Family are 'plunged into darkness' after neighbour erected an 8ft fence around their home 12inches from their windows
A family say they have been plunged in darkness after a builder allegedly erected an 8ft fence just a foot away from their front door.
Rob Shepherd, 38, and his wife Sarah have lived in the bungalow for more than 20 years without any problems.
Mr Shepherd, from Portslade, near Brighton, East Sussex, claims the fence was put up by neighbour Michael Fitzsimons after a row.
The two properties were once part of a GP's surgery before being separated.
Mr Shepherd, 38, an architect's technician, and his wife have three children Reece, 20, who is at university, Robbie, 17, who has been diagnosed as autistic, and Betsy, five.
He said: 'Everything was fine until Michael moved in around three years ago. He is a builder and he started doing all sorts to the house with planning consent, a new extension and porch.
'Then suddenly a little over a week ago he started erecting a fence. We were in the front room when it suddenly went dark - we thought a huge raincloud was over us.
'Then when we opened the window there was this huge 8ft fence right next to the it.
'It is causing so much stress for my family I don't know whether we can continue living here. We haven't slept and I've got bags under my eyes from the worry of it all.
'It is also affecting the health of my children. My 17-year-old is very distressed by it and my daughter is extremely upset.
'We have rented this house for 20 years and it is home to us and our children and we don't want to be forced to leave.'
Mrs Shepherd, who suffers from Seasonal Affected Disorder, said: 'Everyone in the family is sick with the stress. It's dreadful. My son is autistic and when he heard the drilling right outside his room he was going wild.
'My five-year-old daughter was beside herself as well. They were drilling right outside the window and she is very, very distressed by the whole thing.
'When we're sitting in the front room now it's like it's nighttime because it's so dark.'
Mr Shepherd has written to his landlord and he has instructed a solicitor who has sent a letter to Michael Fitzsimons.
The fence does not require planning permission and the council has refused to get involved claiming that because Mr Fitzsimons does not need planning permission it is a civil matter.
But Mr Shepherd believes his home has 'right to light', meaning Mr Fitzsimons may eventually be forced to take down the fence.
The couple are also appealing to the city's planners and to local councillors to step in.
Mr Shepherd said: 'Our landlord is really angry about this because if we move out then the property is going to be very difficult to rent out because of the lack of natural light.
'We have told the police we are happy to go into mediation with our neighbours over this but they have categorically refused.'
Mr Shepherd said: 'It's silly when things get this bad - all we want is to live our lives.'