West End star backs fence campaign

WESTEND star Ruthie Henshall has given her backing to residents fighting against an “ugly” safety fence which is threatening to destroy years of tradition on a town's historic quayside.

James Hore

WESTEND star Ruthie Henshall has given her backing to residents fighting against an “ugly” safety fence which is threatening to destroy years of tradition on a town's historic quayside.

Residents in Mistley have been up-in-arms after Trent Wharfage Ltd started to build a 2-metre high wire fence on the quay.

The company claims it is just complying with health and safety orders to prevent people falling into the River Stour but locals have used the area for years for walking and mooring boats.


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There has been a series of protests and campaign meetings since the fence sprung up and about six vehicles remained parked at the site yesterday to prevent completion of the fence.

Protestors from the Free the Quay group have said they are determined to carry out a peaceful campaign in a bid to make Trent Wharfage reconsider and a crunch meeting has been arranged with the company on Tuesday.

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Ruthie, who lives locally, told the EADT she could not believe what had happened.

The actress and singer who is starring in Marguerite at the Haymarket Theatre, London said: “It is so typical of today.

“Here we have an historic quayside, part of a nice redevelopment area, but someone has found a way to spoil it all. It is completely unnecessary and the thin end of a worrying wedge.

“What next? Safety fences along all river banks, canals and barriers around our pretty village ponds?

“I can't imagine what sort of people make these decisions, but we must fight them when they do silly, damaging, ugly things like this.”

Bernard Jenkin, the MP for North Essex, is also involved with the negotiations.

He said: “I am convinced that there has been very little consultation, if any, and am not convinced that this is the only option available to the wharf owners.

“I am currently in discussions with local residents, the wharf company, Tendring District Council and Essex County Council and very, very much hope that this can be resolved.

“People have been using that wharf as a public open space and right of way since living memory and there are plenty of people prepared to state it has been used for generations.”

He said people's patience was wearing “pretty thin” and said the sooner it is resolved, the better for everyone.

Hundreds packed into a public meeting at Mistley Church Hall last week as locals pledged to continue to fight the proposals.

A statement issued by Trent Wharfage said: “The company is following the requirement of the Docks Regulations 1988 by installing a 1.8m safety fence along a 130m length of the port currently not in use for discharge and loading operations.”

Tendring District Council has also looked at the size and location of the fence and is set to determine whether the company will need to seek planning permission for it.

If planning permission is required, the council could force Trent Wharfage to pull down the fence or reduce it in height.

A spokesman for the Health and Safety Executive said they had spoken to both Trent Wharfage and the campaigners and were now trying to arrange a meeting to “resolve the issues”.

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