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Woodland den built by teenagers to be torn down after just one complaint

The den which has been ordered to be torn down. (Leo Gribble / SWNS)
The den which has been ordered to be torn down. (Leo Gribble / SWNS)

A ‘secret’ woodland den built by a group of bored teenage boys may have to be torn down after council chiefs said there were concerns over ‘health and safety issues.’

The hand-built created by a group of boys who had “no where else to hang out” faces demolition East Devon District Council which said it also constituted ‘illegal occupation’.

The group of six teenage boys from the village of Beer, East Devon started building their hangout in November, and only finished construction a few weeks ago before a notice appeared on the door.

Leo Gribble, 16, said: “We started building the den in mid November last year as in Beer there’s not many places for us to go. We got bored and so decided to give ourselves a little project to do.

“It’s been finished for a few weeks now, and we hangout there most weekends - there’s still a bit more work to do and we can still do improvements.

“We built it by looking for free wood from the forest, and then a few local people from the village gave us wood to use as well.

“We used our grandparents tools - like drills and saws - to get the wooden structure up. Then we covered it in two layers of tarp and painted it over so it looks nice.”

Leo said the boys even went to the effort of laying carpet down on the floor of the den, filling it with outdoor furniture and wholesome board games, and even paintings to keep them entertained.

The lads who built a den which has been ordered to be torn down. (Leo Gribble / SWNS)
The lads who built a den which has been ordered to be torn down. (Leo Gribble / SWNS)

Whilst they enjoyed their hangout, based on a concrete slab, for a few weeks, they were horrified to have been hit with an illegal occupation notice from the council.

The notice says that those in “unauthorised occupation” of the den must vacate the land by Tuesday (February 7) because they have not obtained a “lease or licence from the legal owner”.

Leo believes the notice is the result of a single complaint to the council, but hopes a protest or petition might change their mind.

He said: “One of the other boys went up around two weeks ago and saw there was a letter stapled to the door. He sent it to our group chat and then I put it up on the community Facebook page.

“We are baffled to be honest, I know there was one anonymous complaint to East Devon Council, but I don’t see how they can call it trespassing or illegal occupation.

“I’d like to know a full reasoning as to why there’s been such a complaint about it and if there’s anything we can do to at least help so we can keep it and it’s ok with them.

“We’re not sure what to do next. We’ve been thinking a couple of things - maybe a protest or a petition.”

 (Leo Gribble / SWNS)
(Leo Gribble / SWNS)

In a statement, a spokesperson for the council said: “The ‘den’ has been built near the Undercliff on East Devon District Council land, in an area not accessible by vehicles on a steep site, without the proper permissions.

“Following a complaint, we investigated the site and found a wooden shack made from drilled-together wooden pallets, along with a fire pit, rope swing, beer cans etc.

“There were numerous health and safety issues and as we are liable for the land and what happens on it, our hands our legally tied.

“This sadly means we will have to remove the items as we cannot risk the safety of someone’s child.

“We know there are mixed feelings locally and we hope the local community can understand this decision, even if they don’t agree with it.”

SWNS