Query over sound checks in Wincanton noise row
A NOISE complaint from a Wincanton resident has led civic leaders to question why homes were built so close to the town's business park.
The row erupted after a homeowner on the 21-acre New Barns Farm housing estate complained to South Somerset District Council about noise levels coming from Rochford Garden Machinery, based on the nearby business park.
Environmental Health officers said the noise created by the testing of chainsaws at Rochford could have "the potential to become a nuisance".
They claimed to observe noise levels of approximately 70 decibels in the resident's living room.
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In a letter to Rochford they advised that, if deemed regular enough, the noise would constitute a "nuisance" under environmental regulations.
It was claimed that while there is no maximum noise limit, The World Health Organisation recommends peak noise levels in habitable rooms of 45 decibels. Under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, businesses could face fines of more than £20,000 per offence if they are in breach of noise regulations.
The revelations have caused fury among Wincanton's business elite who have demanded to know why sound checks were not carried out before plans for the New Barns Farm housing estate were first approved in 2006.
District councillor Nick Colbert claimed the Environment Agency wrote to South Somerset District Council's planning department in 2005 recommending sound testing should be undertaken before any houses were built.
He said: "If it had, the houses would almost certainly have been built further away and acoustic barriers put in place to mitigate the sounds from the business park. Testing should have been carried out as advised, and the housing positioned in a location where there was no conflict."
John Smith, chairman of Wincanton Businesses Together, said a buffer zone should have been built between the sites.
He said: "There should always be a safe ransom strip of land between any business park and residential estate.
"The two simply don't go together. Surely the planners or relevant authority should have conducted tests to gauge the average noise levels from the business park?
"This has the scent of checks not being done when they should have. As a result, Rochford Garden Machinery is being hassled for something that is not their fault."
A district council spokesperson said the noise complaint case was now "closed".
A statement said: "We will continue to work proactively with businesses to ensure that any potential nuisance of any description is mitigated.
"Homes and businesses can co-exist side by side as they do, and have done for many years, across south Somerset. Wincanton is no different."
In a letter seen by the Western Gazette district council leader Ric Pallister told Peter Rochford, owner of Rochford Garden Machinery, that the company and Wincanton Town Council had failed to make any representations when the housing plans were being considered.
Mr Pallister said: "As you are aware the Environmental Health service has been investigating an allegation of a noise nuisance emanating from your premises. At the time of writing this allegation had not been substantiated, but we do have a statutory duty to investigate such matters, so cannot just simply ignore the fact that a complaint has been made.
"Neither of us wants to see anything affect the viability of your business which is an important part of the local economy."
Colin Winder, mayor of Wincanton, accused the district council of shifting the blame.
He said: "I find it odd that Mr Pallister should blame unpaid town councillors giving up time to help the community for not spotting that the district council failed to carry out checks required under planning law when looking at a planning application."
Mr Rochford said he was unavailable to comment due to pending legal issues.