A FOX HUNT has had a noise abatement order imposed on it and the Master of Hounds has been told to stop his pack from baying to prevent a public nuisance.
In what is believed to be the first action of its kind, the Isle of Wight Hunt was served with the order after complaints from people living close to its kennels.
Richard Standing, the huntmaster, said that he would appeal against the order, which has been suspended until the matter is decided by magistrates later this month.
The action is not political in any way and the complaints have come from people who have no opposition to fox hunting, but from supporters who say that they cannot put up with the noise of barking hounds any longer.
Mr Standing refused to be drawn on how the ban would affect the hunt, although he said the irony of a threat to its existence coming, not from a Government ban but from an angry neighbour, was not lost on him.
He admitted it would be a difficult task to stop the pack from barking and he would be putting forward a "robust" defence in an attempt to annul the order, made under the Environmental Protection Act and served by the Isle of Wight council before Christmas.
He said: "We have been here since 1927 and there have never been any complaints. We have spoken to the Master of Foxhounds' Association and they cannot remember this action being taken by a council before. There are hunts around the country that operate in far closer proximity to a greater number of people than we do."
Monks, the council's environmental health manager, said: "The
abatement notice was served following complaints from neighbouring
residents and after the observations of officers. We do not
take such action lightly and we would not have done so had
we not thought we had a good case."
Anita Fitzgerald, one of those neighbours who lodged a complaint, is a hunt supporter who has sung at the Isle of Wight Hunt Ball. She said: "This is nothing to do with the argument about hunting. It is about the most basic human right of being able to sleep."
She moved to a house close to the kennel at Gatcombe three years ago. "The noise has made my life a living hell," she said.
Mrs Fitzgerald, 42, said she had complained to the council only after discussions with the hunt had proved fruitless. "I tried everything to get things done amicably but now I have had to get the council involved. The constant noise of the dogs was driving me bonkers.
"Together with another neighbour we complained to the council. It has investigated and seen fit to serve the notice. We have been asked to give evidence and we most certainly will."