Paratrooper turned charity bird box maker, 77, says he was ‘kicked off’ allotment plot by 'nasty and horrible' parish council

A charity bird box maker has claimed he was kicked off an allotment plot by parish council representatives who changed the locks.

Roy Ritchie, from Lingdale, east Cleveland, said he and his wife Lorna had raised thousands of pounds for charity with their ‘Little Havens’ venture making bird boxes and boxes for bats and hedgehogs out of reclaimed and recycled timber.

But because of an ongoing dispute that has seen him at loggerheads with Lockwood Parish Council he felt his heart was no longer in the charity work.

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He complained that the parish council had been aggressive towards him and one individual “threatened to get a crowbar and rip the lock off” the shed he rents.

Roy Ritchie, from Lingdale, east Cleveland, said he and his wife Lorna had raised thousands of pounds for charity

He said the locks to an access gate and the shed were changed, and items removed, including half-finished boxes he was preparing to sell at events for charity.

Mr Ritchie, a former paratrooper, of Moorcock Row, said: “I have had the shed for a year for my charity work and they have kicked me off.

“In the rules it says should you be turfed off the allotment you have to be given a month’s notice minimum, they gave me six days.”

The pensioner, whose wife paints the boxes, continued: “I have a lot of commitments for next year for bird boxes and to do wildlife shows, but they [the parish council] have been so nasty and horrible that I feel my heart is not in it any more.

Roy Ritchie, from Lingdale, east Cleveland

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“I do talks and demonstrations for scout groups, play groups and church groups, I’ve done owl and bird boxes for Gisborough Priory, I’ve put barn owl boxes up for local farmers, I’ve done open garden events and I support The Junction Foundation charity in Redcar.

“I get old bits of wood and pallets and fencing and strip it all down, take all the nails out, I measure it all out and do 12 different types of bird boxes.”

He added: “It’s my hobby.

“I’m 77 and I don’t want all this hassle and stress.

“These people just don’t appreciate what we do, it’s horrible.”

Mr Ritchie said he had an allotment garden tenancy agreement with the council, but the council says it does not apply in this specific case and it only agreed to rent the shed, not the plot which it is part of.

The pensioner said the shed had been “perfect” for his wildlife habitat making and storage and after originally being offered it by the parish council he subsequently reached an agreement over its use.

But a squabble ensued with another allotment holder over the boundary and who the land belonged to and he was told not to use the gate he previously used for access any more.

Mr Ritchie admitted there had been “bad blood” between him and the allotment holder, who is understood to hold a role on the parish council’s allotment committee.

He said: “Unfortunately the council has taken his side and they came down and gave me six days’ notice to get off the plot, as they said it is not mine.

“This is the third time I have had hassle with them on this allotment within a year.

“If you get an allotment with a shed on it, you take over the allotment and shed.

“There have been so many parish councillors coming and going and resigning and saying different things that you don’t know what the hell is going on.

“All my neighbours said ‘You should have got a petition up and we will sign it’, but I’d rather get it resolved in a friendly manner.

“I want to be able to talk to them [the parish council] sensibly and nicely like humans should, not having all this aggressiveness.”

Mr Ritchie, who is originally from London, has now transferred his work from the shed to his back garden and front yard.

His wife said: “It might be my fault that all of this happened.

“I said I can’t handle living with all these bird boxes – in the conservatory, in the garden, on the drive – so I thought he’d better get a shed.

“So I seem to have initiated it all.”

Councillor Anne Clayton, from Lockwood Parish Council, said: “This been dealt with according to our regulations and any further complaints should be brought back to the allotment committee of the parish council.

“There are procedures that we follow that we are legally obliged to follow and that is what we do.”