RESIDENTS have been left fuming over a fence which ruins their riverside views and claim its owners have not obeyed a court order to take it down.
For more than a decade, villagers living in Mistley, Essex, have rallied against the metal fence which lines the banks of the River Stour.
Their actions triggered the saga of the Mistley Quay fence stretches back over 14 years, first beginning in 2008.
The community woke up to find a tall metal fence blocking their view of the river, and stopped them from crabbing, fishing or mooring boats beside it.
Residents vowed they wouldn't rest until it came down.
After years of fighting over the fence, in September 2022 the local campaign group Free the Quay took the matter all the way to the Supreme Court and won the right to have it removed and replaced with something more aesthetically pleasing, yet as October draws to an end the fence remains.
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Logistics company Trent Wharfage Logistics (TWL), who owns the tiny port, erected the metal fence along its edge over concerns about people falling off it.
As the shipping company is responsible for safety on the quay, they say that the fence must remain or someone could be hurt.
Chairman of Free the Quay Simon Bullimore says the campaign group is still trying to decide on a style of fence which both port owners Trent Wharfage Logistics and council planners are happy with but claims attempts to meet with the port company have been consistently rejected.
He said: "The people of Mistley still want the fence down and they want to enjoy their village quay, and so after years of going through the court process and ending up in the highest court of the land over a small piece of quay in Mistley, which seems like a ludicrous state of affairs."
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Simon believes that people want to "enjoy" the village green and the view, not "look through this industrial fence" which has no place in a "conservation area" which he points out has been painted by John Constable and many others because of its beauty.
Nancy Bell moved to a house on Mistley Quay 20 years ago and fell in love with it, but didn't expect to spend two-thirds of that time fighting an "incredibly frustrating" battle over a fence.
She said: "We loved the working quay and everything about it, the people who lived there, the general atmosphere. When the fence went up things completely changed.
"It wasn't just about the view. It was about the fact that somebody could be so unkind in a way and so thoughtless in terms of just not wanting to be a good neighbour and perhaps working with the community residents to come up with a solution.
"That became, for me, more of a frustration than the actual physical fence because it just seems such a waste of time."
Nancy and other residents recall times when families used to crab off the quay, boats would moor up and enjoy a rest on the water's edge, people would come down to feed the swans and even fish off the quayside.
Free the Quay claims there has never been an accident on Mistley Quay and even did a survey of other quays like it in East Anglia, which identified numerous types of fencing which could be used instead of the large metal one, including bollards with chains set back from the edge.
But on the other side of the fence is Trent Wharfage Logistics who say that as the owners of the working port they are responsible for safety on it and that their fence must remain to keep locals and workers alike safe.
It says the 4m drop off the quay poses significant risks, particularly to children and the elderly but also warns that without the fence cars might also drive right over the side.
TWL says that the fence was first erected due to the threat of enforcement action by the Health and Safety Executive.
A spokeswoman for TWL said: "Clearly, as the landowner and operator of the working port TWL has significant legal obligations with which it must comply.
"Ultimate responsibility for what occurs on the land rests with us.
"Under the Health and Safety at Work Act, TWL has pre-existing rights and a duty to ensure that no one is exposed to risks to their health and safety whilst on its land. A breach of this is a criminal offence."
TWL also added that the Supreme Court found that it had been complying with "its duty to ensure the safety of its workers and the public when they come on the land" and that the public's enjoyment of the land shouldn't 'interfere' with its use as a commercial port.
A spokesperson for Essex County Council (ECC) said: "ECC registered Mistley Quay, under the Commons Act 2006, as a village green in 2015.
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"In February 2021 this decision was upheld by the Supreme Court. ECC is the registering authority for town and village greens, but, in this case, as the land is owned by a company, ECC is not the enforcement authority.
"ECC has opened dialogue regarding Mistley Quay with the landowners, DEFRA and Tendring District Council and this dialogue will continue."
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