A much loved community garden has been closed to the public in a dispute over land ownership.

The Bridport garden was built by volunteers on a riverbed during the pandemic as a outdoor haven for residents.

Now five chickens have been evicted, plants removed and a metal fence erected around the land, which was once described as a 'focal point' of the community.

The formerly overgrown land close to Bridport town centre has been used by the community for growing fruit since 2020.

Read more: Community brought together to create peaceful river garden in Bridport

But a nearby property owner claims the land, off Back Rivers Lane, belongs to his East Street estate and paperwork from his 2014 purchase details that.

Haydn Jones of Gloucestershire says he has been 'upfront' about his ownership since the land was turned into a community garden and that people using the garden since then have been trespassing.

Despite the fence being erected residents are disputing the ownership.

Rose Allwork said: "There are small pockets of land here that used to be a river that doesn't belong to anyone.

"Nobody has had exclusive use for 30 years.

"If he can't prove he owns it, he is as much a squatter as we are.

"We feel like we have been bullied off and he has put up a fence and said 'hard cheese'."

Mr Jones, represented by Nantes Solicitors, says he and his solicitors have been 'forthright' since the community garden was constructed in 2020, and says he has sent letters detailing his right to the land. 

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: Rose Allwork and her neighbours put up ribbons around the fenceRose Allwork and her neighbours put up ribbons around the fence (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

Mr Jones said: "There is obviously history to that land because the river has moved years ago, but we and our predecessors have been in complete control of it.

"It is untrue that it is not owned by anyone. They effectively moved into the land we own. In the end, we did have to evict them and re-fence it.

"We have done it all through our lawyers to make sure it is legal.

"The solicitor has asked them continually to get a solicitor to contact him so he can explain the situation. What they need to do is get their legal person to contact us."

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: The property on East Street is a former ropemakers building currently used as commercial storageThe property on East Street is a former ropemakers building currently used as commercial storage (Image: Cristiano Magaglio)

Mr Jones says he had sent letters in 2020 when they first moved into the site but had been hampered from taking action because of the pandemic.

He says he has 'done everything properly' and provided a detailed chronology and history of the site to the neighbours which shows his ownership which they have 'ignored'.

"We are just doing what we are entitled to do. They have no right over it and I would be very surprised if they said they did," added Mr Jones.

"We had to take it at some stage, it has been going on too long, and we gave them warning."

Residents say they intend to challenge the ownership and will fight to get the community garden reopened.

They have sought legal advice but don't currently have legal representation.

Chickens Mars, Bunsen, Quark, Queenie and Duchess have been moved to residents' gardens.

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