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Playground case against Newbury Town Council dismissed

District judge rules Walton Way play area does not constitute a "statutory nuisance"

John Garvey


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Playground case against Newbury Town Council dismissed

RESIDENTS complaining of noise and antisocial behaviour at a Newbury playground have had their court case against the town council dismissed.

They claimed the disruption caused by children and youths using the multi-play area in Walton Way constituted a ‘statutory nuisance’.

Last year a play area in Bristol was torn down after residents won a similar court case against the city council.

In that instance, magistrates ordered the local authority to take steps to reduce noise in the area – but the council decided the cheapest option was to demolish it.

On Wednesday, July 11, it was the turn of Newbury Town Council to face residents in a criminal court.

David Burgess, whose home backs on to the play area, brought the action at Reading Magistrates’ Court, calling his partner Louise Hicks to give evidence.

Letters from four other residents supporting the action were disallowed by district judge Sophie Toms, because the authors had not attended in person and so could not be cross-examined by the council’s lawyer.

Giving evidence from the witness box, Ms Hicks said the noise from the play area – described by the council as an all-ages, multi-play area – was “high and intense”.

She added: “Balls daily come over the fence into my garden, sometimes every 20 minutes. When they come to retrieve them, some knock and some just jump the fence into our garden.

“There’s antisocial behaviour in my face.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve called police and that’s only when someone is being horrible or it’s the middle of the night.”

Ms Hicks conceded that the council had installed a new fence, but said: “It’s not high enough.”

The court heard that, as well as installing the new fence, the council had erected a sign stating the area was not to be used after 9pm.

Tom Day, for the council, reminded Ms Hicks that in 2010 she had written to the local authority stating the new fence had made “a big difference” to the number of balls coming into her garden.

She conceded that, in that letter, she had not mentioned the subject of noise.

Mr Burgess called acoustic specialist James Duncan to give expert testimony on his behalf.

Having carried out an environmental noise survey, Mr Duncan said the “majority of people would be seriously annoyed” and that the noise of balls hitting a target “exceeded the upper limit allowed for gunshots”.

The council called its own expert witness, Peter Rogers, who said he had reached the conclusion that the noise did not reach the statutory nuisance threshold.

He added: “It’s clearly very audible, there’s no doubt about that. But this is something that doesn’t happen all the time.

“Some days it doesn’t happen at all. It’s in keeping with its intended use in an urban environment.”

District judge Toms ruled that the noise was insufficient to constitute a statutory nuisance and dismissed Mr Burgess’ case.

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