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Neighbours feud in Reiss over 'Gaza Strip'

By David G Scott

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A FEUD between neighbours in Reiss – over a tiny piece of land dubbed the Gaza Strip – led to a family being left without water, heating and toilet facilities last week.

Leon and Julie Ryder have been involved in a long-running dispute with neighbour Richard Jackson over a small area of ground they call the Gaza Strip – a reference to the sliver of land in the Middle East that has seen ongoing conflict between Israeli and Hamas forces.

Julie and Leon Ryder show where the water was disconnected by their neighbour. Pictures: DGS
Julie and Leon Ryder show where the water was disconnected by their neighbour. Pictures: DGS

"I went to put the tap on to make some coffee and there was no water. That was the first we knew about it," said Mrs Ryder.

The couple and their children found that not only had their water been disconnected but a sewerage drain removing waste from their house was cut off as well.

"We spoke to Scottish water about it and the most they could do was give us bottled water. They said it was a civil dispute. It's really got me very depressed and anxious," she said.

Her husband Leon added that they could not run the central heating either as it depended on water running through the radiators and that another dispute over sewerage pipes means they can't use their toilet.

"We have to go to Tesco in Wick if we need to use the toilet. We've four of our kids still living with us and two who are at school. Our daughter is off school just now with a sickness bug, so it's not very nice for her as you can imagine," said Mr Ryder.

According to the Ryders, the dispute stretches back six years, starting over a small piece of shared land that Mr Jackson wanted – the so-called Gaza Strip.

"We were happy for him to have it as long as there were non-permanent fixtures there. We discovered that his plan was to put a caravan on the space and we weren't happy about it," said Mrs Ryder.

She also claims that Mr Jackson sent a letter asking them to remove their garage which adjoins the Gaza Strip area.

"I think that's so he can get more space for the caravans he wants to put up there."

Mr Ryder said that it had all "started off lovely" when their new neighbour first arrived.

"I took him out sea-fishing and we were getting on really well.

"Then he wanted land for this caravan site he was planning to expand and he fell out with a lot of the other neighbours over it."

There had already been a caravan site at Mr Jackson's property, formerly owned by Leon Ryder's parents before they moved away. Mr Jackson has wanted to extend the caravan site around his home, Thistledhu, and get it up and running as soon as possible.

Mr Jackson said he was well within his rights to take the action he did as the water and sewerage pipes had been "connected illegally in the first place".

"I told them in around 2013 to get the drains sorted out and they've done nothing about it. They have the right to go through my property for their water but the route has to be approved. They also didn't have the right to connect to my [water and sewerage] services. It's not been done properly and I've checked this with my solicitors."

Mr and Mrs Ryder think that the pipes were disconnected as part of a "tit for tat campaign" by their neighbour over the small piece of land he had been wanting.

Mr Jackson, however, maintains that the "illegal" pipes connecting to the Ryder house were not good enough to withstand the weight of the new caravans he wanted to put in.

"I feel like they're ganging up on me here. It's completely beyond a joke now. I've spoken to a man at Scottish water and he agrees I'm well within my rights here," said Mr Jackson.

Mrs Ryder said: "We have spoken to MSP Gail Ross, the local police and Scottish Water and they've all been fantastic but there's not much they can do since it's seen as a civil case."

She confirmed on Tuesday that her husband had managed to get both the water supply and then the sewerage pipes running again but fears it will be a "matter of time" before the services are disrupted once again.

A Scottish Water spokesperson said: “We are working actively with the customers involved and local police in an effort to bring this situation to a satisfactory resolution.

"We appreciate that for customers to be left without a water supply is unacceptable and will continue to do everything within our power to assist.”

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