A homeowner has kicked off a bitter row after being accused of damaging graves so he could extend his house.
Charles Ryan, who lives next to a churchyard, removed part of a wall to increase the size of his home, but didn’t seek appropriate planning permission beforehand.
His actions have now caused uproar in the small village of Quebec in County Durham, with one local claiming the graves of his grandparents were damaged after he moved the wall.
However, Ryan, 73, says he didn’t damage the graves and claims the part of wall he removed was already partially destroyed.
He said: "All of this wall was built 35 years ago by myself and the extension is only a couple of feet wide.
"I had the extension for health and safety reasons because me and our wife are in our 70s. We did have a staircase going around the side of the house with slippy metal steps which was becoming unsafe.
"Beforehand, you couldn't even see the wall because it had overgrown trees and ivy around it.
"The council knocked the graves over not me.
"They said in a newsletter they had to knock some of them down because they were becoming unsafe."
This week, Ryan was served with an order from the local council telling him he must demolish the extension and replace the wall.
He added: "People haven't read that newsletter and that is what is frustrating.
"I have the option to appeal because the council didn't know the wall was already collapsed.
"This is escalated by people in the village online. They call them trolls."
The extension has been in place for two years, and he’s been told it must be removed within six months from 1 February, however, he can appeal the order.
"All of these gravestones have been down at least 20 years," he said
"People only saw them down when the area was cleaned recently. I get lots of people who come and say it's a disgrace what they're doing and they're supporting us.
"When the council cut these trees down people saw the wall had gone. We've lived here 40 years and I've rebuilt this wall enough times.
"I'm not angry by the reactions, I'm just disappointed because some people making the claims don't even live close.
"I've sent the council an email asking if they want the wall rebuilt as it was because it was collapsed, it was a pile of rubbish."
One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said: "He's got six months from February 1 to pull the building down and reinstate the graveyard wall.
"But we've been to meetings with representatives from the church and they're trying to get a court order from the church.
"If that happens he'll have no option but to start pulling it down. They were saying at this meeting he won't get any change from £100,000.
"This argument all started after he tried putting up a huge shed across the road which upset everyone.
"I physically removed him and his workers from the field opposite our house when they were going to put some concrete down."
Featured Image Credit: North News
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