We are delighted that the environment secretary has rejected a retrospective application for fencing on Hanging Hill Lane common, Normanton-on-Trent.
The common is a long strip, consisting of Hanging Hill Lane and a broad verge on either side. The verge is used by walkers and for access to adjoining fields. The one-metre-high iron railings enclose 15 square metres, preventing public access and effectively privatising the land.
The occupant of the adjoining property, 1 Skegby Manor Cottage, Mr Andrew Winfrow, erected the fence and then applied retrospectively for permission to retain it for ten years. He said that the fence was to prevent his granddaughter from running into the road.
The Open Spaces Society, Natural England and a number of individuals objected, saying that the applicant was incorporating this land into his own curtilage and, as common land, it should be kept open and unenclosed.
The inspector, Richard Holland, agreed. He concluded that:
‘It is Government policy that the special qualities of common land, including its open and unenclosed nature, are properly protected. Although the application land amounts to only a very small proportion of the common, the railings enclose it and prevent public access; the application therefore conflicts with this policy.’
While he understood the applicant’s wish to prevent his granddaughter running on to the road, he said that alternative measures could be taken, ‘such as keeping doors facing the lane locked when children were in the house’.
We are delighted at this result. This stretch of land is a valuable amenity which is enjoyed by the public. The fence was of purely private benefit.
Previous owners of this cottage erected an unlawful fence on the common but they removed it in 2015 when Nottinghamshire County Council threatened enforcement action. Since the current fence is also unlawful, we shall call on the council again to take action to secure its removal if Mr Winfrow does not do so of his own accord.