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The environment secretary has approved a plan to erect fencing on common land at Wolstanton, Newcastle under Lyme.
The application was from the headteacher of May Bank Infants School (Staffordshire County Council) for consent, under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006, to fence off an area of common land adjoining the school.
There will be 93 metres of fencing, one metre high, painted empire green, enclosing 1,000 square metres adjacent to the northern boundary of the school. The fencing is to provide a ‘safe’ area for children.
When the council learnt from us that the land was subject to a right to ride horses, it amended the application to replace two self-closing gates with two gaps in the fencing to allow horse riders to enter the site.
We objected to the application because the fencing would subdivide the common, which is an extensive area of open space enjoyed by the public. Although the council did not intend to prevent people from exercising their rights to walk and ride over the whole common, we considered that the fencing would deter the public from enjoying the land for recreation. It would also cut in two the popular footpath across the common.
The inspector Heidi Cruickshank, who was appointed by the Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs to determine the application, agreed with us that there would be an effect on users, ‘as they may feel uncomfortable exercising their rights both in relation to the common land and the footpath’, and that ‘there will be effect on the public interest, particularly in relation to the visual intrusion’. However, she felt that the improvements for the school warranted the fencing.
We are deeply disappointed that the application has been granted. We consider it will impair the public’s enjoyment of this important open space.