Dispute over St Andrews garden fence settled Householder told to dismantle fence

The fence in Hepburh Gardens.
The fence in Hepburh Gardens.
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A St Andrews householder has been ordered to take down a fence bordering her garden in part of the town’s conservation area after it was erected without planning permission.

She has lost an appeal against a decision by Fife councillors who rejected an application for the erection of the fence in her front garden - it was partly retrospective - and also a second appeal against an enforcement notice issued by the local authority for it to be removed.

The controversy centres on a residential property in Hepburn Gardens and followed an unsuccessful application for the erection of the fence at Gordon Lodge, which borders a main route in and out of the town.

Members of the north east Fife area committee turned down the application in the interests of visual amenity, ruling that the structure was of a non-traditional design, and that its prominent position was considered to be out of character with the adjoining traditional property and conservation area in general and created an adverse impact on the visual amenity.

The construction of the timber fence without planning permission - it was painted white and ranges in height between 1.6 and 1.8 metres - met with a wave of protest from residents in the area and also from several organisations, including members of St Andrews Community Council and St Andrews Preservation Trust.

Members of the Hepburn Gardens Area Residents’ Association were also up in arms, branding the fence as “totally inappropriate” and “completely out of character.”

The association called for the “removal of this unsightly and unwelcome addition” to the street and criticised the flouting of the planning processs designed to maintain the character of an area.

Heather McQueen appealed to the Scottish Government against both the refusal of her application to build the fence to create “a secluded area” at the north west of the lodge, lay slabs and plant some trees “to enhance the area,” and also the enforcement notice.

In his findings, Donald Harris, a Reporter appointed by the Scottish Ministers, said the determining issues in the appeal were the effect on the residential character of the area, the conservation area and the setting of the nearby category C listed building, Hepburn Hall,

He said that being in the front garden, the decorative white painted fencing panels “are very prominent.”

Rejecting the appeal against refusal he said: ”The height, design and colour are, in my opinion, quite out of keeping with the character of this residential area. Moreover, I do not accept that the planting of climbing plants to soften the impact of the panels would be adequately effective.”

He said that the application also contravened part of the St Andrews Area Local Plan.

Dismissing the appeal and refusing planning permission, he added:”I appreciate the appellant’s desire to create a sheltered outdoor area with privacy. It is unfortunate that only space in the front garden is available to her. It is also unfortunate that she misunderstood the need for planning permission. However, any merits in these points is far outweighed by the damage done to this very pleasant residential area, which is also a conservation area.”

He dismissed the second appeal against the enforcement notice and directed it be upheld.