ACTOR George Cole and his wife have become “very depressed” over a planning dispute with a neighbour.

The former Minder star has become involved in a row with neighbour and former friend James Morris who has built an industrial sawmill 60 yards away from the Coles’ home.

Mr Cole, 88, said it is noisy, spoils the woodland view and is out of keeping with the area.

The couple also fear that Mr Morris may try to get planning permission to build new homes at the woodland site in Stoke Row, near Henley.

Mr Cole, who played lovable rogue Arthur Daley in the 1980s hit TV show and Flash Harry in the early St Trinian’s films, and his wife have said they feel “betrayed” by Mr Morris, and the situation had made them both “depressed”.

The grandfather-of-three said: “With the leaves gone off the trees you can’t miss it.”

Permission for the sawmill, which stands at 7.7 metres tall, was granted by South Oxfordshire District Council last August.

But the Coles want the council to look again at the application and have employed a legal firm to take on their case.

Mrs Cole, 75, said: “The main feature is the noise. George is 88 and he’s lived in the woods in tranquillity for at least 70 years. It has upset people in the village very much because they have a right of way across the top of his land.

“Villagers walk with prams and dogs. They all feel it doesn’t fit with the landscape.

“We can see it from the master bedroom. We are on top of it, it’s about 60 yards from our fence.”

Mrs Cole added: “It has brought us down most dreadfully. We have both become very nervy and very depressed.

“It has devalued our property so what we leave our children is under threat.”

She said the couple, who have been married for 49 years, had previously looked after Mr Morris’s home, and had socialised with him.

But she said: “He never told us. We feel he betrayed our friendship.”

In his application Mr Morris, 44, whose estate covers 14.9 acres, said he had met with the Forestry Commission and created a woodland management strategy to fell trees.

It was said the barn was necessary to store larger logs for drying and also machinery.

Mr Morris was unavailable to comment.

A South Oxfordshire District Council spokesman said: “A forestry building has been allowed on the site on the basis that it falls within permitted development rights.

“The council was satisfied that the proposed siting, design and external appearance of the building was acceptable.

“The permitted building must only be used in relation to forestry operations on the land, and cannot be used in relation to any commercial sawmill operation without planning permission.”

Much-loved actor on our screens for 60 years

George Cole’s acting career has spanned 60 years.

Born in London, Mr Cole appeared alongside Alastair Sim, his close friend, mentor and former neighbour in Stoke Row, and Sir John Mills, in the 1941 film Cottage to Let.

Oxford Mail:

George Cole in the St Trinian’s films

During the 1950s and 1960s, he played the part of ‘Flash Harry’ in the popular St Trinian’s films, again working with Alastair Sim.

He worked in Hollywood in the 1960s on the movie Cleopatra, with Elizabeth Taylor and Richard Burton, and on the stage.

In 1979 he was cast as lovable rogue Arthur Daly, in Minder, opposite Dennis Waterman. The show ran for 15 years.


He has been in a string of productions since, including An Independent Man, Mary Reilly, Dad, Station Jim, Bodily Harm and New Tricks, in which he was again paired with Dennis Waterman in 2003.

He was given an OBE in 1992 for services to drama.