A RETIREE who spent £15,000 turning an allotment patch into a solar-powered nature reserve is frustrated he cannot expand into a neighbouring field.

Kevin Hartney has spent nearly 15 years turning his small green patch in Southwick into a haven for wildlife.

But the 73-year-old’s hopes to expand into an overgrown two-acre field nearby have been refused by Adur District Council for five years.

And the Whitehawk resident is worried the long-neglected land has become a fire hazard as six foot brambles have created a layer of dead, dry undergrowth.

“That land has been abandoned for 20 years, nothing has been done with it,” Mr Hartney said.

“It’s like the Borneo jungle.

“What worries me is that everything underneath the brambles is dead and dry.

“So if a stray firework lands in the field it could catch fire.

“Summers are becoming longer and drier too, so the fire could just start by itself.

“I’ve made a fire break between my land and that field now.”

Mr Hartney said he was even willing to pay rent if it meant being able to create another nature reserve on the neglected site.

He has carefully cultivated his plot over 15 years with the help of friend Mark Woodley.

“I’m just sad nothing has been done with this land,” Mr Hartney said.

“We’ve already got a track record of creating a reserve and we’re happy to pay rent.

“That’s years of income they’re missing out on.

“We’ve got a set of badgers at our reserve and we’ve seen some firecrest birds here which are quite rare.

“They were very shy when they first came here but now they just walk around like you’re one of them.”

Last May Adur council said the land had been handed over to The Conservation Volunteers charity for use as a “forest school” and said planning would begin “in a matter of months”.

But the site in Manor Hall Road has not been touched since, to Mr Hartney’s frustration.

“None of the grass has been trod down,” Mr Hartney said.

Now the charity’s plans are set to begin in April according to a district council spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said it is hoped that once the TCV starts using the site members of the community will get involved and Mr Hartney could then get the chance to join in too.

“The land will be used as a base for bush craft and outdoor learning, including for scouts and schools,” she said.

“The TCV’s work will include clearing away non-native plants, replacing it with native species, setting up nest boxes and looking at creating an above ground pond to support local wildlife.

“The TCVs work with the local community and we believe would welcome Mr Hartney and any other locals who would like to join them.”