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A grandad has been taken to court over a treehouse he built for his family around a 500-year-old tree in his garden.
Dean Geering said that "anyone would think I had built the Taj Mahal" after he was hit with a hefty fine and ordered to remove the structure.
This was the result of a four-year dispute with the council after the 50-year-old plumber from Stansted, Kent built the wooden deck and staircase in his back garden with a neighbour.
Dean spent thousands on the treehouse – the timber alone was worth between £3,000 and £4,000.
He built it for his two grandchildren to enjoy and planned to eventually add a slide and a zip wire.
He says he didn't realise he was doing anything wrong when he built it in 2017, due to what he says were unclear planning rules on the local council's website.
Sevenoaks Magistrates' Court heard a complaint had been made about the treehouse by a nearby resident.
Dean was given an enforcement notice by Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council in 2018, requiring him to take it down.
He appealed against the harsh notice, but was told the treehouse for his grandchildren was "inappropriate on greenbelt land".
He was given six months to dismantle the thousand-pound treehouse, but when council officers visited, they found the treehouse was still up.
Dean said he had started work to bring it down but was stopped by nesting birds and wild bats.
The granddad was given more time to dismantle the treehouse, but after multiple visits between October last year and March this year showed no progress, Mr Geering was summonsed to appear in court.
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At the court appearance last week, Dean pleaded guilty to breaching an enforcement notice.
He said he started building the treehouse while also overseeing the construction of a home for himself and his wife Jackie, 50, after they bought the plot which already had a house on it.
He said: "We wanted somewhere a little bit out of the way. Somewhere nice for the kids and where anyone would want to have a drink and just chill out.
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When Dean discovered he needed planning permission due its height, he put in a retrospective application which was rejected.
The council said the size and position of the structure would result in a "highly visible and intrusive feature within the landscape".
Dean said: "It isn't intrusive in any way. If I had built a big glass dome over it I could understand it, but it's covered in foliage.
"I didn't think I was doing anything wrong.
"Anyone would think I had built the Taj Mahal. It's really over the top considering what other people build."
Magistrates told him to pay a £333 fine, as well as £400 in prosecution costs and a £33 victim surcharge. Mr Geering will still have to take the treehouse down.
A spokesperson for Tonbridge and Malling Borough Council said: "Planning permission was refused in April 2018 due to the height, size and position of the tree house and an Enforcement Notice was served.
"It is important and only fair for others that we ensure effective planning enforcement takes place where breaches exist.
"We will be taking steps to ensure compliance with the notice without any further delay."
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