Judge throws out fight to close parkBy Becky Barnes
May 31, 2012
NEIGHBOURS who fought a court battle to remove a “noisy” playground have lost their case, at a cost of nearly £50,000.
Residents who live near the Locks Ride play park in Ascot filed a criminal prosecution over nuisance noise against Winkfield Parish Council, under the name of Dr Catherine Bentley-Thomas.
District Judge Andrew Vickers dismissed the case at Reading Magistrates Court on Friday.
He ordered Dr Bentley-Thomas to pay Winkfield Parish Council’s costs of £18,000.
The prosecution case has also racked up £30,000 in legal fees.
Judge Vickers said that because Dr Bentley-Thomas and her husband Roger Price had taken criminal proceedings against the council, the noise nuisance had to be proved “beyond reasonable doubt”.
He said: “I am not satisfied the prosecution proved beyond reasonable doubt there was a nuisance and it was likely to reoccur.”
The judge said he had to take Dr Bentley-Thomas’s evidence “with some degree of concern” as one example she recorded was one child playing on a swing.
He put Dr Bentley-Thomas’s reaction down to “sensitisation” and said that if the noise of just one child disturbed her he found that “difficult to reconcile”.
He commented: “With no noise nuisance on the outset, the sensitivity of the individual shows itself.”
He also criticised evidence given by neighbours, including one diary entry that he said suggested people were using the park who “shouldn’t” be there.
The log from one neighbour read: “The park is full of really fat women from Bracknell who do not know what to do with their kids. I wish they would f*** off – they do not even live here.”
Judge Vickers also expressed concern that Mr Price, a former BA pilot, had put emphasis on the area being “affluent” and said his concern about the value of his house reducing was not related to a noise nuisance complaint.
Evidence from sound tests given by Andrew Hawes, of Sanctum Environmental Health Consultants, was also thrown out as “unreliable.”
Judge Vickers said that the test was not taken in a long enough period of time and commented: “I am not able to accept his evidence at all.”
Bringing his findings to a close, Judge Vickers said: “The Locks Ride field was never a village green, it is not quintessential England. People will always be affected by a large construction for the public benefit.”
Because the judge felt the case was “preemptive and presumptive”, he said Dr Bentley-Thomas would have to pay the legal fees for Winkfield Parish Council.
Outside the court Mr Price said: “We are not happy with the result. We do not feel the judge really considered our evidence.
“This was not flippant – it really was a nuisance. Now having 200 to 300 kids 10 metres away from our garden fence is by no stretch of the imagination going to be easy.
“We will work out what we have to do but I can’t comment on whether we will appeal.”
Representatives from the council and the Support Locks Ride Playpark group were in court to hear the decision.