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Licence granted for parties and weddings at former Crookham Court School opposite Thornford Park psychiatric hospital

Conditional licence despite concerns from residents, hospital, and developer

John Herring

John Herring

john.herring@newburynews.co.uk

Contact:

01635 886633

Licence granted for parties and weddings at former Crookham Court School opposite Thornford Park psychiatric hospital

COUNCILLORS have granted a licence for weddings, parties, music events and outdoor film screenings to be held opposite the medium-secure psychiatric hospital Thornford Park.

The approval, which comes with nearly 30 conditions, goes against concerns from the hospital, local residents, an environmental health officer and a developer building homes close to Pinchington Hall in Crookham Hill. 

Pinchington Hall is the new name for the former Crookham Court School, which closed in the 1980s after three teachers, including owner Philip Cadman, were jailed for sexually abusing pupils.

The former school has been converted back to a residential property and homes are being built less than 10 yards from the hall. 

Looking to open a new chapter for the building, Linda Beechey-Smith had applied to hold weddings, corporate and music events, outdoor film screenings, and “a certain amount of Airbnb”.

Addressing a virtual West Berkshire Council licensing sub-committee meeting on May 19, Mrs Beechey-Smith said it would be for very small ticketed events, similar to ones held at Arlington Arts, which would have to be booked two weeks in advance. 

She said: “It’s a beautiful building and has now been developed.

“We don’t anticipate having any events that would go on into the early hours of the morning.

“There’s no intention of having loud outside music going on all hours.

“That isn’t the intention.

“I have the feeling that people seem to think we are trying to set up some sort of festival site and that is not the intention.”

Mrs Beechey-Smith said there was “no reason in England why anyone would want to sit outside” longer than 11pm or for a wedding or party to go on past midnight. 

She said: “It’s a building that should be used.

“It shouldn’t stand empty any longer and it doesn’t appear to be able to sell or rent to a private resident.

“It would be known to be empty and would cause problems, rather than having it used for a sensible and proper use of the building for that style.” 

Arguing that the application should be turned down, Michael Bloomfield said that it was a totally unsuitable location for the entertainment planned. 

He said: “We all like music and films, but each choice is individual.

“At home we choose what to listen to and when to listen. We have control.

“If Pinchington Hall becomes a party venue this changes.”

Turning to Thornford Park, Mr Bloomfield said “hospitals are places for rest and recuperation, a tranquil atmosphere is particularly important for a secure psychiatric hospital like Thornford Park.

“Staff strive to keep patients calm, but this will be compromised with loud, late-night parties taking place next door.

“The hospitals’ autistic patients, who are particularly sensitive to loud noise, will suffer.

“This application is ill-conceived, inconsiderate and thoroughly antisocial.

“To site a party venue opposite a psychiatric hospital, next to an estate of family homes, abutting a nature reserve and with several hundred residents nearby seems utterly crazy.

“To have this imposed on us is seriously blighting the health and well-being of the local community.”

Objector Simon Fisher asked how noise would be monitored at the venue, saying: “I think she optimistically said most parties would be winding down by 12am.” 

Mrs Beechey-Smith replied: “Stag parties, single sex parties if you’re allowed to say that, would be viewed cautiously and would have to abide by our rules and we would have someone staying on site if that was necessary.” 

Environmental health officer employed by the Public Protection Partnership Kate Powell said that the licence should be refused because of the event timings and low background noise in the area. 

She said: “The proposed hours for outdoor would be unacceptable for this location and likely to give rise to complaints of public nuisance due to the frequency that they take place if effective controls are not in place. 

“There’s very little detail about how they will manage noise.

“It’s not clear what training staff would receive.”

Miss Powell said it would have been useful to have had a noise management plan submitted with the licensing application.

Mr Fisher added: “There is a very low background noise for this area, it’s rural.

“We seem to be talking interchangeably between what is music and noise.

“What you think is music might for me be noise and vice versa.

“I’m used to hearing birds and animals twittering around.

“I live 400 yards away, there are people who are going to be living 10 yards away.

“There’s a hospital opposite. 

“I think putting any sort of noise, whether it’s music, people enjoying themselves, laughing, shouting, it’s just bonkers.” 

Councillors also heard that a planning application to change the use of the building would be needed before events could be held there.

However, they said that planning matters were not relevant in assessing the four licensing objectives –  the prevention of crime and disorder; public safety; the prevention of public nuisance; and the protection of children from harm.

Approving the licence, sub-committee chairman James Cole (Con Kintbury and Hungerford) said the concerns had been carefully considered, but the committee had “decided on balance that the concerns were not supported by evidence that would justify refusal of the application”.

The licence grants permission for films screenings between 11am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and 11am and 10pm on Sunday. 

There can be live music indoors between 11am and 11pm, Monday to Thursday, 11am until midnight Friday and Saturday, and noon until 10pm on Sundays.

Outdoor music is licensed between 11am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and between noon and 10pm on Sundays. 

Recorded music can be played indoors between 11am and 11pm Monday to Thursday, 11am and midnight Friday to Saturday and noon until 10pm on Sundays.

Outdoor recorded music is licensed between 11am and 11pm, Monday to Saturday, and noon until 10pm on Sundays.

A noise management plan must be agreed with the council before activities can be held at the hall.

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