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Global support for wildlife expert forced to destroy biodiversity garden by local council

Rebecca Speare-Cole
·4-min read
Pete the Pond has been ordered to clear out his garden by the local council in Eastbourne. (SWNS)
Pete the Pond has been ordered to clear out his garden by the local council in Eastbourne. (SWNS)

A wildlife expert being forced to destroy his biodiversity garden by a local council has been flooded with support from across the world.

Wealden District Council last week gave Peter Birchall less than a month to clear out the green space at his home near Eastbourne, East Sussex over environmental health concerns.

Now, a petition to save the garden, which contains at least 180 plant animal species, has been signed by more than 43,000 people from countries around the world including Germany, Canada and Hong Kong.

Birchall — who is also known as “Pete the Pond” and is said to be the number two pond expert in the country — has designed aquatic gardens for TV presenter Natasha Kaplinsky and comedian Steve Coogan.

Read: Touching pictures show dog left to drown by owner making remarkable recovery

He also makes YouTube videos about wildlife with a parrot on his shoulder and has advised a number of councils and schools on biodiversity.

But the 59-year-old says his life's work is his own garden which is filled with a series of ponds, rare flowers and aquatic animals that he spent two decades cultivating.

But Wealden District Council hit him with an environmental order on Wednesday last week after a neighbour complained about his garden.

Birchall said he was told to clear the garden, which is full of newts, frogs, toads and wild plants, in 28 days following a visit from environmental health officers.

The council allegedly made the order over "possible environmental health concerns", as well as describing the garden as an "untidy land" and “an eyesore”.

Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)
Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)

Birchall said he has been left devastated by the council's claims, describing the order as “heart-wrenching”.

He said: "The negative impact of removing everything from my garden is so heart-wrenching that it will cause a loss of possibly the most important native aquatic plant library of endangered species including wildlife in the UK along with the destruction of habitats I've built and rely on these plants.”

Watch: Biggest overhaul of farming in 50 years as landowners urged to protect environment

"I'm devastated that the council has sent enforcement officers over to tell me that I need to clear my life's work," he added.

Daniel Stevens, who lives nearby, set up the petition for Birchall to show he has widespread local support

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

But since the council’s order has come to light, Birchall has also received messages of support from around the world.

Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)
Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)

The petition has also received tens of thousands of signatures.

Birchall said: "The support I'm receiving from the community is completely overwhelming, I'm under serious pressure right now which I felt in the beginning putting me on a path to a mental breakdown, and the support is beyond belief.

"Reading some emails and messages from how far my situation has travelled is absolutely amazing, my petitions have reached Germany, Canada and Hong Kong.

"I'm feeling at my wits' end, and I'm absolutely devastated and shocked by what I'm being told to do."

Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)
Peter Birchall's garden in Eastbourne, East Sussex. (SWNS)

The wildlife expert works with a number of organisations including the National Trust, RSPD and the Sussex and Kent Wildlife Trust as well as giving talks in schools.

Birchall has also teamed up with one of the students he taught 20 years ago, Josh Babarinde OBE, to urge the council to think again and is asking people to submit their own stories about the wildlife expert's contribution over the years.

Babarinde, who is also from Eastbourne, founded Cracked It, an award-winning technology business that has helped over 200 ex-offenders get away from crime and towards employment.

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Talking about Birchall’s battle, he said: "Pete came into my school when I was a kid to show us tadpoles and frogspawn from his garden. It was brilliant.

"It's a huge mistake that Wealden District Council wants to clear the garden that made that all possible.

"I know there are so many others - students, teachers, parents and more - who have great stories to tell about the impact Pete, his garden, and his generosity have had on them. We need Wealden to hear them.”

Yahoo News UK has contacted Wealden District Council for comment.

Watch: Climate change: Global CO2 emissions bounce back to pre-COVID levels