Pubs face the music over noise pollution

An appeal against a noise abatement notice will question the weight given to sound-proofing in pubs, reports Roger Pearson

A Gosport pub is at the centre of a pending test case over procedures to be followed by courts dealing with complaints of noise nuisance.

The Court of Appeal has given Surrey Free Inns leave to challenge a High Court decision confirming a noise abatement notice in respect of one of their pubs, Oliver's Bar.

The notice followed complaints from local residents when music was played while doors of the bar were left open.

Following the complaints, Gosport Borough Council served a noise abatement notice on Surrey Free Inns.

Surrey Inns appealed to Fareham magistrates' court, but its appeal was dismissed on grounds that the noise had still not abated.

However, a further appeal was allowed by Portsmouth Crown Court after it was told that steps had been taken to sound-proof the bar.

But then a third appeal was launched at the High Court, this time by the local authority. The High Court ruled that the magistrates had been right in the first place.

It took the view that any appeal against a noise abatement notice had to be considered on the facts as they were at the time when the notice was served – not as they were at the time of the appeal.

However, now the Court of Appeal has given leave for that view to be challenged. Timothy Straker QC, counsel for Surrey Free Inns, in arguing for leave to appeal, said that over the years there had been conflicting decisions and opinions in the High Court on this point.

He said the case raised important matters in respect of the weight to be given by courts to sound-proofing carried out after the initial complaint, and that it was a matter which affected all those who came into contact with or were likely to come into contact with the statutory nuisance provisions of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

In particular it affected the licensed trade which, by virtue of the nature of its activities, is likely from time to time to be concerned with such provision.

The appeal is expected to take place this autumn.