We fight enclosure of Stevenage common

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We have objected to a plan by Stevenage Borough Council to fence off part of Norton Green Common on the south-west side of Stevenage in Hertfordshire, immediately to the west of the A1(M).

The council has applied to the Planning Inspectorate for consent to erect works on common land under section 38 of the Commons Act 2006.

Norton Green Common is a long, broad strip of land, running north-south, over which the public has the right to walk and ride.  The council want to fence off the southern part to enable it to be grazed for nature-conservation reasons.  The common is part of the Knebworth Site of Special Scientific Interest.  The council proposes to install a gate in the part of the fence which runs across the common.

A public byway is recorded as running along most of the length of the common, but it has not been fully recorded and is a dead end on the map.

We believe that the fence will restrict the open feeling of the land and will be an eyesore, destroying the attractive nature of the common.

The council seems not to understand that people have the legal right to walk and ride over every square inch of the land, and that carriage-drivers have rights to use the public byway and therefore that they must have access to it.  The council claims that the byway is a dead end, but that is only what is shown on the official map.  It is likely that the remainder of it has not yet been recorded but is nevertheless a public highway.

The proposed fence across the common is an unacceptable barrier.

We are sad that the council did not trouble to consult the Open Spaces Society, in accordance with the recommended practice, before putting in the application.  We might then have been able to reach agreement, but now it is too late.  We have called on the Planning Inspectorate to reject the application.

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