Back in October we wrote about the various ways in which you can secure wooden back and side gates. We are also asked from time to time for advice on enhancing the security of fences and walls, and the use of toppers and the like. The thing with using such measures is, there is a great deal you need to consider, for example planning permission, fence ownership, signage and personal injury. It is indeed quite a subject!

Here we discuss these points so that you know what you are potentially dealing with if you are considering topping your fences or walls with deterrents.

Is it your fence or wall?

If you are considering making any changes to boundary markers, the first thing you need to check is whether the fence or wall is actually yours. If you want to maintain good neighbourly relations, then you should not do anything until you can be sure you actually own the boundary marker. And even if you do, you should never go ahead with any alterations before first discussing them with your neighbour.

Is planning permission required?

If you are adding a deterrent topper to your fence then you will need to be careful about the increase in height. Any new wall, fence or gate over two metres in height will require planning permission, and this will usually include the addition of a trellis or topper. If the wall or fence is located on a border with a public highway, then anything over one metre in height will require planning permission.

Remember, if you live in a listed building, or your property borders one, then you will need planning permission for any sort of work you wish to carry out on your boundary wall or fence.

If you are enhancing your security with natural measures and plan on growing a thorny plant across the top of your fence or wall, providing any support structures don’t exceed the two metre limit, then you won’t generally need permission. If in doubt, always check with your local planning authority, otherwise you could find yourself having to undo the work you have done.

Are you compliant with the Highways Act 1980?

The local highway authority has a duty to ensure the highway is safe. Under the Highways Act 1980, the authority is responsible for making sure any fence or wall toppers that have the potential to cause injury are not mounted in such a way that they could injure a member of the public who happens to be walking along a public footpath.

The authority also deals with the issue of shrubbery that is overhanging the public highway and creating a hazard by blocking light or having the potential to cause damage to vehicles or personal injury to passers-by.

Do you comply with the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984?

As an occupier of a property, you have a duty under the Occupiers’ Liability Act 1984 to take steps to warn trespassers on your property of any dangers or discourage them from putting themselves at risk. Warning signs are essential if you are using any form of deterrent or security measure that could potentially cause injury and the signs themselves will also act as a deterrent. Signs should be positioned so that they are easy to see and they should provide a clear warning specific to the product being used, for example, ‘Warning: Anti-Climb Spikes’.

Types of Deterrent

There are various options when it comes to measures to enhance the security of your boundaries, however not all of them are recommended.

Barbed wire for example is not something that will by any means enhance the aesthetics of a property or garden. It can only be used at heights above 2.4 metres where the border adjoins public land, and this will require planning permission. Warning signs will be required as previously mentioned. And on top of this, barbed wire can actually be fairly easily removed with wire cutters by determined intruders, who are also known for using blankets to cover the wire whilst climbing over it. It is therefore not generally recommended for residential properties.

Broken glass set into the top of a wall is another measure that is not really recommended. It is likely you will fall foul of the Occupiers’ Liability Acts if someone is injured, and in any case it cannot be used at heights lower than 2.4 metres. As this is one of the longest standing boundary security measures, intruders have honed their methods of getting around it and will come equipped with a hammer and blanket ready to render it a wasted effort anyway.

Anti-climb spikes are often used in commercial settings and there doesn’t appear to be any reason why the shorter plastic type should not be used for residential properties. They come in strips and can be glued or screwed to the top of fencing. As always, check with the local highways authority as to the allowable height and any special conditions should the boundary adjoin public land. Warning signs are recommended.

Rotating or spinning toppers are another measure commonly used on commercial boundaries. They have the aim of creating an unstable landing for any intruder attempting to scale a fence or wall. Some will potentially cause injury, others will not, so depending on the type it may be that this deterrent has to be fitted at a certain height. Again, consulting the local highways authority before fitting anything like this is a wise move, and warning signs will be required.

If you are concerned about the security of your boundaries, the experts at Barry Bros Security are on hand to discuss your options. Get in touch or call in to our London showroom for helpful, friendly advice.