A ROW over a fence put up at Allen's Quay Mistley, this week, prompted protest action from residents.

Trent Wharfage, which owns the quay, has today released a statement.

A spokesperson said: "The erection of a fence of this nature is a minor operational development falling within the class of permitted development in the GPDO and therefore not a development of sufficient significance to require planning permission.

"The open mesh steel panel fence is identical to the existing adjacent fencing around a cargo storage area. Whilst being fit for purpose, serving to minimise risk of personal injury and material damage, it has minimal visual impact on the port environs. The open mesh steel panel fence is less visually intrusive than commercial alternatives such as steel pallisade, tubular bar or close boarding which are used in comparable commercial situations and also elsewhere on the Mistley Quay premises.

"The 130 metre length of quay between the central berths in front of No. 1 Maltings and the main warehouse on the West Quay are operational dock premises for the purpose of the movement of goods between berths and store. The area is heavily trafficked by forklift trucks, dock loaders and contract haulage in cargo storage and distribution.

"Since the loss of the LASH barge traffic around seven years ago, this stretch of quay is designated as currently non-operational for the purposes of the loading and discharging of vessels and it is therefore reasonably practicable for the Company to undertake protection measures of a permanent character.

"Under Statutory Instrument No. 1655 Health and Safety The Docks Regulations 1988, any dangerous edge or any place where a person working or passing may fall a distance of more than 2 metres must be securely fenced in those areas where it is reasonably practical operationally to do so. "This stretch of quay is identified in risk assessment to be an accessible dangerous quay edge and capable of producing a fatality. As the photograph illustrates, at low tide a fall significantly greater than 2 metres onto a hard surface could be sustained and - as a foreseeable high quantum risk - the Company must discharge its legal duty to undertake robust remedial action.

"In addition to setting out the background to the fencing, the Company considers it is important to clarify a number of issues appearing in the press over the past days: - as an area without operating berths, the erection of a fence is the correct procedure to accord with the provisions of SI No. 1655 and is the appropriate measure identified in risk assessment; - the specification has been selected to match existing fencing, is appropriate to its context and will have minimal impact on views to the river from residences on the High Street; - the quay is subject to no existing or accrued highways rights with clear signage to indicate its status as private land with no permitted access to unauthorised users and any infringement of these safe working conditions will be enforced against; - the company is not in a position - operationally or legally - to accept a higher quantum of risk by tinkering with risk assessments and agreed improvement measures retrospectively for marginal aesthetic gains.

"Over the past week, the company has sought to avoid any conflict with its neighbours. We trust a growing local understanding of the port's legal and procedural obligations will allow operators to complete the fence without further physical interruption, obstruction or intimidation."