A GROUP of neighbours have launched legal action against a couple running a B&B at their £1m home in Ringwood claiming they are suffering nuisance from noisy guests.
As well as complaints about visitors using the swimming pool, they also say there are “numerous cars” parked on the driveway of Avonhurst, in Warren Lane, and that the B&B has increased traffic along the private road.
Now they are demanding the owners, former army major Steve Marcham and his partner Diana Groves, close their business, saying it is in breach of a covenant on their home.
Speaking to the A&T, Miss Groves said: “It is a really sad situation. We are being made to feel like criminals.
“We have tried and tried to get them to talk about it but all they have done is send us legal letters from solicitors threatening action.
“We only have two rooms for guests and, according to my records, 14 of them used the pool during the summer. They certainly did not cause enough noise to be construed a nuisance.
“Our drive is huge but often guests arrive in one car, or at the most two. So I do not see how they can have contributed that much to an increase in traffic.”
She added: “The sad thing is that, bar one, every neighbour has at some point been to dinner or for drinks to our house. Now we feel like they are spying on us all the time.”
The couple launched their £90-a-night B&B last year after their children had left home, resulting in spare rooms at their seven-bedroom, £1m house.
Ms Groves, a former IT sales worker, said: “It’s never been a large business with loads of people staying at once. To be honest I think the neighbours may have mixed up guests with relatives staying.”
The couple received their first legal letter in July last year from five sets of neighbours, which was sent from Forest Edge and Meesons Solicitors, based in Ringwood.
In it the neighbours claimed that they were in breach of the covenant which states they are not allowed to use Avonhurst “for any other purpose than as a private dwelling house” for one family.
It also said they were obliged to “not do, or suffer to be done anything that shall be, or become a nuisance” and demanded they stop running the B&B.
Another letter sent in September that year claimed neighbours had “continuously heard guests using your swimming pool and garden” and a linen van had been noted “making regular visits”.
The covenant dates from 1983 when land which constituted the garden of Avonhurst was sold to a builder, and two bungalows were built either side of it.
The couple bought Avonhurst in November 2010. Ms Groves said: “We have taken legal advice and have been told the covenant is very generic and we do not believe we are in breach of it.”
The latest letter they received was on 3rd August this year and said that papers were “now with counsel”.
Miss Groves said: “So far it has cost us over £2,000 in legal fees. But we will fight this as we feel it is completely unfair.
“If they win, it means that anyone with such a covenant would not be able to run a childminding business from their home, or even use it as a home office.”
The couple have launched an online petition against the action and are being supported by the Bed and Breakfast Association which said it believed the covenant was “unreasonably widely drafted” and “onerous”.
It said: “UK planning law allows homeowners to take paying guests within their family on a limited basis even where the premises are defined as a dwelling.”
The association said that if the neighbours were successful in their legal action it would “prevent virtually any business activity at such a premises”.
The A&T contacted the solicitors acting for the neighbours for comment but did not receive a response.