Sunday, 22 May 2022
THE owner of an unauthorised wedding and party venue has been ordered to pay almost £16,000 for breaching a noise abatement notice.
Penny Holley, who owns the Copse in Mill Lane, Kidmore End, was prosecuted by South Oxfordshire District Council, the planning authority.
The 71-year-old began hosting functions for up to 120 people in 2016.
Oxford Magistrates’ Court heard how she was served with the notice in July 2018 after neighbours complained about music, singing and shouting coming from the property.
Officers installed noise monitoring equipment and spoke to several neighbours who said they had been disturbed.
Holley tried to prevent the problem by installing directional speakers in her “disco barn”, employing an extra member of staff and using a sound-proofed marquee.
However, after more complaints from neighbours, the council’s environmental protection officers witnessed two breaches of the abatement notice in September 2019.
Holley was convicted of both offences under the Environmental Protection Act after a three-day trial in August and sentenced on November 26.
She was fined £400 for each offence and ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £80 and £15,000 towards the council’s costs.
Sue Cooper, the council’s cabinet member for environment, climate change and nature recovery, said: “The disruption and stress caused by excess noise from neighbours should not be underestimated.
“If it continues it can seriously affect people’s quality of life. The council wants communities to thrive together and will work to mitigate any noise problems people have with neighbours. However, if notices are breached, we have no option but to prosecute.”
After being charged in 2019, Holley was ordered to stop holding events at the property. She appealed but planning inspector Paul Dignan, who heard the appeal at a virtual hearing in March, upheld the council’s decision.
He said the use of the seven-
bedroom property for weddings had disturbed neighbours and harmed the “characteristic tranquillity of the area”.
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 of the property, which also has a two-bedroom barn, increased, guests told her it would make a good wedding venue so in 2016 she obtained a licence to hold ceremonies from Oxfordshire County Council.
At the inquiry in March, 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.
She 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.
Holley 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”.
She also argued that the council hadn’t served the notice on her correctly as her address was misspelled and in any case she was immune from enforcement action.
Mr Dignan dismissed the appeal, subject to the address being
Holley was 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 had erected as a sound barrier. She can still offer holiday lets to smaller groups.
13 December 2021
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