THE police have been dragged into a controversial planning wrangle after campaign posters went missing.
Foxley Residents' Association chairman Brian Watson reported the disappearance of posters opposing a proposed extension to the Highfield House care home in Higher Drive, which campaigners had attached to street signs along the road.
He said his suspicions were raised because the signs were removed quickly, roughly a week after being posted, and that they were also taken from his road, Densham Drive, which is private.
A Met Police officer duly recorded the "offence" and promised it would be passed to the Crime Assessment Unit.
But a quick call to the council by the Advertiser revealed revealed council officers had taken them down because of fly-posting regulations.
Mr Watson had suggested the posters may have been taken by supporters of Highfield House, but said the council's removing them was "galling".
He said: "The signs have cost money; we have quite a few residents – about 100 – who have joined the FRA and we do not ask for a subscription.
"We just asked if anyone would volunteer costs, and we got quite a bit.
"We understand taking them from the road signs not on our road, but they did not touch them last time and they have come a cropper with Densham Drive, which is now private."
Residents bought Densham Drive last year, fearing it would otherwise be clogged up by Highfield House visitors and workers.
The 27-bed home, which cares for NHS patients with severe neurological problems, opened in December 2011 against stiff opposition from some residents.
Mr Watson and opponents are now campaigning again, ahead of the planning inspector's decision on whether to allow the home a 22-bed extension.
Their protest signs, which warn of a "nightmare on Higher Drive" and list traffic and parking as key concerns, have not been removed from private gardens along the road.
Mr Watson said: "We went to all of the people that had them last time and said, 'Would you like to display a poster again?' and bar two they all said yes. So they are all there with their knowledge."
A council spokesman said that, while the campaign signs did not have planning permission, it tried to be "even-handed and use a bit of common sense" in deciding whether to take them down.
The spokesman said: "A lost dog [sign] is a good example of things that have been there for a long time but nobody asked for permission to put them up."
He added that, although the posters attached to Densham Drive signs were on private land, that would not have been obvious to the workers removing them.
The planning inspector's decision on the extension is expected in around a month's time.The wife of a resident of Highfield House has spoken out in support of the home and its planned extension. Ruth Springer's husband Shaun was admitted to the home in December 2011. The father of three, 57, has permanent brain damage after a massive heart attack in March of that year. Mrs Springer, 49, from Richmond, says she hopes other families can access the same high levels of her care her husband has received. "Within four hours of arriving there my husband spoke for the first time in six months. The care is of a high standard that I have seen nowhere else," she said. "We liked Highfield's attitude; we liked the way they presented themselves. "Any time I have ever asked Shaun 'Are people nice to you, are people looking after you?', it is a yes. "I normally get there around lunchtime and he is up, showered and dressed and in his wheelchair. He has his physiotherapy, speech therapy, music therapy and massage – they try and get most of that done in the morning."