NEIGHBOURS of a Henley restaurant are upset at the installation of a “noisy” freezer outdoors.
They claim the £15,000 device disturbs their peace and that the owners of La Bodega in Hart Street have breached planning regulations.
Owner Juan Rios installed the large freezer on the site of a former storage shed in the restaurant’s back garden in late summer last year.
But he has yet to obtain planning permission following complaints about the noise from the unit as well as its appearance and proximity to neighbours.
South Oxfordshire District Council has received five letters of objection to a retrospective planning application.
Michael and Ann Shemilt, of Friday Street, complained that the freezer is “ugly and noisy” and that its concrete base is larger than the space the shed took up.
The couple said: “The garden of La Bodega is in a conservation area and is surrounded on three sides by the residential curtilages of several Grade II listed properties.
WThe planning history of the site has always seen great stress laid on the question of noise volume from the business.”
The Shemilts said that when the restaurant’s back doors are open noise is funnelled into their garden, causing them “distress”.
They said: “Customers wander outside with their drinks and their talking and laughing just adds to the noise levels.
“The new freezer/storage unit in the garden suggests that the space used previously for storage has been utilised for other purposes, possibly additional table capacity.
“This will only exacerbate the air-conditioning problem and force the management to open the doors more often in hot weather when the restaurant is full. The management of La Bodega have constantly pushed the envelope and violated planning rules and will continue to do so.” Andy Laurillard, owner of the Giggling Squid restaurant, which recently opened nearby, said the patio area at the rear of his premises and the flat above it were already affected by a “high level of noise” from La Bodega.
He said the patio was immediately the other side of the wall to the freezer and the area would be unusable in summer due to the noise.
Mr Laurillard said: “We don’t want to prevent our neighbours from chilling their food but we would rather like some consideration taken over the impact it will have on our business come the summer months when we use the rear patio.” Adrian Lake, who lives in Hart Street, said: “We have chairs and a table on the terrace that are within 2m of the unit.
“Our garden and terrace are remarkably quiet and we hear very little background noise during the day and in the evening and at night it is almost completely silent except now for the continual drone and whirring noise of the chiller unit that becomes increasingly intrusive as any background noise diminishes.
“I believe La Bodega have acted in a cavalier fashion, paying no regard to the due process of planning until forced to do so and showing little regard to the effect on the amenity of near neighbours.” Kevin and Caroline Wood, also of Hart Street, said their sleep had been disturbed by the noise from the freezer, which is 22m from their window with no screening in between.
The couple said: “La Bodega knows that there is a sound issue but has done nothing to try to reduce the nuisance noise. They seem intent to try to baffle everyone with technical information.
“Unless some substantial screening without louvred vents directed at affected properties is put in place to stop the noise or the unit is refused retrospective planning permission then we anticipate further lost sleep.”
The noise levels from the freezer were measured by the district council in November and found to be “unacceptably high”. However, environmental health officer Sally Coxell said measures could be taken to “attenuate” the noise so that the neighbour would no longer be “adversely affected”.
She added: “I am satisfied that if all those measures are undertaken then noise from the plant will be reduced to acceptable levels at nearby residential properties.”
Henley Town Council has said it has no objections to the application, subject to the recommendations and advice of the district council.
Mr Rios said: “You have to have everything in perfect condition these days and it is better to have a proper freezer than have all these little ones so the food is being kept as it should be.
“As I have the garden, it is the perfect place for it.”