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Councillor couple ordered to tear down fence...by their colleagues
A COUNCILLOR couple’s attempts to keep a six-foot fence around their garden have been kicked out by their fellow councillors.
Barbara Rice, the 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 Rice’s neighbours not being bothered.
Mrs Rice said she is going to follow suggestions made by planning officers and take the fence down, adding it was always intended to be a temporary measure.
She said: “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.”
She added: “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.
“This fence was to protect our garden and we had to have it. Why would we want to go through all this trouble?
One neighbour Fran Proctor, 43, of Heath Road told the Gazette 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 Rice’s 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.
And at last Thursday’s 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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