A furious row has broken out over luxury backyard cabins on an exclusive housing estate that has a bar, a hot tub, gym, and a wood-burning stove.
The owners of two properties in The Vineyards on Teesside have built high-end outdoor sheds in their gardens that nestle against a shared fence.
But the homes’ breezy neighbors, Michael and Nicola Illingworth, whose outdoor space is overlooked by cabins, have complained that the buildings are a total invasion of their privacy.
They also claim that water drips into their garden from the gutters of one of those huts and this will reduce the value of their property.
But cabin owners believe that 43-year-old civil servant Michael and 40-year-old medical writer Nicola are jealous just because they would like themselves.
This has created a strange atmosphere over the new development after all the residents in the queue bought homes there in 2020.
David Carr, 49, company director at a gas and utility company, spent a staggering £33,000 on his luxurious cabin, which has a bar, pool table and play area for his kids.
He told The Sun that he built the cabin during the lockdown because he couldn’t go to the pub and insisted he didn’t make any noise.
He said: “Michael bought his house after I got mine and my cabin was being built as soon as he was moving in.
“They complained to Belway, the builder of the houses, but they didn’t take action because I didn’t need permission.
“I was not worried as I knew my cabin was within the rules. I came and got my builder checked again and he said it was fine.”
David said that Michael then tried to take her to the council and later received a letter saying they wanted to come out and check the cabin.
The council cleared him all up in his cabin – but the threats kept coming.
He recounts how Michael’s mother confronted him over the fence, telling him “You and your loud music!” scolded for
David retorted with a prick, saying that he only does it to “annoy you”.
He said angrily: “I honestly don’t know what Michael’s problem is. I think he’s probably jealous and wants to be himself… It’s not a good environment.”
People come and say, what on earth is this?
David lives in their large detached house with his wife Sarah, a 36-year-old university worker, and children Zachary, 10, and Jayme, five.
Vineyard Estate is a sprawling and stately gated community with homes selling for an average of half a million pounds.
It is home to former Dragon Den star Duncan Bunnatine and footballers such as Tommy Miller and Steve Baker.
The average home price in Teesside is just £160k.
Brian Edwards, 43, lives with his family next to David and has a small cabin in his garden that he built to relax.
However, their shed is the one with which Nicola and Michael have the biggest problem as they say its high porch ruins their privacy.
After the couple complained, Brian was forced to apply for retrospective permission which has now been granted.
A hot tub rests on the cabin’s raised decking and there’s also a darts board, indoor gym, play area, and fridge for beer.
Brian said: “I work from home and have a two-year-old son. I decided to get the cabin built due to the lockdown.
“I have a hot tub that I use for hydrotherapy because I have an early onset of arthritis. I also have a mini fridge for drinks. We’ve never had a party in it.”
Brian claimed how when he got in he made a round and introduced himself to the neighbors and bought everyone a bottle of wine.
But he admitted: “I could tell from the start that the complaining couple were not happy. He was the only one who didn’t say thank you.”
Addressing the issue of water, Brian said: “It has a drainage system that drains water not only from our garden, but from their garden as well.”
He described how the couple’s complaint caused “a month of anxiety” and that the pair “has not gone well” but claims there is “a lot of neighbours’ support”.
But Nicola and Michael are angered by the council’s decision to grant retrospective planning permission.
They also claim that the council did not “properly investigate”, alleging that Brian has family ties to the council – an unfounded claim.
They say that David’s shed doesn’t concern him too much, but Brian causes his Labrador puppy Pippa to bark and it’s an invasion of his privacy.
If you’re going to buy a house, buy a house that’s big enough for you that you don’t have to build an outdoor cabin.
The couple has two children aged three and nine.
Nikola said: “People come and say, what on earth is this?
“We suspect that the value of the house may have gone down. We will not sell and are looking at what we can do to improve the situation.”
She added how the pair could put up a screen or even raise a fence, but acknowledged that “ironically we would need permission to do so”.
Michael continued: “Our dog barks when people are on deck. It has affected our lives in many ways.
“We have big windows downstairs, so we can’t walk away from it. We feel like it has completely invaded our privacy.
“It’s definitely created an atmosphere. When we pass by them it’s as if lives could be lost.”
Michael says that none of the cabin owners came “not even once to explain what they were doing” and insists that “if they had it would have made a difference”.
He adds: “If you’re going to buy a house, buy a house that’s big enough for you that you don’t have to build an outdoor cabin.”