A barrister has forced the council to repair a rusted, rattling sports cage next to his home – and to pay him the £7,000 it cost him to take them to court.
Richard Hearnden applied for a noise abatement order because of the clangs the cage makes, and it was granted last month by Brighton Magistrates Court.
Brighton and Hove City Council now has six months to either repair or replace the cage around the basketball and football court in Stoneham Park.
Mr Hearnden said: “My wife and I feel totally vindicated by this decision. This is the culmination of three years of litigation and probably five years of dealing with the council on this issue.
“There’s been a wall of non-cooperation – just ignore this guy and it will all go away, and that’s what we had every since we first spoke to the council.
“The cage is just so old and rusty that it reverberates and it’s dangerous.
“For the council to be taken to court by one of its citizens and to lose is a massive corporate failure because it’s usually the local authority that brings noise cases against pubs, clubs and nuisance neighbours.
“They have done everything they can to waste money on this. They have gaslighted us for years.
“The court asked us if we wanted the council to be fined, or any compensation and we said no. Just getting the thing replaced is compensation enough.
“We wanted the the court to put into the order that the council mustn’t just close it the cage, and we are pleased that the order says that.
“With England getting to the final of Euro 2020, a lot of boys and girls are going to be inspired to play football and teams deserve an awful lot better than this tarmac surrounded by a 25-year-old rusting fence. They deserve something which looks a bit more like a soccer pitch.
“I would like something like that to come from all of this. Local kids are entitled to have a decent sporting facility that we can all be proud of.”
Mr Hearnden’s costs included £1500 for two acoustic expert reports, one of which compared the unpredictable noise caused by the fencing to clay pigeon shooting.
The hearing was adjourned in November last year so repairs that had been made could be assessed.
During last month’s court hearing, a council helpdesk employee said she had googled soundproofing and then instructed a general contractor to install a material Mr Hearnden said was similar to roofing felt.
This helped for a few weeks, and Mr Hearnden offered to settle the case in return for his costs up to that date to be paid, but the council declined. Soon after, the clangs came back.
Another virtual meeting was set up in April with a view to settle the case, but no one from the parks’ department turned up. Mr Hearnden said the council’s solicitor was very apologetic and embarrassed.
He added the cage was so badly maintained that during the three lockdowns, when padlocks were put on the doors to stop people using the court against covid regulations, people were able to crawl through a hole in the fencing and continue playing.
A council spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to Mr Hearnden for the noise nuisance he has experienced.
“The multi-use games area in Stoneham Park is a valuable and popular community resource that has played a particularly important role during the pandemic.
“With council budgets very tight, we have previously tried hard to address the noise issue in ways that would not divert too many resources away from all the other important work we do in our parks and open spaces.
“However, we accept this judgement and will be complying with it in full.”
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