Thursday, 19 May 2022

Unauthorised wedding and party venue closed down

Unauthorised wedding and party venue closed down

A WOMAN has lost an appeal against an order to shut down an unauthorised wedding and party venue.

Penny Holley, who owns The Copse in Mill Lane, Kidmore End, began hosting functions for up to 120 people in 2016.

She appealed against an order issued by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority, in 2019 to stop events after neighbours complained.

The council said Mrs Holley could still offer holiday lets to smaller groups, as she had been doing for years with permission, but issued an enforcement notice banning other uses.

She was also ordered to remove a “dining platform”, an area of decking with a marquee, which the council said was built without consent, and tear down a wall of hay bales which she erected as a sound barrier.

Planning inspector Paul Dignan, who heard the appeal at a virtual hearing in March, has now upheld the council’s decision, saying the use of the seven-bedroom property for weddings had caused “disturbance to neighbours” and “harm to the characteristic tranquillity of the area”.

Mrs Holley first let the main house part time in 2003 before moving into the adjacent three-bedroom cottage in 2007 when her husband Tim fell ill. When rentals for the property, which also has a two-bedroom barn, increased, guests told Mrs Holley it would be a good wedding venue so in 2016 she obtained a licence to hold ceremonies from Oxfordshire County Council.

During the inquiry, Mrs Holley argued that the change was only “intensification” of the holiday letting use so the celebrations were covered by the consent she was granted in 2002 for “leisure and assembly” purposes.

However, Mr Dignan said: “In my view, there are considerable differences between letting a house for up to 18 persons, predominantly for holiday use, and the holding of weddings where 100 to 150 people can gather for the day.”

He said wedding events increased traffic in Mill Lane, which was a “narrow single track” as it was used by guests, caterers, florists and more.

Mr Dignan said: “It is likely to inconvenience other road users and possibly increase the risk to other road users by increased use of the sub-standard junction with the A4074.

“The numbers of additional people using the grounds also requires substantial external lighting and marshalling throughout the day, including on Mill Lane and the entrance to the manège parking from Tokers Green Lane.”

Mrs Holley, who bought The Copse with her husband in 2000, said the complaints from neighbours about traffic and noise were “unreasonable” and argued that the parties were “incidental” to the main use of the property.

She said that 120 guests made no more noise than 20 if they were well-behaved and disagreed with comments describing the venue as a “party house”.

Mr Dignan acknowledged Mrs Holley’s efforts to mitigate the noise disturbance by erecting the marquee and the straw bale wall close to the boundary with one of the neighbouring properties but believed the noise still caused a disturbance.

He said: “I consider that, even with the best will in the world, noise will be generated that will be audible at some of the neighbouring residential properties and that occasionally that will be at volumes and/or frequencies that will cause disturbance and harm to living conditions.

“Reliance on the unauthorised marquee structure to contain noise from speeches and so on is also a matter of concern given it is the subject of an enforcement notice requiring its removal.”

Mr Dignan acknowledged that the traffic and noise from the events could be managed by marshalling and directing attendees to certain parts of the site but said this would mean relying on “unauthorised operational development”.

Mrs Holley also argued the council didn’t serve its notices on her in 2019 correctly, misspelling her address, and that in any case she was immune from enforcement action.

Mr Dignan said he was dismissing the appeal, subject to the address being corrected.

The council has extended the compliance period due to Mrs Holley’s fears that it would have a “disproportionately negative” financial impact if she couldn’t honour existing bookings.

The last wedding event is due to be held on October 2.

The council also said it would allow wedding celebrations that had been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic to go ahead.

The council first investigated neighbours’ complaints in September 2018. It issued a noise abatement notice which Mrs Holley failed to obey and she is due to be prosecuted for this.

It says the weddings and parties wouldn’t be given permission if she applied due to the planning conditions needed to prevent disturbance, such as a ban on loud noise after 10pm and no use of the grounds after 9pm, which would deter potential customers.

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