Court victory over school fence

The fence which is being erected around the playing fields of Lindisfarne Middle School.
The fence which is being erected around the playing fields of Lindisfarne Middle School.

A HOUSEHOLDER has won the battle to regain a right of way from his garden which had been blocked by the building of a controversial school fence.

Ray Prudhoe took on Northumberland County Council after the governors of Lindisfarne Middle School in Alnwick decided to erect the six-foot-high security fence on the boundary of its playing field, which abuts the rear of his property at Swansfield Park Road.

It stopped him from being able to take green waste from his garden along the edge of the school field and through a cut to reach the bin at the front of his property – something which 70-year-old Mr Prudhoe had done for the last 35 years.

Instead, he has to trawl bags of grass cuttings, clippings and other rubbish through his house, as well as his gardening equipment.

But an adjudicator has now ruled that Mr Prudhoe has a ‘prescriptive right of way’ over the council-owned land, as he has used it unrestricted for more than 20 years.

The authority was represented at the Land Registry hearing, along with Lindisfarne Middle headteacher Dr Lynn Rose, and has 28 days in which to appeal against the decision.

If upheld, the fence will probably have to be moved further away from Mr Prudhoe’s garden to re-open the right of way to the front of his property.

Back in 2010, the school decided to erect the fence to safeguard children by shutting off access to gardens and hedges on Swansfield Park Road, Greensfield Avenue and Lindisfarne Road.

Residents complained but were told it was part of Ofsted guidance on safeguarding children.

However, in a letter to MP Sir Alan Beith, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Education, said that at the school’s last inspection, no recommendations were made with regard to keeping children safe.

Speaking after the ruling, Alnwick’s county councillor, Gordon Castle, said: “This vindicates what the residents have been saying all along – the fence was inadequately reasoned and poorly justified.

“Now, more public money will have to be spent addressing the rights of residents by moving it.”

The school directed the Gazette to Northumberland County Council for a comment.

A spokeswoman for the council said: “We are currently considering the implications of the adjudicator’s decision, and what our next steps will be.”