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Husband and wife councillors told to take down fence...by their colleagues
4:00pm Monday 30th December 2013 in Echo News
A COUPLE who are both councillors have had their attempts to keep a 6ft fence around their garden kicked out...by fellow councillors!
Barbara Rice, Thurrock council’s deputy leader and husband Gerard, a veteran Labour councillor, breached strict planning regulations by putting up the fence, twice the height its allowed to be, around their home in Orsett Heath in September 2012.
A year on, the couple’s colleagues on the planning committee decided to refuse planning permission, despite more than 60 of the neighbours not being bothered.
Mrs Rice said it had always been the couple’s intention to take the fence down once shrubs behind had grown enough to secure the garden, but she claims the hedge is still too short to offer any protection for their grandchildren.
Mrs Rice said: “My fence is getting more publicity than the proposed 350 homes on green belt land just down the road.
“We honestly didn’t know we needed permission before.”
Mrs Rice said she was now going to follow suggestions made by planning officers and take the fence down, adding it was always intended to be temporary measure.
She said: “This fence was to protect our garden and we had to have it. Why would we want to go through all this trouble?
“I would like to thank the many neighbours who have supported me in my endeavour to protect my family’s security and privacy with a fence until a suitable hedge can be established.”
One neighbour, Fran Proctor, 43, of Heath Road, said he didn’t know what all the fuss was about and reckons the fence had improved the area.
She said: “It’s a fuss over nothing. It’s their back garden.
They have their grandchildren over and it keeps them safe.
Whoever complained in the first place is an idiot.”
It is not clear what will happen now. As the Rices consider their next steps, the council will seek legal advice on whether enforcement should be served.
Mr Rice was forced to resign from his role as the substitute member for the planning scrutiny committee when the issue came to light last year.
At the council’s latest planning meeting, Tory Tunde Ojetola said: “I’ve got sympathy for anyone wanting to protect their children, but if these two were not councillors, would we have been a bit more forceful in our comments?
“For Thurrock residents, we need to set an example. I would hope they go away now and just comply. The reality is they should take it down and make it work.”
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