A WOMAN whose neighbours complained about her fish pond has been left devastated after being told to fill it in.
Audrey Whitebrook, 67, uses the garden feature in the shared space outside her rented flat in Tutbury, Staffs., to help deal with her anxiety.
She says her son built it for her from scratch, but as soon as it was finished, the neighbours started to complain.
They said the water feature could pose a danger to their kids, who also have access to the garden.
Housing firm Trent and Dove said the pond was built without permission and insisted it must consider the safety of others.
Audrey has since been told to fill in the pond.
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The mum-of-two told Staffordshire Live: "When [the pond] was completely done the neighbours complained to Trent and Dove and they came down and said we have to completely fill it in.
"I'm really upset by it. I was devastated, I was hysterical when they told me.
"I've said I'm not going to fill it in – it's not even that big. Now I've got a bad mark against my tenancy. I'm living on a knife edge at the moment and I don't know what to do next."
Audrey, who has mobility issues and can only get out and about with her scooter, said her pond replaced a broken and dangerous shed which used to be in its place.
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But she says she has since received a letter from a solicitor asking not to make any alterations to the property without written consent.
She added: "I feel wonderful sitting next to it, everything floats away, all of my troubles just go away.
"I sit there and watch the fish and I don't want to have to get rid of the fish.
"I've had enough in my life to put up with and now I'm coming to the end of it, it should be peaceful and tranquil but it's more like a war zone."
Audrey, who has been a widow for 17 years, has lived in the flat for five years without any problems and lives with son Ashley, who is her carer.
Trent and Dove, however, stressed they need to consider the safety of others.
I've said I'm not going to fill it in – it's not even that big.
Martyn Hale, neighbourhoods director at Trent and Dove, said: "We know how important outside space and making a place your own is to customers.
"So, our approach is very often to encourage that and allow people to enjoy their space as they wish. However, we do occasionally have to step in when there is a risk, however small, to the customer or others.
"Unfortunately, Ms Whitebrook has installed a pond, without permission, in a shared garden. Others, including very young children, have legal equal access to this garden.
"As there are no solid fences or agreement with neighbours about this change, we have had to listen to the concerns of other residents and the impact of their enjoyment of the space."
He added: "On average, according to water safety professionals, five under-sixes drown every year in garden ponds. Although the pond is small, we must prioritise the safety of others on this occasion and ensure they have a safe outdoor space.
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"Unfortunately, Ms Whitebrook ignored our informal request to fill in the pond, and so we have had to legally write to request that she does this.
"This letter also asks that Ms Whitebrook, anyone living with her or any visitors to her home avoid any repeat of alleged anti-social behaviour which is clearly not acceptable regardless of emotion around the use of a shared garden."
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