A ‘SINISTER’ second homes dispute in a sleepy Lake District hamlet has resulted in a judge ordering a £400,000 payout to the victims.
A court was told of threats of dead rats being strewn across a courtyard, CCTV cameras being painted over, rotting rubbish piled up and damage to walls and fences, as well as noisy quad bikes disturbing the peace.
Builder Steven Young and wife Fiona now face bankruptcy after a judge ordered they pay damages and costs for what was desc-ribed as a ‘vendetta’ against Sussex couple Peter and Lesley Raymond, a retired solicitor and diplomat.
Injunctions have also been served on the Youngs following the conclusion of the simmering row in idyllic Blawith, near Coniston.
In 2009, the Raymonds bought the stunning 17th century farm and 24-acres next to the Youngs’ seven-bedroom cottage – but relations quickly soured.
They logged incidents of rubbish mounting up or being ‘thrown’ into their courtyard, the Youngs’ dog and guinea fowl trespassing and defecating on their property and footballs being kicked against their walls. In one incident, Mr Young was captured sticking two fingers up at their CCTV camera and ‘mooning’.
However, the Youngs alleged the Raymonds had no intention of ever being neighbourly and claimed if ‘we breathed in the wrong direction, they filmed it and complained’.
In one flashpoint, just weeks after the West Cumbria shootings, Mr Young told Mrs Raymond in a confrontation she recorded: “We can all be pushed further than we want to go. Look at that poor guy in Whitehaven.”
It was a reference to Derrick Bird who coldly executed 12 people in a murder rampage in 2010.
Mr Raymond, 67, and wife Lesley, 57, bought Lin Crag Farm next door to the Youngs’ Lynn Cragg Cottage to use as a second home to their residence in East Sussex.
The large estate is a mile from the centre of Blawith down a single-track lane set in open countryside.
But the Raymonds were unaware that the prop-erty, bought for around £600,000 five years ago, had been the historic family home of Mr Young, 53, a former pub landlord at the Red Lion at Lowick.
He lived in it until it was sold in 1965 by his late father. The family then moved into Lynn Cragg Cottage next door.
Court papers show that Mr Young once told Mrs Raymond: “I have lived here all my life and also all my family have lived here all my life, all their lives, hundreds of years, and you come in and really try to mess with s**t and it’s not on.”
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A source of antagonism for the Youngs was that council bin wagons could not access their cottage via the narrow lane so some previous occupants of the farm had consented to the Youngs’ rubbish being collected from the farm courtyard.
But the Raymonds’ case was that the Youngs wanted to reclaim the farmhouse by causing nuisances which would scare off potential purchasers, drive down the price and force them out.
Mr Raymond, a public notary appointed by the Archbishop of Canter-bury and listed in Debretts, sued in the civil courts for harassment, trespass, nuisance, assault and slander, claiming the Youngs’ actions had devalued their property – and the judge agreed.
The 12-day hearing involved 22 witnesses across both sides and Mr Raymond’s statement alone ran to 45 pages with 37 further documents.
A judge ruled in favour of the Raymonds and dismissed as ‘delusion’ the Youngs’ claims that they were the victims of an ‘elaborate conspiracy’ by their neighbours.
Evidence was presented relating to previous owners of the farm, who had also complained of the Youngs’ behaviour in the past.
The late Colony Candles boss Alan Williams, who owned the farm until his death in a plane crash in 2005, called them ‘neighbours from hell’.
In his judgement, Recorder Duncan Smith found: “Mr Young has been unable to accept the fact that he has no legal dominion over that property.
“It is clear from an examination of the historical evidence that it was his intention to make the life of those who occupy the farm a misery; that his campaign of belligerence has continued since the death of his father, that he has a deep-seated aversion to those wealthy enough to afford a second home the size of the farm, and that the notoriety of his conduct is an open secret in the locality.”
The Recorder described Mrs Young as: ‘a plain-speaking lady with fixed interpretations of events to the point of being intransigent’.
Documents relating to the case were posted anonymously to the Gazette.
This week, the Gazette contacted the Raymonds’ legal team for a comment on the ruling but none has been forthcoming.
The Youngs, who have four children, with two having been to university and one a former child model, are now renting a cottage in Penny Bridge. Friends in the Crake Valley described the family as ‘popular’.
When approached by the Gazette, a tearful Mrs Young, 48, denied they were ‘neighbours from hell’.
“They have painted this picture of us as some kind of Asbo-family and we’re not like that at all,” said the former corporate events manager, who runs a luxury cottage business.
“We’ve lived round here all our lives and have a good reputation and this has destroyed us. We’re not perfect but we’re good people.”
“They have made Steven out to be this big, aggressive man and he’s not that at all.
“He’s a pussycat but there’s only so far you can be pushed.”
Mrs Young said the ruling meant they must pay £196,000 damages as well as the Raymonds’ £200,000 legal costs.
They also have their own £200,000 legal bill to meet and are seeking advice.