Solicitor threatens charity with legal action over ‘noisy’ play park

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Brockenhurst Village Trust
BVT trustee David Bennett and chairman Sue Hunter are prepared to fight any court action 

A SOLICITOR has threatened legal action against the charity which runs Brockenhurst’s multi-use games area, claiming noisy youngsters are causing her family “significant nuisance”.

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Marie Sampson says youths use the Highwood Road facility which borders her Tattenham Road home at “all hours of the night” and shout swear words.

Frustrated that complaints she has made to the Brockenhurst Village Trust (BVT) have not solved the problems, she has served it with a notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 that states she could bring legal proceedings.

“Taking BVT to court is an absolute last resort,” Mrs Sampson told the A&T. “But when I questioned BVT earlier this year they told me to go to environmental health at the district council, which I did, and they have advised me to go down the route of issuing the notice at court.

“Effectively BVT are forcing me to do this, but I’m hopeful that we can arrange to sit down and have a sensible discussion before it gets to that.”

Were the matter to go to court and a ruling made against the BVT, the charity could face a heavy fine as a punishment.

But the BVT has said it is willing to fight any legal action.

The multi-use games area – known as a muga – is next to the existing village hall, Scout hall and playground and was opened 18 months ago as a community project.

Brockenhurst muga
The Brockenhurst muga was officially unveiled in February 2018 by youngsters and villagers

The BVT manages the muga, and prior to its construction engaged with the community on the plans before building work took place.

It is used by groups including the Scouts, Cubs and Brownies, the village school and sports teams, while birthday parties, charity events and football tournaments are held there.

During the summer, rules state it can be used until 8pm, and from October through winter it closes at 5pm. There is also a code of conduct which states there must be no swearing at the facility, for which the local community raised £63,000 to fund its overall cost.

Both Mrs Sampson and BVT have made claims about the other side, alleging they have failed to respond to offers and evidence presented by one another.

What is accepted by both is that for the past year-and-a-half or so they have met numerous times but have failed to agree a way forward.

Speaking to the A&T, Mrs Sampson said her family have been caused “significant nuisance” and struggled to sleep because of the noise, claiming it often goes on beyond 9pm.

She works in an office in her garden and says conference calls have been interrupted by the sounds of swear words.

Signs at the Brockenhurst muga warn users about their conduct

Mrs Sampson, who has two young children, even went as far in June to enlist acoustic consultants to undertake a noise impact assessment. It concluded the muga generated a “highly intrusive” noise level above what was acceptable within the Sampsons’ home.

She stressed she did not want to close the muga down – and acknowledged her own children use it.

But she added: “Generally, me and other residents are supportive of the principle of the muga but we’re not happy at the impact it has and the failure of BVT to address immediate neighbours’ concerns.

“In all my years of negotiations as a solicitor I have not come across a position so unreasonable given the overwhelming evidence stacked against the BVT.”

She would like to see a large acoustic fence put up along the entire boundary of the muga and the facility locked at night.

“The window [during the winter] is time to do things that would have the least detrimental effect on users. I do not want them to rush a solution. I’m sure there’s more than one way to skin a cat.”

Responding to Mrs Sampson’s claims, BVT chairman Sue Hunter and trustee David Bennett stressed they believed the trust had been “very sympathetic” to neighbours.

Mr Bennett said: “We do think we have acted reasonably. We have constructively reviewed it and have taken steps to look at the situation. Also, we are always open to ideas.”

Mrs Hunter said: “I think we have a lovely group of people in the village who volunteer time into the site to encourage young people to use it as responsibility as possible.”

Brockenhurst muga
Young children are frequently seen enjoying the muga with their parents

Asked about the court action, Mr Bennett said: “We do not want a battle. We try very hard and want nice neighbours. We have some resources and things here we want to do – some plasterboard has fallen over near the stage and that needs fixing – but all that will have to go on hold if this happens.

“But yes, we have got a legal opinion and we are prepared, if necessary, to go to court. It’s disappointing. We have made offers to her. I believe we have a very, very good case and are supported by the people of Brockenhurst.”

The pair added there had been one or two “teething problems” with “occasional lapses” of use outside accepted hours. They were “regrettable” and quickly sorted some months ago, they said.

BVT had received reports of drinking on the site – which were robustly investigated and no evidence of wrongdoing was found, they added.

Mr Bennett said Mrs Sampson had previously requested a fence be put up to stop balls going into her garden, but when BVT put forward planning permission she was one of the objectors.

Mrs Sampson said she objected as she thought the fence being placed within a metre behind the goal would be more effective than the one eventually placed on her boundary.

Mr Bennett said BVT was prepared to pay for an acoustic fence on her boundary provided she funded half the cost.

In a statement BVT urged complainants to go to NFDC environmental health to ask for a proper investigation by impartial noise experts, adding that would carry recommendations it could act upon. It said under rules it could not ask for an investigation itself.

“Meanwhile, the trust’s solicitors repeated the offers of a compromise solution,” it added.

“In the meantime the muga receives overwhelming support and use. Unsolicited letters of support and appreciation are received on a daily basis and the muga continues to provide a unique and special facility for Brockenhurst’s young and old alike.”

BVT has received 39 letters of support from local residents. One said the muga was a “wonderful asset”, while another said it “shows off the community at its best”.

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