Villagers concerned over fence in Constable Country

MORE than a century after it was encapsulated by one of the country's most famous painters, one treasured Suffolk view is no longer as it was.

Lizzie Parry

MORE than a century after it was encapsulated by one of the country's most famous painters, one treasured Suffolk view is no longer as it was.

Anxious villagers are concerned after a fence has been erected on a piece of land overlooking a picture postcard mill pond painted by John Constable.

The strip of grass beside the River Stour in Stratford St Mary had provided access for villagers to the site of the historic Stratford Mill.

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The 1820 painting of 'Stratford Mill', which currently hangs in the National Gallery, shows children fishing from the river bank.

Villagers and the parish council have called for an inquiry into the fencing off of the strip of land they claim is public land, used as a viewing area and a popular fishing spot for generations.

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After a nearby site was sold to Michael Howard Homes, based in Dedham, the fence was erected on what the council claim is a piece of land not owned by the developers.

Bill Davies, chairman of Stratford St Mary parish council, said their concerns are to establish who owns the piece of land.

“The parish council is trying to establish the ownership of that piece of land to see if the fencing off of the land has been done officially.

“The evidence we have suggests that bit of land was not part of the sale so how could it become part of the subsequent purchase by the developers.”

The disputed strip, developers say, is a trouble spot where cars were dumped and youths used to gather and so they took the view to fence it off for the benefit of the village.

Managing director of Michael Howard Homes, Michael Pendlebury, said when they bought the nearby land they were under the impression the disputed strip was part of the deal but now concedes that it wasn't.

He said: “We made the decision to incorporate it because old cars were dumped there and it was being used as a car park at night.

“We thought it would clean up the area, far from being detrimental to the village we were trying to assist.

“Our stance is let sleeping dogs lie, frankly I can't understand why they want to create a trouble spot in the village.”

A retired businessman Geoff Cooper said there is a lot of anger in the village and people want the situation resolved.

“Obviously this deters villagers from exercising what they believe to be their legal right and I've heard talk about petitions and sit-ins. But I hope it doesn't come to that sort of thing.

“It's a pity not just for the youngsters but also because I'm told it was the only remaining spot where disabled or infirm people could enjoy the view without having to negotiate a narrow and quite steep bridge over the weir. Either it is public land or it isn't.''

A spokeswoman for Suffolk County Council said investigations are underway to establish who owns the land.

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