The row over a four-foot-high fence outside a house next to a chip shop took another twist yesterday when council workmen, armed with power tools, dissembled the structure.
Their move came just 24 hours after a man was arrested for firing a shot at the couple as they worked on the new fence.
But it is unlikely to be the last word on the matter. Last night, furious house owner Christine Williams, 50, said her husband Stephen, 57, would be ‘putting it right back up’ today as she insisted they were within their rights according to the deeds of their home.
Christine and Stephen Williams, pictured, erected a wooden fence outside their home in Alnwick, Northumbria to prevent people queuing up for the chip shop next door from peering into their living room
The couple erected the fence, pictured, to control crowds from standing outside their home.
Mr Williams erected the fence although the local council sent around some workers to take down the barrier – pictured on Google Street View before work took place
Some locals have complained that the fence has blocked access to the pavement and could be a danger to the safety of children walking to school
The dispute had been brewing ever since 2019 when Mr and Mrs Williams decided to change careers and close the sweet shop they had run next to the chippy in Alnwick, Northumberland.
Instead of living in an annexe to the side of the store, they converted the shop, which sits flush to the pavement, into their living room.
But neighbourly relations deteriorated during the Covid crisis when the chip shop owner marked out spaces for customers to wait outside which took them past the Williams’ front window.
Mrs Williams said: ‘My husband went outside and washed off the marks. There was no need for it. They could easily have queued the other way which leads directly to the chip shop’s large car park.
‘The fence is simply there to mark our boundary which extends from the front of the shop onto the pavement.’
The couple say their property deeds prove the land belongs to them and say this was acknowledged by Northumberland County Council in 2017.
As part of the row, a man fired an air pistol towards the Williams’ home on Thursday. A 34-year-old man was arrested and is helping police with their enquiries
Back then the Williams’ had successfully stopped a broadband company from digging up the pavement in front of their property and in a letter dated October 19 their Infrastructure Records Manager had stated: ‘I can confirm that the Council will accept no future responsibility or liability for the condition of the paved area immediately to the front of your property which is in your ownership.’
Mrs Williams, who now works in care, said: ‘I am disgusted by how this has been handled. We have been emailing the Council for six months now explaining what we were going to do but they did not respond.
‘They had no right to take the fence down and my husband will put it back up again because we are entitled to mark our boundary.
‘It’s not about people eating chips sitting on our windowsill. That never happened as we don’t have one but we don’t want people queueing outside our window every evening.
The couple claims that people waiting for the chip shop could queue up on the opposite site to their house
‘The whole thing has left me traumatised. On Thursday, after we’d both got back from work my husband went outside to work on the fence and I was sitting in a chair at the front keeping him company along with our dog.
‘Suddenly I saw a man on the other side of the road with a gun pointing directly at me. I screamed at Stephen who moved me away as the shot was fired.
‘Then we heard cheers coming from the chip shop. It was terrifying. I am really shaken up by the whole thing. We had forensics round here until the early hours of the morning.
‘Now I’m told that the man they arrested has been released on bail. It is very frightening when he lives only a couple of streets away.’
The couple’s decision to erect the fence which blocks a section of the pavement as well as part of a lay-by had been criticised by a local councillor.
Cllr Gordon Castle, Alnwick ward member for Northumberland County Council, said: ‘I’ve raised this with officers at County Hall to the highest level.
‘He [Mr Williams] claims to have deeds showing ownership of where his fence now sits.
‘I can hardly believe he has gone ahead with this before any resolution with county highways, especially given the impact on pedestrians and children walking to school.
‘There are meetings scheduled to find the legal way forward and I’m sorry I can’t do more, but I’ve sent photos and explained to officers that I’m receiving many messages of complaint.’
A spokesman for the Victoria House Fish and Chip Shop confirmed that the fence had been dismantled but refused to comment further.
A spokesperson for Northumberland Police said: ‘Shortly before 6.50pm yesterday police received a report of concern for safety following a disturbance on Victoria Crescent in Alnwick.
‘It was reported that two parties had been involved in a dispute, during which an air weapon had been discharged at a wall.
‘No one was injured but as a precaution, officers from the Force’s Firearm’s Support Unit (FSU) attended the scene.
‘A man, aged 34, was arrested and remains in custody at this time, helping with enquiries.
‘There is no threat to the wider public at this time and it is believed all those involved are known to each other.
‘Officers remain in the area today carrying out patrols so anyone with concerns should make themselves known.’