Gallery: Flotilla sails into quay row

A FLOTILLA of boats staged a mass demonstration at a picturesque Essex quayside yesterday as campaigners stepped up the battle to fell a controversial fence.

Annie Davidson

A FLOTILLA of boats staged a mass demonstration at a picturesque Essex quayside yesterday as campaigners stepped up the battle to fell a controversial fence.

Hundreds of sailors came out in support of Mistley's Free the Quay campaign, furious that the fence - erected for health and safety reasons - has blocked access at quayside.

And as more than 70 boats descended on the area, and comedian Griff Rhys Jones voiced his support for the protest, it also emerged legal action to resolve the dispute is continuing.

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The quay has been the centre of controversy since landowners Trent Wharfage erected a two metre high metal fence earlier this month, saying it had to comply with health and safety laws.

But protestors have argued the quay is a public right of way having been used for 500 years for people to access the River Stour and for sailors to moor and go into Mistley village.

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Yesterday mariners moored at the quay and climbed over the fence with the help of ladders provided by the residents, and 300 people enjoyed a barbeque and drinks in aid of Free the Quay funds.

Jim Ensom, secretary of Stour Sailing Club which arranged the demonstration, said: “It was brilliant to see so many different types of boats come along and all the people who want to see the quay opened up again. We had expected about 50 boats but it was nearer 80 which was an amazing outcome.”

He added: “We are pursuing two legal points, one is to establish the quay as a village green which sounds a bit bizarre but we could do that.

“We are also going to court to prove there is a public right of access to the quay.

“We have two barristers who are absolutely adamant that there is public access over the quay and although it will take time to go to court we will do that.

“We will get there in the end and the fence will come down, we have no doubt on our legal position and it will happen.”

Free the Quay has been further boosted by a letter from comedian Griff Rhys Jones telling them he backed their cause.

Mr Rhys Jones, who is also chairman of the Civic Trust, said: “It is absolutely essential that Mistley Quay remains a public quay with points of access to it and a public right of way across it.”

Adding that the issue was about community, he said: “This is not a remote footpath through a lonely wood. It is part of the character of this very beautiful town.

“The owner here must restore the ladders for safety purposes and be prevented from putting up a fence.

“I hope everybody in Essex and Britain will support you in your fight, I certainly do.”

A petition opposing the fence has been signed by more than 600 people.

Trent Wharfage could not be reached for comment yesterday but has previously had meetings with residents, telling them the fence was put up to comply with health and safety regulations.

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