Locals say they can't enjoy 'village green' because it's been fenced off by owners

The latest form of protest from villagers has been to chain the word 'unlock' to the fence
The latest form of protest from villagers has been to chain the word 'unlock' to the fence -Credit:EssexLive

A fence around a concrete Essex quay - designated as a village green - “means residents are unable to exercise their rights”. The 180cm-high, 130-metre-long fence was erected at Mistley in 2008 in response to concerns from the Health and Safety Executive.

But it also has meant villagers have been stopped from crabbing, fishing or mooring boats beside it - pastimes enjoyed there for "many centuries" prior. An application to the county council from campaign group Free the Quay saw the concrete waterfront registered as a village green in 2015.

In 2021 the Supreme Court ruled the quayside should keep its village green status following an appeal from logistics company Trent Wharfage Logistics (TWL), which owns the quay. TWL says the fence must remain or, it adds, someone could be hurt.

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The issue has now been raised at Essex County Council which heard arguments from Free the Quay, which objects to the nature of the fencing, and says the existing barrier is unsafe. Campaign group chairman Prof David McKay argued the issue is not an enforcement issue but one of “discussion and negotiation" - adding the people of Mistley will pay for a safe and appropriate replacement fence.

He told the full council: “We have now gathered well in excess of 2,498 signatures imploring Essex County Council to comply with the Supreme Court’s admonitions. Our questions to the Council are, therefore, why have you not complied with the Court’s decision and when will you do so?

"We should add that in these straitened times this is an essentially cost-free exercise. The people of Mistley will pay for a replacement fence. And appropriate council action would fit well with your mission to ensure that it is not only Everyone’s Mistley Quay but also "Everyone’s Essex."

Councillor Carlo Guglielmi presented the petition calling for Essex County Council, Health and Safety Executive and TWL to work to find the best way forward to "address safety concerns and re-establishes historical access to the shore from the water".

He said: “This council in 2014 granted village green status in recognition of the many recreational activities that generations have undertaken on the quay for many centuries.”

Cabinet member for planning a growing economy, Councillor Lee Scott, said Essex County Council does not have any enforcement powers. He said: "This is entirely about enforcement. The quay is a village green and the fence means residents are unable to exercise their rights over some parts of the quay Essex County Council's only statutory role in this is as the common registration authority.”

TWL has been asked for comment.