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Planning committee sub member stands down over "fence-gate"
A COUNCILLOR who breached strict planning regulations by building a two-metre high fence around his garden has stepped down from his substitute role on Thurrock Council’s planning committee.
Gerard Rice, a Labour councillor for Chadwell St Mary has come under fire since Thurrock Council revealed that it was looking into a complaint made to its planning department.
Cllr Rice erected a two-metre high fence at his property on Heath Road, Orsett Heath which he admits is in breach of strict planning regulations, requiring the fence to be under a metre in height if it is less than one metre from the highway.
The beleagured councillor said that the council has “opened a big can of worms” claiming that disregard for this particular regulation is common across the borough.
The story was picked up by a national newspaper which quoted “a neighbour” as likening the fence to Bin Laden’s bunker. He declared: “If the council is going to come after me, then they will have to go after everybody.
"Across the road from me, there is a chap who has a two metre high fence, on a bend. The council told me nine months ago that that was alright."
But in a statement issued by his wife, Barbara, who is a member of the council’s cabinet, Cllr Gerard said: “I am shocked at some of the reporting of my wife’s fence and for the record want to state as clearly as I can that I do not believe we should be treated any differently to any other residents of Thurrock.
“In light of the publicity this has generated I will be standing down as a substitute member of the council’s planning committee.”
Wife Barbara added: “I am amazed at the publicity this fence has attracted. When I purchased the bungalow last December it needed a huge amount of work.
“It was, of course important that I made my garden secure especially as my grandchildren are frequent visitors.
“I will abide by whatever the planning officers decide and look forward to putting this unpleasant saga behind me.”
Cllr Rice is unsure who made the complaint, but has been quoted as saying it could be down to "Conservative mischief".
He added: "I would have thought the Conservatives were above a political smear campaign. That would be pretty low."
A spokesperson from Thurrock Council said: "We have received complaints about this development and are currently investigating it in line with our normal procedures."