Couple vow to fight on in Alnwick fence-gate row

The couple at the centre of the Alnwick fence-gate furore have vowed to fight on.

Friday, 1st October 2021, 6:30 am
Christine and Stephen Williams say they have a legal right to the fence.

The fence built by Stephen and Christine Williams outside their home on Victoria Terrace was removed by council staff on Friday on safety grounds.

It was the culmination of a week in which the story of a pavement being blocked hit the national press, caused an outcry on social media and led to a man being arrested after reports that an air gun was fired.

Christine said: “That fence will be put back up. We’ve not given up or finished with this. It’s our legal right to use our property as we like.

The fence on Victoria Terrace being taken down by council staff.

"We own the land to the front of the property and the deeds show our boundary line is just after the lay-by. The fence was inside the boundary line.

"We told the council of our plans months ago and were told by email that as long as the fence posts were no higher than 1m that it was fine – and that’s what they were.

"It’s not an adopted road so the council have nothing to do with it and the covenant states that the occupier of the house can erect a fence there.”

The couple took on the property in 2017 and ran it as a general store and sweet shop, Christore’s, before deciding to turn it into their home.

Christine and Stephen Williams.

“We ran it for a while but the 15 hour daily shifts were too much so we decided to get different jobs and close the shop and change its use from commercial to residential,” said Christine. “What was the shop is now our living room.”

They have been bewildered by some of the national press coverage which states they had taken action after getting fed up of customers sitting on their window ledge while queuing for the neighbouring fish and chip shop.

"We haven’t even got a window ledge for people to sit on so I don’t know where that come from,” said Christine. "There were times during Covid when there were people queuing for the fish and chip shop on our land. Can you imagine what it was like for us we were sitting in our living room hearing their conversations as they waited?

"We wanted the fence because we are turning the shop into our home and we want to create a nice garden. Why would you not want to put a fence around it?”

Armed police were called after an air weapon was reportedly fired.

The social media fall-out has also caused anxiety, particularly for Christine.

“It’s really upset me,” she said. “I’ve been trolled and bullied online and I really think some of the comments on the posts should have been taken down.

“But there have also been messages of support and people have sent flowers and cards so I’m grateful for that.”

The fence was put up on Monday, September 20 and led to hundreds of comments appeared on social media from people raising concerns about the impact on pedestrians, especially wheelchair users and children.

The fence that was put up outside a property on Victoria Terrace has now been removed but owners Stephen and Chrstine Williams say they have a legal right to have it.

Northumberland County Council then put up a safety barrier, with a temporary dropped kerb.

And a 34-year-old man was arrested and bailed after reports that an air gun was fired on the street on Thursday evening (September 23). No-one was injured but officers from Northumbria Police’s firearms support unit attended as a precaution.

The council’s decision to remove the fence was taken under the Highways Act 1980 as an obstruction that caused a risk to the public.

A council spokesman added: "Using highways powers we took the decision to remove the fence for safety reasons. We'd like to thank local people for their patience and remain open to further discussion with the householder over their concerns about the use of the footway."

Cllr Gordon Castle, Alnwick ward member, added: "We took legal advice at the highest level and on the basis of that, the council took the decision to remove it. I am relieved that action was taken so quickly.

"It has been the most bizarre situation that has also resulted in armed police in Alnwick. I have lived here my entire life in the town and have never seen the like of it – this has even reached the national press.

A safety barrier was put up to protect pedestrians from traffic.

"I am incredibly surprised that the person took this action in the first place and didn’t resolve the situation in a different way with the owners of the fish and chip shop. It was definitely out of order.”

Support your Gazette and become a subscriber today. With a digital subscription you get access to the ad-lite version of our website, meaning you see fewer ads, enjoy faster load times and get all of the headlines you need with fewer distractions. The Northumberland Gazette has been serving the county since 1854, and your support means we can continue telling your stories for generations to come. Click here to subscribe.

The fence has now been removed.