A TWO-MONTH deadline for a woman to take down a fence which council officers ruled was in the wrong place was a "reasonable timeframe," it has been claimed.

Homeowner Elaine Smedley moved the fence, at the side of her Haddington house, forward a few feet to allow her to access her whole garden – only to be told it was now a front garden fence which breached council policy.

East Lothian Council ordered her to take down the 1.8-metre fence within two months.

Instead, Elaine appealed to Scottish Ministers, saying the deadline did not give her time to file a new application for planning permission.

Citing her lack of planning experience, she asked for six months to give her time to  “properly pursue my proposal through the planning process”.

And she added: "These have been exceptionally tough times for all of us and I would feel a little flexibility for me as the homeowner is warranted.”

However the council has hit back, insisting other people facing enforcement action were able to meet its demands within two months.

In a defence against the appeal which is with the Scottish Government Reporter, the council said: “The repositioning, reduction of, or removal

of the fencing and gate in question would take a maximum of two days' labour.”

And it said: “East Lothian Council consider a two-month period to be a reasonable timeframe for compliance to be sought for a relatively straightforward building operation.”

The fence at the centre of the row was part of the house, on Davids Way, Haddington, when it was built.

However it sat back from the front of the garden, splitting it into an enclosed side garden with a front strip of grass.

Elaine moved it forwards to include the strip and was ordered to apply for retrospective  planning permission when it came to the council's attention, despite claiming that there were other similar fences in the estate and a wall of the same height across from her home.

When she applied, permission was refused as the council ruled the fence was now a front garden fence, which is higher than allowed in the local authority's open garden policy.

And she was given two months to take it down.

At the time Elaine said: “It seems very unjust, the fence is at the side of the house and it seemed to make sense to move it forward.

“The house across the road has a wall as high and that was given the go ahead.” 

In a report by planning officers, the council said the fence, and a side gate added to it, “appear alien and out of keeping with the largely low front roadside boundary enclosures of other houses of the development“.

The appeal is being considered by the Reporter.