Theme Park Fined after Couple's 'Noise Nightmare' Battle

Date:

02/11/2004

Author:

Matthew Cooper

Source:

The Scotsman

Matter:

Roper - Alton Towers

The owners of the Alton Towers theme park were fined £5,000 today after a private prosecution brought by a couple who claim noise from the site has made their lives a "nightmare".

District Judge Timothy Gascoigne also served a noise abatement notice on Tussauds Theme Parks Ltd, which runs the Staffordshire attraction.

Speaking after the hearing of Stoke-on-Trent magistrates' court held at Stafford Crown Court, Stephen and Suzanne Roper said they hoped that the theme park would stick to the terms of the order for the sake of the local community.

Meanwhile, it emerged that the couple, whose cottage in the hamlet of Farley is just 100 yards from the main entrance to Alton Towers, have run up an estimated legal bill of £250,000 while fighting the case.

They now face a further legal battle as Alton Towers - where the rides recently closed for the winter - plans to appeal against the judge's findings in the Crown Court.

Asked if the prosecution had been worth the effort, Mr Roper, who runs a pottery firm, told reporters: "Definitely. We have got three or four quiet months - let's see what next year's going to be like."

His wife denied that they had become "isolated" in the local community because of their stance against the noise generated by public address systems, fireworks and thrill-seekers' screams.

Mrs Roper added: "I hope very much for the local community that they

Alton Towers] stick to the order.

"I think it's time that Alton Towers started to listen to the people who live around it and think about their quality of life.

"We have been in the hamlet for 36 years and we have seen the place change incredibly in that time.

"There's a big majority out there who don't like what goes on and don't like to make a fuss," she insisted.

The couple's solicitor, Richard Buxton, said the £5,000 fine - the maximum allowed by law - reflected the judge's view that Alton Towers had made little or no effort to abate the nuisance.

"The order requires Alton Towers to ensure that at the Ropers' property there are certain, relatively low, levels of noise, which will mean that there is no nuisance there."

The judge ruled in August that Alton Towers was guilty of noise nuisance under the 1990 Environmental Protection Act after hearing that the din of late - night fireworks, concerts and corporate weekends had contributed to the Ropers' misery.

Jonathan Caplan QC, representing Tussauds, told today's hearing that the firm had received an email yesterday indicating that the Ropers' costs may be as high as £250,000.

"It's a very sizeable sum of money and we have a strong wish to consider these costs and to be given details of how they are arrived at," Mr Caplan said.

It is understood that London-based Tussauds had previously conceded that they would pay the prosecution costs, although a further hearing will now be held to decide the issue.