A WOMAN has lost her bid for a noise order after complaints about the unruly behaviour of youngsters using a popular Brockenhurst games area.
This morning (Tuesday) District Judge Anthony Callaway threw out a bid by Marie Sampson relating to the multi-use games area (muga) in Highwood Lane and told her to pay the trust’s court costs – amounting to around £2,500.
However, it is unlikely to end the saga, since it has emerged that a complaint over the facility has been made to Environmental Health – which has launched an investigation.
Meanwhile, the judge suggested the muga – overseen by Brockenhurst Village Trust – may have breached planning rules and doubted it could continue to operate as before.
Mrs Sampson had claimed her nearby family home was regularly disturbed by nuisance noise and went to court seeking a noise abatement order under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.
They insisted they did not want it shut down, suggesting the trust erect a new fence to curb the noise, and lock it at night.
The trust denied the level of disruption claimed and said the new fence could cost £30,000. It said it had offered to install a new barrier on the Sampsons’ boundary provided they fund half the cost, but that had not been taken up.
Both parties appeared before Judge Callaway earlier this year and gave evidence. Announcing his decision at Southampton Magistrates’ Court, DJ Callaway rejected the noise order request.
However, DJ Callaway added: “I would wish to add this rider to the verdict: whilst it is not for this court to advise the complainant on any future action she may wish or be advised to take, it seems to me that the manner in which the muga is currently operated may potentially be in breach of the terms of the planning grant when judged as a whole.
“Naturally this ground relates to the position, pre-Covid, recognising that the area is now subject to closure. However, it is a ground that will reopen and it is an open question as to whether the area will continue to operate in its former manner.”
Addressing the favourable judgement, trust chairman Kevin Plummer said it had been a “prolonged and difficult time”, adding: “A cloud has been lifted, but we can’t rejoice because inevitably there are not just winners, but losers.
“That would never be our intention, but it was inevitable after the court case began. The village hall and other facilities on site not only serve the community, but continually seek to work in harmony with that community and particularly its neighbours.
“We strive to continually improve our facilities, including the muga, for the benefit of everyone in the village.”
However, the trust was unhappy to be criticised by DJ Callaway over potential planning breaches. It said the planning application cited during the case had been superseded by a new one which had undergone due process and been approved by the National Park Authority.
The first planning application had said the site would be closely monitored by the trust, have a tall fence and a booking system. But the trust said it had to remove the tall fence option to comply with planning, and the site had now introduced a booking system and CCTV had been installed.
It also stressed prior to the case reaching the courts it made “several unsuccessful attempts” to reach an “amicable settlement” with Mrs Sampson and took “a number of measures” to address issues she had raised.
The trust added it had asked her to complain about alleged noise to New Forest District Council’s Environmental Health department.
“A week before the trial was to be heard, the trust was contacted by New Forest District Council in relation to a separate complaint made to Environmental Health, it said. “The trust does not know who the complainant is, but will respond fully to that, and take any findings seriously.”
Mrs Sampson told the A&T she was “very disappointed” with the judgement, but “pleased” it highlighted “shortcomings” in the trust’s obligations under the planning process for the facility.
She added: “The judge states that currently the muga is not properly managed. This failure of management and control is ongoing.
“Despite the facility being closed due to lockdown 2.0, there have been 16 instances that I am aware of where users have scaled the fence, trespassed and used it in any event.”
Mrs Sampson went on to say she was “pleased” the judge identified the muga should not continue to operate in its current format.
She called on the trust to “do the right thing” and suggested a “good starting point” would be a meeting with residents. She was also “aware” a complaint had been made – not by her but another neighbour – which has sparked a noise nuisance investigation by Environmental Health.
She added: “Environmental Health will not base their conclusion on the guidance relied upon by the judge, and I do not doubt that improvements will need to be made to the facility once that investigation has been completed.”
Opened around two years ago, the muga is next to the existing village hall, Scout hall and playground and used by children’s groups, sports teams and for charity events.
It got off the ground after the community raised £63,000. Depending on the season, it closes at either 8pm or 5pm, and there is a code of conduct banning swearing.