solution before resorting to any further measures.”

Daniel Stevens set up a petition for Peter which has gained more than 40,000 signatures.

Daniel has accused the council of lying due to its change in statement around the status of Peter’s case. He said the first statement said Peter had agreed to co-operate and therefore implied he had accepted it was a commercial enterprise - he said Peter never agreed to that.

Daniel said, “Their tweet makes out that Pete is a liar when he has been nothing but upfront and honest with the council from day one.

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

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Friends of the Earth said, “The recent admission by Wealden District Council that it is still searching for a solution regarding Pete the Pond’s garden is the sign of a slight shift in the council’s position away from a frankly ridiculous nit-picking approach to the regulations around what is or is not acceptable in a domestic garden.

“The district councillors must urgently get a grip on this situation and call for an urgent review of Pete the Pond’s case, especially as Pete’s vitally important work in helping to sustain what’s left of our local biodiversity is at great risk from the bungling of a few bureaucrats.”

Peter has even gained support from television’s Chris Packham. Chris called the decision from the council ‘ill judged and lacking in compassion’ on Twitter.

To find out more about Pete the Pond, check out his YouTube channel: https://youtube.com/c/PetethePond