Harrogate dad's dismay at treehouse row which has let down autistic daughter

An upset Harrogate dad says the system has let down his autistic young daughter after he was forced to tear down a treehouse that she described as her “safe place” in the family’s back garden.

Thursday, 8th July 2021, 11:31 am
Updated Thursday, 8th July 2021, 11:32 am
Harrogate dispute - Dad Richard Williams says he built the treehouse for his autistic daughter Tiana as a safe place for her to go for some peace and fresh air.

Richard Williams had built the house for 11-year-old Tiana as somewhere she could go to get out of the way, get some fresh air and peace and quiet.

But, after a complaint was made to Harrogate Borough Council, Mr Williams has this week been forced to take the whole thing back down.

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Mr Williams, who is a serving police officer, said: “I started work on it last year in our back garden and have put a lot into it.

“It’s totally wrong that we have to take it down, especially when it was a safe place for my daughter to go," he said

“Tiana has Tourette’s syndrome, autism and sensory processing disorder.

“Everything was fine until I received an email from my landlord’s agent mentioning a complaint from one neighbour saying the treehouse was an invasion of their privacy.

“A few days later the council visited our house and told me I would have to take it down as it breached regulations.

“As far as we knew, because the treehouse was not a permanent structure, it didn’t need permission.

“I’ve spent many hours and lots of money building it since then - upwards of £500.

“I work full time on the front line and put my spare time and money into building this for my daughter and other children.

“It’s disgusting that I’ve now had to tear it apart.”

Harrogate Borough Council said it was sympathetic to the Williams family’s situation but that building the treehouse was not within the strict planning rules.

A spokesperson said: “Each circumstance is different and we always advise residents to get in touch with us before they begin designing and building one, so that we can let them know what is and isn’t permitted.

“We love a treehouse as much as anyone but, sadly, in this instance, the treehouse breaches planning regulations as it is fixed to the ground and exceeds height restrictions. Despite being considered temporary structures, planning permission can sometimes be required.

“We know this is disappointing for Mr Williams, and his daughter.”

But Mr Williams said, whatever the regulations were, it was his little girl Tiana who would now suffer the most.

He said: “I’ve told everyone the treehouse was for my daughter and that my children aren’t interested in looking into anyone else’s garden.

“When everything gets too much this would have been a place where she could go to get out of the way, to get some fresh air and peace and quiet.

“But nobody seems at all bothered by that fact.”

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