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We have called for the removal of an unlawful picket-fence around part of Braintree Green Common at Rayne, one mile west of Braintree in Essex. This follows the refusal by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs of retrospective consent for the works on common land, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.
The 1.1-metre-high fence was erected in spring 2010 on common land around the property ‘Kenella’. The occupant, Mr Vincent Runchman, applied for retrospective consent for the fence to remain. The society, Rayne Parish Council and 16 local people objected. The decision was made by Mr Rob Davis of the Planning Inspectorate on behalf of the environment secretary.
Mr Davis rejected the application because the fence was for private benefit not the benefit of the common. The applicant had claimed that he needed the fence to keep his grandchildren safe, keep the dog off the road, keep foxes out, and assist his security. However, Mr Davis noted, among other things, that the public has the right to walk on common land and the fence hinders such access, and the fence creates the impression that the fenced land is private garden rather than part of the common—indeed the applicant had referred to the land as ‘our garden’ in his application.
We are delighted with this decision. The public has the right to walk on this common. It is for the enjoyment of all, not the private use by one family.
This decision confirms that the fence was erected unlawfully. We have written to Mr Runchman to urge him to remove it. We have also asked Essex County Council’s legal department to take action if Mr Runchman does not comply with our request. It is vital that this common is restored to the people.