Court ruling restricts noisy motor sports at Smeatharpe

A COURT has ruled that noisy motor sport events on a disused airfield at Smeatharpe must be restricted to just seven days a year.

A COURT has ruled that noisy motor sport events on a disused airfield at Smeatharpe must be restricted to just seven days a year. The decision follows action by East Devon District Council environmental health officers.

Following complaints from residents in the East Devon village of Smeatharpe and a number of other villages in the Blackdown Hills AONB, the council's environmental protection team carried out an investigation of allegations that increased levels of motor sport activity at the old airfield were causing a noise nuisance.

The council's officers concluded that a statutory noise nuisance had occurred and that the nuisance was likely to keep on recurring.

Unable to find an informal solution to the problem, in August 2008 the council served a noise abatement notice on the owners of the old airfield, prohibiting a recurrence of the nuisance. An appeal against the notice was lodged by the owners and, after failing to negotiate any reasonable compromise on behalf of the residents, the council was forced to defend its decision to serve the notice at Honiton Magistrates' Court last week.

The appellants' advocate argued that the notice should not have been served at all and that council officers were wrong in their opinion that the noise caused by motor sport activity on the old airfield actually amounted to a nuisance.

Having heard all the evidence over a two-day hearing, magistrates decided that the noise was unreasonable and did in fact amount to a nuisance. Furthermore, they were satisfied that a recurrence of the nuisance was also likely.

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The court issued an order, effective immediately, that allowed the old airfield to be used by one or more cars or motorcycles for racing, practice, testing and the like on just seven days per year with a minimum of 30 days' respite between any of these seven days. On each occasion, the use must begin not earlier than 9am and must finish by 4pm the same day. Only three stage rallies will be allowed.

An EDDC spokesman has described this as an excellent result. He said: "The Court exercised its discretion in allowing a very limited level of activity that under the circumstances represents a reasonable balance between the rights of residents to enjoy their homes and gardens on the one hand and on the other, recognises the limited extent to which the land had been used for these purposes in the past.