Fence reprieve for homeowner who was ‘unfamiliar’ with planning system

East Lothian Council said Elaine Smedley's fence 'breached council policy'.

Fence reprieve for homeowner who was ‘unfamiliar’ with planning system LDRS

A homeowner ordered to remove her garden fence after it breached council policy has been given a six-month reprieve after Scottish ministers found she was “unfamiliar” with the planning system.

Elaine Smedley moved the fence, at the side of her Haddington house, forward a few feet to allow her to access the whole garden.

But East Lothian Council told her moving the enclosure meant it was now considered a front garden fence and too high under rules.

The local authority gave her two months to take it down, so she appealed to Scottish ministers saying she needed more time to make her case.

Now the Scottish Government Reporter has agreed, ordering the local authority to extend the deadline to six months.

Ms Smedley asked for more time to “properly pursue my proposal through the planning process” as she appealed against the enforcement action.

And she acknowledged she had not been aware of her ability to appeal the decision through the council’s own review body and had been given “poor advice”.

The reporter ruled that while her appeal against the enforcement action was dismissed, the council should give her more time so she could pursue another planning application for the fence.

They said: “I find that the extended period for compliance with the notice as requested by the appellant is not unreasonable.

“They do not appear to have pursued the full range of options open to them in respect of the planning process.

“I appreciate that the appellant had the option of seeking a review but I am satisfied with their explanation that their unfamiliarity with the planning system and the advice they received led them to missing a potential opportunity to resolve the matter.

“Extending the period for compliance with the notice would, I find, allow the appellant to pursue the full range of options that the planning process in Scotland provides.”

The fence at Ms Smedley’s house originally sat back from the front of the garden, splitting it into an enclosed side garden with a front strip of grass.

Ms Smedley moved it forward to include the strip and was ordered to apply for retrospective  planning permission when it came to the council’s attention, despite claiming that there were other similar fences in the estate and a wall of the same height across from her home.

When she applied, permission was refused as the council ruled the timber structure was now a front garden fence, which is higher than allowed in the local authority’s open garden policy. 

The council had argued that two months to take it down was plenty of time to meet their demands, adding that removing the fence would only take “two days’” labour.

The reporter ruled that “overall, I conclude that there has been a breach of planning consent”.

However, they added: “The appeal succeeds, to the extent that a variation to the date on which the notice takes effect would be made.”

By local democracy reporter Marie Sharp

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