Council accused of risking girl with autism’s safety in Edwinstowe fence dispute

A council has been accused of putting planning rules ahead of a 10-year-old girl’s health and safety in a bust-up about a garden fence in Edwinstowe.
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The dispute arose when Cliff and Dawn Baker erected a two-metre-high fence at the front of their home on Third Avenue, which they rent from a housing association.

The reason for the fence was to reduce the risk of their daughter, Tiona-Jai, running out on to the road and in front of traffic. Tiona-Jai has autism, learning difficulties and a rare chromosome disorder.

Mum Dawn, aged 48, who herself is disabled, said: “The fence is for TJ’s safety. Her condition means she has no road sense at all.”

Edwinstowe couple Cliff and Dawn Baker with ten-year-old daughter, Tiona-Jai, by the fence that has been ordered to be taken down.Edwinstowe couple Cliff and Dawn Baker with ten-year-old daughter, Tiona-Jai, by the fence that has been ordered to be taken down.
Edwinstowe couple Cliff and Dawn Baker with ten-year-old daughter, Tiona-Jai, by the fence that has been ordered to be taken down.

However, a neighbour complained about the fence, saying it was too high.

Newark & Sherwood Council agreed and issued an enforcement notice on Dawn and husband Cliff, 43, ordering the fence to be pulled down within four months.

The couple appealed to the government’s Planning Inspectorate, and gained support from Tiona-Jai’s paediatrician at King’s Mill Hospital, Sutton.

Dr Jeanette Derbyshire wrote: "Children with autism enjoy being out in the garden, so it is important this is a safe environment for them.

“Tiona-Jai is very impulsive and can have significant temper outbursts, which mean it is difficult to keep her safe outside the home.

“She has a tendency to climb and, therefore, the fence needs to be higher than normal.”

Nevertheless, the planning inspector dismissed the appeal, although he increased the deadline to remove the fence to nine months.

He said the fence was “a dominant structure in a prominent location that appears appreciably taller” than the walls, fences or hedges at the front of neighbouring homes.

He said: “It is an intrusive and oppressive feature that harms the character and appearance of the area.”

Now the council has given the Bakers until February to remove the fence, or reduce its height to an acceptable 1m.

But the Bakers have lodged a complaint and are now considering taking their case to the Local Government Ombudsman, with Dawn branding the saga “absolutely diabolical”.

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Cliff said: “We feel they have gone only by planning rules and not medical issues. We are stuck between a rock and a hard place.

“They want us to take the fence down, but won’t take responsibility if anything happens to TJ.

“We have contacted our MP, Mark Spencer, who is not impressed. He says it is pathetic and has tried everything to come to an arrangement with the council.”

Lisa Hughes, council business manager for planning development, said: “We followed the appropriate planning rules and law when investigating this case.

“We found the height of the fence contradicted national legislation and was negatively impacting upon local amenity.

“Therefore, a notice was issued, requiring the fence to be reduced to 1m, 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 been turned down by the applicant. We’re sorry to hear the applicant is frustrated by this decision, but are still open to working with them to find an alternative.”