Alleyways running behind hundreds of residents’ homes could be sold to “Romanian travellers”, unless homeowners agree to buy them instead.
That is what the director of Michael Morrison’s Merton Park Tracks, who bought 27 alleyways in Merton Park three years ago for £60,000, has told residents living in Stratton Road.
In a letter to residents branded as “scaremongering” and filled with “idle threats” Paul Morrison told residents unless they bought their alleyway from him for £30,000 he will sell it to a group of “Romanian travellers” as he was “desperate” to get rid of the alleyways.
He warned those travellers could invoice residents for maintaining the pathway and should they refuse their access could be “screened off”.
He also reminded residents the new owners could open up the track to their “friends” 24 hours a day, or sell it on to other travellers.
The letter goes so far as to suggest that if the new owners decided to sell in the future, residents of Merton Park may “be able to recognise by then some merit in owning and controlling their own access track”, before implying the cost of the track would by then have increased.
The letter has prompted councillors to warn residents against feeling pressured into handing over any money while assuring them that their rights of access would remain the same regardless of who owns it.
Heather Abouzeid, who has lived in Stratton Road for the last 25 years, said: “It’s threatening us.
“That is the intention by using Romanian travellers.
“It’s like any other group – it’s not about Romanian travellers.
“He wants to make a buck out of this.
“We were really shocked because I have worked very hard for my property and if I want to sell my property this is going to impact it.
“I don’t think they can charge us for maintenance.
“If they could he would be doing it.
“They are idle threats but it’s horrible for all of us to get this letter.
“How can he get away with it?
“He’s making the assumption that Romanian travellers are thugs and is using that as a threat.”
It is Mr Morrison’s intention to sell all 27 tracks across Merton Park for £30,000 each, almost £1m.
Councillor Peter Southgate of the Merton Park Independents said it is not within any owner’s power to restrict residential access and any attempt to do so would be challenged, and that it would only be reasonable for the owner to undertake maintenance and charge for it if the residents were failing to maintain the tracks themselves.
He said: “Until three years ago we believed everyone had common responsibility for these tracks shared between people who lived there.
“That’s not the case.
“This man Michael Morrison traced the descendants of the original developer of the estate and bought the tracks from them.
“Three years ago he first went public and started to write to residents offering to sell them their tracks.
“Initially we thought was a scam and we then looked into it and found out it wasn’t.
“He genuinely owns the tracks and has the right to sell them.
“The important thing is that whoever owns them each individual has the right of access to the bottom of their garden which was the point that we were making to people when he first started trying to capitalize on what he bought.
“I deplore what seems to be an attempt to intimidate residents into buying these tracks, or I will sell them to someone much nastier than me.
“We would work to ensure that the new owner respected the rights for access as by large Mr Morrison has done.
“He is well aware of the law in that regard.
“We would expect any new owner to likewise respect the law.
“They would have no right to do anything that would impede access and that would include parking in the alleyway.”
Michael Morrison’s Merton Park Tracks were contacted for a comment but did not respond.
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