Council demands children’s playhouse torn down

Sarah Winkler hopes to save the house for Beatrice and Claude. Picture: Ian Georgeson
Sarah Winkler hopes to save the house for Beatrice and Claude. Picture: Ian Georgeson
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A children’s treehouse den is about to be ripped down by council planning chiefs over a “technicality”.

Dad-of-three Karl Winkler, 50, from Viewforth, spent two months building the clubhouse for his children to spend summer days in.

But after a neighbour tipped the council off that the structure did not have planning permission, an enforcement notice was issued.

Now fed-up Beatrice, 11, nine-year-old Boris and Claude, five, who all go to Sciennes Primary, may lose their treasured treehouse – despite no one having made a formal complaint. Project manager Karl, who lives with his wife, Sarah, 42, an admin assistant, has launched an appeal against the decision.

He said: “If someone builds something that’s really ugly, the rules allow you to do something about it. But this is a kiddies’ playhouse – the council are using the regulations in the wrong way.”

The impressive structure, which stands on eight-foot high stilts, cost £1000 in materials alone.

But council officials deemed it too close to the edge of the garden for its height, invading nearby residents’ privacy.

Karl said none of his neighbours – whom he described as “supportive” of the treehouse – had made any complaints.

He added: “There’s a small balcony the kids use in the summer which the council said invades the neighbours’ privacy, even though it faces away from them.”

A decision on whether to allow the Winklers to keep the treehouse will be made by the Scottish Government’s Directorate of Planning and Environment.

Karl has enlisted the help of demolition experts to see if the structure could be moved away from the edge of the garden.

He said: “I hold my hands up and admit it does breach the planning rules but to me the council are being unreasonable and heavy handed about this.

“What they are doing is procedurally correct, but not morally correct. The kids are going to be really upset if it has got to get pulled down. I could maybe take the stilts off, but it defeats the purpose of it being a treehouse.”

A council spokeswoman said: “The planning application was refused on the grounds it is inappropriate in a built-up area, causing issues with privacy for neighbouring gardens. This was then considered by the local review body, enforcement notice has been served and an appeal lodged with the Scottish Government.”

In 2012, Harry Potter author JK Rowling won a battle to build two Hogwarts-style tree houses in the garden of her Cramond home, despite protests from residents who said they would blight the appearance of the surrounding conservation area. The writer had applied to have the massive structures, estimated to cost £250,000, erected as part of a programme of renovations at her home.