Conservation areas & fences/ hedges.

12 Mar 2013
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United Kingdom
Hi all, I'm new to this so please excuse any lack of forum etiquette & the rambling post. I am completely at the end of my tether & really don't know where to turn so am hoping someone knowledgable out there can point me in the right direction.
The background.......
We have 3 dogs, unfortunately late last year one of them managed to get through the fence onto a neighbours property & consume enough rat poison to kill him. This wasn't a regular occurrence, in 6 years of ownership he had never strayed from our garden but apparently the neighbour had been experiencing rat problems so we can only guess he chased a rat through a hole we were unaware of. Not surprisingly we're terrified of a repeat occurrence.
The boundary fence is approximately 50feet in length & was composed of a 4 foot wire mesh fence. This was concealed inside a 6 foot hedge for about half it's length & behind leylandii for the rest. Both the hedge & the leylandii had been there when we moved in 12 years ago. The majority of the roots/ trunks were at our side of the fence. Our gardener who kept them trimmed had informed us that the hedge was past its best, had become top heavy & needed replacing. It was impossible to access the wire fence without removing the hedge.
What we did......
We had a contractor remove the hedge & were intending to instal a 6ft ship lap fence down the boundary. Unfortunately at this point we were descended on by the local conservation officer who deemed it unacceptable. We have tried to enter into discussions with him regarding a suitable alternative but his attitude seems to be that we can only erect either a 4 foot picket or close boarded fence or possibly hurdles, which seems his preferred option. He has also mentioned what colours, finishes & hedge types would be 'acceptable'.
The problem.....
Obviously 4 foot will not provide the security we're after. The wall on the opposite boundary is 5 feet high, the ship lap fencing at the bottom of the garden also 5 feet. I have searched the Internet but cannot find any details of what his powers actually are. Has he the authority to control such things as the type of hedge we grow or the type of stain applied to any fencing? None of the garden is visible from any public area as it is surrounded by other gardens on all 3 sides. To actually see a 6 foot high fence from the nearest public area you would need to be 7 foot tall! Somewhere there must be guidelines as to the extent of a conservation officers powers & what criteria he needs to apply before reaching a decision?
If anyone has any information that they think might help us resolve this issue I would be very, very grateful. At the moment we're lost as to what to do next! Thank you for reading.
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I have searched the Internet but cannot find any details of what his powers actually are. Has he the authority to control such things as the type of hedge we grow or the type of stain applied to any fencing?

Council has power over trees. Loads of internet info on trees in conservation areas, what a tree is etc. Round here they joke they will turn a blind eye if you get rid of a leylandii without asking first.
1m or 4ft is the maximum in the front garden 2m 6ft 7" is the maximum anywhere else under normal circumstances without planning
it is usually more restrictive in conservation areas
Sounds like your area has an Article 4 direction imposed upon it, phone your planning department and they will tell you. How did the conservation officer find out anyway, did your neighbours grass you up?
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Yes, we think a neighbour grassed us up. Which is odd as we discussed what we intended to do and why with everyone concerned.
And you're correct the boundary is a curtilage of a listed building and subject to article 4. We thought (incorrectly?) that this applied to the body of the house and areas viewable from a public area or highway not the rear garden.
And yes again, they have stated that the leylandii are a hedge and we can remove them without any permission and would encourage it.
What I cannot get my head round is the conservation officers continued use of the word 'unacceptable'. Ie. The stain is 'unacceptable' - it needs to be untreated wood (ship lap fencing on the 2 surrounding properties is stained)Non indigenous plants are 'unacceptable' (all the surrounding properties are divided by leylandii approx 30 years old and well controlled). A 5 or 6 foot high fence is 'unacceptable' as standard panels are 4 foot (despite all other boundaries being 5 foot. The implication is that if we instal something and apply for permission retrospectively he will oppose it.
Does anyone know what he has the authority to enforce and what is just his opinion? Otherwise if he can dictate details down to our fence size, style & colour his powers are a little draconian.
Boundary features (fences, walls etc) are controlled when part of the curtilage of a listed building and will therefore need planning permission.

The conservation officer has the power to make recommendations on design aspects and the planning officer will take those into account.

Too often, though, conservation officers live on a different planet from the rest of us.
Thanks for your reply Tony.

He does appear to be slightly conservative in his approach (understatement).
Do you know if he can actually block planning permission if we choose to go with an alternative to his suggestion?
I think the thing that bugs me the most is that I cannot seem to find anything listed anywhere on any council website that says he has control of the things he implies he does.

He has told us a yew hedge is appropriate, yet it's poisonous to animals & children. Hardly an ideal border in a house with kids & pets! As far as I can tell he has no control over what we plant, but I can't find anything to substantiate his powers.

Do I understand your point correctly that the planning officer will take his views into account but isn't obliged to follow them? Might it be better to discuss with the planning officer directly?

Once again, thanks for taking the time to post.
Enlightening - good?
Or enlightening - keep me away from sharp objects & make sure my jacket fastens up the back? My world is over!
they can be over ruled to some extent
there say so is advisory to some extent
Just apply for planning permission and state your case for what you want and why other solutions (such as poisonous yew) are unacceptable. He will make a recommendation but ultimately has no power over the planning committee.
Thanks for that - I'll give it a try & see what happens. I was hoping to get some sort of provisional approval so I could at least get a fence up & the perimeter secure but I think I'll just instal something temporary until the planning results come through.

Thanks all for helping, I'll post up the results when they come through so if anyone has a similar issue in the future they might stumble across it.

If anyone else has anything pertinent to add I would love to hear from you,

Thanks again.

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