Friday, 04 December 2020

Neighbours threaten legal action over noisy children

RESIDENTS are threatening legal action if nothing is done to reduce noise levels at Henley’s adventure playground.

RESIDENTS are threatening legal action if nothing is done to reduce noise levels at Henley’s adventure playground.

They have been campaigning for action since the facility in Mill Meadows was refurbished at a cost of £60,000 in 2009.

Suzanne Yeates, whose home is next door to the playground, has repeatedly asked the town council to move it, change the equipment or plant a hedge to create a sound barrier.

In September the council banned use of the playground after 7pm in the summer and 5pm in the winter but the notices are often ignored.

Mrs Yeates, who is events manager for the Henley Festival, said she appreciated councillors’ time and effort but the noise problem still existed.

The playground runs about 150 yards alongside her house and garden and is about 10 yards from her boundary. Speaking during the public participation section of the council’s Mill Meadows and river sub-committee, she said: “In the four years since the redevelopment of the playground we have had problems.

“Within months there was a significant increase in noise levels and noise monitoring led to the unfortunate removal of the basket swing, which was the only Disability Discrimination Act-compliant piece of equipment. There was incessant screaming and shouting from able-bodied children and adults alike.

“It is an extremely attractive facility therefore it generates an obvious level of noise.” She said she had been kept in touch by Trevor Dean, an environmental health officer at South Oxfordshire District Council, but had not instructed him to act formally.

“We have now found it necessary to seek some legal advice to seek confirmation of the situation,” she said.

Mrs Yeates said that residents would like to be included in the council’s discussions, including improvements to the toddler playground nearby.

Mayor Stefan Gawrysiak, who chairs the committee, said the council had agreed 18 months ago not to move the adventure playground because of the cost and lack of another suitable location.He said a working group was set up and meetings had been held with Mr Dean and Henley police sergeant Graham Pink.

“Graham’s view is that the adventure playground is in the perfect place,” said Councillor Gawrysiak.

“It is right at the entrance to the meadows and if there is any trouble then the police can be there quickly. There is lighting in that area and a camera so there is an element of security.

“Mr Dean said that if the levels were the same now as they were before — and he had no reason to believe that they would be any different — that there would be no statutory noise problems.

“We have met with the residents several times and it was perfectly clear that we could not come to an agreement and it is my view that we have gone as far as we can with this.

“We will still explore the idea of the hedge as that is something that needs to be done. We have agreed to keep the time at 7pm and it was under the understanding that the neighbours would police from 7pm to 9pm.

“For normal domestic issues 10pm is when the police take action but in this circumstance they have said that they will work from 9pm. I think that this is the end of the matter and we should have no further actions.”

Councillor David Clenshaw said: “We have bent over backwards to try to come to some sort of solution. We have got an adventure playground which is a fine facility for the people of Henley. Of course children are going to make noise but I think we have done everything we can to see if there is anything we can do to mitigate that.”

He suggested that if the council was being threatened with legal action then it shouldn’t hold any more discussions with the residents.

But Councillor Sam Evans said: “We have had lots of discussions but we have not actually done anything. The signs are not going to impact on noise. We are going to have to have more discussions if there is a legal element now.”

The committee voted to pass the matter on to the council’s lawyers.

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