Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall blamed for neighbour dispute

PUBLISHED: 08:06 20 August 2008 | UPDATED: 22:13 15 June 2010

HUGH Fearnley-Whittingstall's drive to encourage more people to keep chickens has led to a dispute among neighbours in Axminster.

HUGH Fearnley-Whittingstall's drive to encourage more people to keep chickens has led to a dispute among neighbours in Axminster.East Devon District Council has stepped in and ordered one couple to remove cockerels from their back garden in Beavor Lane.The street of privately owned properties has been a "hotspot" for complaints, the council says, and one couple, Peter and Rosemary Middleton, have been left sandwiched between two poultry owners."The animals are noisy and I can't stand the stench," said Mrs Middleton. "I haven't been able to go into my garden since the spring."Mr Middleton claims cockerels, owned by neighbours Kevin Fuller and Karen Elkington, crow from 5am and that he is finding it difficult to sleep.The Middletons are also concerned that Ms Elkington also owns a large number of cats.Mr Middleton, who is recovering from cancer, said: "You can't choose your neighbours, but you expect them to keep to the rules."Because of cats' mess in his garden, he admits to putting deterrents down.Ms Elkington claims the measures have caused injury to her pets but Mr Middleton is unrepentant, saying he feels like "wringing their necks".Ms Elkington and Mr Fuller appeared in Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's Chicken Out series, during clips from a public meeting staged in the Guildhall.Mr Fuller said: "We didn't think having chickens would bother many people. "We bought cockerels for breeding for people who wanted to own chickens."We live in the countryside and there's a couple of people around us moaning about chickens. They say there's a smell. It's just the smell of the country."Mr Fuller feels he and his partner have been singled out as a target. He cited one example, when the RSPCA were called out because somebody had accused them of starving their animals. He said it was just a malicious phone call.Living the other side of the Middletons, and also keeping chickens, are Des and Paula Grant.Mrs Grant said: "We've owned chickens for three-and-a-half years and asked neighbours if it was OK. But ever since Mr Fearnley-Whittingstall's campaign, half of Axminster has chickens and everybody is moaning."A spokesman for East Devon District Council said: "More and more people are keeping chickens in urban gardens. It is also becoming quite trendy to give them as presents and it's great to get your own eggs, but we are trying to get the message across that you don't need to keep cockerels unless you intend to breed. "If you do, we ask that you are considerate to your neighbours. The main aspect is early morning noise, especially in small gardens."We give advice on how you can keep the animals quiet until a reasonable time in the morning."Although disagreements are strong between the residents in Beavor Lane, there is one thing they agree on: they want an end to this nightmare.One resident, who did not wish to be named, said: "I think people are being petty and everybody is guilty of it. I just wish everybody would get on with each other. It would be a much more pleasant life if they did.

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