A family in Edwistowe is being forced to remove a fence by Newark and Sherwood District Council appeal Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove to change legislation
A father says he is willing to be arrested to keep his autistic daughter safe in an ongoing fight with planners to keep his garden fence.
Cliff and Dawn Baker got permission from his landlord to put a 6ft fence in his garden in Edwinstowe, but failed to get planning permission from Newark and Sherwood District Council.
Following a complaint, the district council ordered him to take it down.
But he claims the fence is there to keep safe his ten-year-old daughter, Tiona-Jai White, who has autism and is one of the only two people in the world with a rare chromosome depletion.
The family paid more than £400 to appeal the council’s decision to turn down the application, but that was also rejected.
“If they try to remove the fence I’ll tell them straight you get back in your vans and buzz off because I am not having it at all,” said Cliff.
“I want to keep my daughter safe and you are not removing the fence. If it comes down to it and they bring the police and they come out yes there will be a good chance I am arrested because I will not stand back and let them take that fence down.
“I don’t want to cause impact or get publicity, It is literally down to the fact that my daughter’s safety is paramount and I believe that they should be doing more to work with us and let us keep this fence so we can keep our daughter safe.
“There should be a change in legislation for people like us that are in this situation to give our sons or daughters a place to play in the garden where they can be safe.
“Some children like ours have no road sense at all. They don’t know the meaning of danger so they can end up walking outside and getting hit by a car because they don’t understand and then what? Are the council taking responsibility for that? They are not and they won’t.”
A pediatric doctor at King’s Mill Hospital, Sutton-in-Ashfield, Dr Jeanette Derbyshire, confirmed that TJ has autism spectrum disorder and that it was important that children with the condition had a safe environment.
She said: “She has a tendency to climb and therefore the fence needs to be higher than the normal size fences.
“I fully support the family’s application to keep the high fence that is already there unchanged.”
The family has been given until February next year to remove the fence or reduce it to one metre.
The family have urged the Secretary of State for Levelling up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, to allow the planning law to be more flexible when it comes to children with disabilities.
Working together with Nottinghamshire County Council, Scott Carlton, a letter was sent to the Secretary of State.
The usual wait for a response from the secretary of state is four months, which gets the family close to the deadline to remove the fence.
The councillor wrote that the current planning system has no space for “common sense” to be applied and that the family is being severely let down by their district council and the requests made by district are unrealistic and will not meet TJ’s needs.
The father said: “This whole situation is tearing Dawn’s mind apart, it really is. It is ripping her head to pieces, making her feel depressed because it is constantly on her mind, her daughter’s safety.
“The worry is constantly there, because we have to fight this and because I have to speak to everyone, I have to keep my head together, I can’t let it get on top of me but the worry is always there.
“I am scared to get arrested by the police, I don’t have a criminal record, I haven’t got anything, my entire life is clean. I am scared, of course I am, I would be a fool not to be but it is my daughter and her safety at the end of the day.
“If I get arrested so be it but I will do everything I can to keep my daughter safe. This is not about a fence, in the eyes of the law it is but it is not about a fence but a child’s safety, that’s what we are fighting for.”
Lisa Hughes, the district council’s business manager for planning development, said they couldn't go into detail about the case as they followed the planning rules when investigating the case.
She said: “When a member of the public brings an infringement of the planning laws/rules to our notice we have a duty to investigate. We conducted our investigations and found that the height of the fence contradicted national legislation and was negatively impacting upon local amenity. A notice was therefore issued requiring that the fence be reduced in height to one metre, the maximum height permitted adjacent to a highway.
“This is obviously a difficult and emotional case; we wanted to help the applicant and have offered alternative solutions, which have been supported by the Planning Inspector, but unfortunately these have thus far been turned down by the applicant.
“We’re sorry to hear the applicant is frustrated by this decision but we are still open to working with them to find an alternative if possible.”