COURT ruling upholding a noise abatement order on a pack of
foxhounds could affect hunts across the country. The Isle
of Wight Hunt fears it will have to close unless it can comply
with the order, served after two neighbours complained that
the baying from its kennels kept them awake.
The Isle of Wight Hunt has been based at Gatcombe since 1927. Recently a two neighbours complained about the noise. After checking noise levels and making observations both day and night, environmental health officials decided a nuisance was being caused and served the notice.
The hunt appealed and a three-day hearing took place last week at the magistrates' court in Newport, to settle the issue.
The hunt argued that the order threatened its existence and insists that the majority of residents accept the noise as a quintessential sound of the English countryside.
It claims there is no significant noise nuisance and argues that the Isle of Wight council has been unreasonable in rejecting remedies proposed by the hunt. Matthew Knight, solicitor for the hunt, said: "The Act under which this notice is served is not intended to stop people doing what they have been doing in the same location for many years.
"The complaints have started only recently and are from two households. The rest of the villagers, including those who live nearer the hunt kennels than the complainants, are either neutral or supportive."
One of those who have complained is Penny Worley, 57, a retired school teacher. The kennels are 300 yards from her £900,000 renovated farmhouse.
She said: "I am not against hunting and neither am I a Johnny-come-lately to the countryside. The noise from the hounds at night is absolutely intolerable."
She said the entire pack of between 50 and 60 hounds in full cry in the middle of the night was "a hell of a din".
Polite approaches to the hunt had not brought about an improvement. "That is why we called in the council," added Mrs Worley.
During the hearing, the hunt had argued that the complaints came from householders who must have realised there would be some noise nuisance if they moved in beside a kennels. District Judge John Willard, sitting at Isle of Wight magistrates' court, Newport, said at the end of a three-day appeal that he had some sympathy with the Hunts views but he had to apply the law.
In a reference to the Dickensian character who considered the law an ass, he said: "Members and supporters of the hunt will just have to console themselves with the thoughts of Mr Bumble on that subject."
Outside the court, Andrew Sallis, master of the hunt, and Ronald Holland, its chairman, expressed concern that anti-hunt protesters would use the ruling to challenge other packs.
Judge Willard rejected claims that the complainants, who run guesthouses, were malicious or hypersensitive. Council officers said the noise was "horrendous"