Man Pays Over $25,000 to Create a Garden for His Kids – Now He’s Forced to Open it to the Public

By: Lauren Wurth | Last updated: Oct 19, 2023

Richard Hickson got the shock of his life after receiving a letter threatening him with imprisonment over a piece of land he bought. 

The land was an unused patch of grass that property developers okayed for use. As it turned out, the piece of land which he bought and developed for £25,000 must now become open for public use. 

A Bit of Grass and Trees

Hickson fell in love with the piece of land at Istead Rise, close to Gravesend, which he said was a “bit of grass and trees.” It would become an extension for his garden and a perfect playground for his kids. 


Source: RJames88/X

“All we wanted was somewhere for our girls to play,” he said. So, he asked around and got in touch with its developers. 


The Coast Is Clear

Hickson didn’t want any surprises, so he made all the necessary inquiries concerning the land. The developers assured him of every authorization he needed to acquire the land. 


Source: nokinidea/X

He even sought legal advice which brought the same response. The coast was clear to make the purchase. So, he paid. 

A Small Price for His Kid's Happiness

The land cost £5,000. He paid and spent an additional £20,000 developing the area in line with the provisions on the deed. 


Source: lefencing/X

According to the deed, the new land owner was expected to build and maintain a boundary fence or hedge on the sides of the land. The deed specified that the fence must be higher than 4 feet. 

Ready to Use

With the £20,000, Hickson erected a six-foot fence to provide some privacy for his two daughters aged 6 and 8. He also planted grass and created a garden for added comfort and fun for his girls. 


Source: PartyHireGroup/X

Since 2018, his kids have been having loads of fun playing on the piece of property. All was well until he got the unexpected letter. 

A Letter From the County

In February, 5 years after he bought the land, Hickson received a message from the Kent County Council (KCC). In the letter he was told that his privatization of the land was illegal. 

Source: Kent County Council

According to the county, the land is a “publicly maintainable highway.” Which means that the area is maintained by the council at public expense. Hickson was stunned. 


Hickson Must Now Remove His Fence

The council asked him to pull down the fence. “The fencing surrounding the land needs to be removed immediately,” the letter read.

Source: Peterborough Improvements

What this means is that he must now share the land with the public even though he remains the landowner. “We will now potentially have to dismantle a portion of our fence and effectively grant public access to an area that is a haven for our children’s playtime,” Hickson lamented. 


Hickson Could Face Jail Time if He Refused to Comply

The letter also had some scary news. Hickson could end in jail if he fails to pull down the fence which the letter said was obstructing the highway. A section of the letter was pretty clear about the possibility. 

Source: Gray DC

“KCC has the ability to prosecute you for this offence and if found guilty, you may be liable to a fine, imprisonment, or both,” the letter read. 


Hickson Regrets Buying the Land

Hickson wishes he had known about the rules before buying the property. Obviously, the property developers were also unaware of the status of the land. 

Source: SaxilbyCouncil/X

The county noticed the fenced land/highway rights violation during a tree inspection it conducted in the area. According to county laws, Hickson needed to apply to local authorities before erecting a fence over a meter high. 


He Was to Pay for Damage on the Property

During the tree inspection, county officials noticed the absence of several trees from the property. So, in another letter he received in August, the county authorities also asked Hickson to pay the county £2,120 which was the value of 4 trees that he fell on the property. 

Source: RGElandscapes/X

According to the council, these sanctions were imposed to “assert the rights of the highway user.” 


Hickson Has Other Options

The second letter graciously guided Hickson through his other options. He could remove the designation on the property in two ways. 

Source: Unreal Engine

First, he could apply to the government for the removal. Secondly, he could sue the government and get a court order to that effect. Hickson chose the former. He has begun the process of applying to the government for the change.


The Last Resort

Hickson is preparing for the possibility of losing out on the land both with the government and through the courts. So, he will consider a third option which is to sell off the land. 

Source: JPC Chicago

Hickson hopes the journey will come to an end soon. “This is not going to benefit anyone and nobody cared in the first place. It is just costing everyone more money,” he complained.