Pensioner told to reduce size of fence says 'zero tolerance planning policy' appears 'vindictive'

A Wigston resident who was told to reduce the size of his fence
A Wigston resident was told to reduce the size of his fence. -Credit:James Barry

A Wigston resident who was told to reduce the size of his fence has claimed the local council's "zero tolerance policy could appear to be vindictive or even bordering on a vendetta".

James Barry said after moving to his bungalow in February 2021, he decided to invest in a six foot fence for safety and security reasons. He said he felt his home was exposed at the front of the property once he had cleared the overgrown garden, which he said had been left untouched prior to him moving in.

In 2022, some weeks after he had put up the fence, Mr Barry told LeicestershireLive he received an enforcement notice from Oadby and Wigston planning department saying he needed retrospective planning permission for it. After paying £250 for the application, he claims planning bosses refused the application and said the fence should be reduced from six foot to one metre.

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A spokesperson for the council said the application and subsequent appeal was rejected due to the height, length and prominent location of the fence as it was out of character for the area and "visually unappealing".

Mr Barry, 67, said he bought the bungalow in 2021 after he suffered problems during a routine hernia operation where he developed sepsis and suffered other complications which left him in a coma for three weeks. He decided to buy the property after his recovery as he had to learn to walk again and struggled with stairs.

According to Mr Barry, the front of the bungalow was very exposed and a large amount of rubbish was being thrown directly into the garden from the pavement. It was at that point he had a six-foot-fence built, having noted that several hedges in the area were over three metres high.

Some weeks later he said he received the enforcement notice from Oadby and Wigston Planning Department saying he needed retrospective planning permission for the fence. He was denied permission, but he planted seven small trees in front of the fence on the understanding he could plant bushes, trees or shrubs to create an enclosed front garden.

Mr Barry appealed the denial, but it was refused. He said he then approached the planning authority to ask if they would reconsider their decision as he said the trees were growing well and he "wanted the opportunity to allow a little more time for them to grow and spread out."

This request was also denied and the pensioner said he had the fence reduced to the required height in December 2023. Since this decision, he said he has recently bought some plastic ivy which has been hung "to try and regain some element of privacy."

He said Oadby and Wigston Borough Council has now requested he remove the plastic ivy. A letter sent to Mr Barry from a planning enforcement officer, and seen by LeicestershireLive, said: "I have been informed the fencing was reduced as requested but has been replaced with a screen. This is not something that can be supported by the council and will also need to be removed."

Mr Barry said: "Over the last three years I feel as though I have been badgered by the council and my life has been made a misery. It has been a constant worry and I have had to endure many sleepless nights.

"The strain and stress caused by the inability of the council to waiver from their 'zero tolerance' policy has been devastating. I am a senior citizen who just wants to be left in peace and quiet.

"I want to feel secure and safe, there have been too many burglaries in the neighbourhood and there is no police presence whatsoever. I have limited income and I have had to pay for retrospective planning permission which was a waste of time, a professional to come and reduce the height of the fence and, finally, the cost of several packs of ivy netting.

"The cost has run to hundreds of pounds, money I can ill afford to waste. Everyone I know has sympathy with my position and are amazed at the stance of the council as no one has complained.

"Some people’s opinion may even suggest that this could appear to be vindictive or even bordering on a vendetta as an explanation to the council’s stance.”

Head of the Built Environment at Oadby & Wigston Borough Council Adrian Thorpe said: “This planning application was rejected by the borough council and then the Planning Inspectorate on appeal.

“This was due to the height, length and prominent location of the fencing adjacent to the road, which means it is out of character for the area and can be visually unappealing for everyone else that lives and works there.

“Natural planting or growth is very different and doesn’t have the same restrictions as a high fence or wall.

“It’s important we have planning policies in place that protect the appearance and character of our green borough.”