Did Staffs council confuse priorities?

Date:

12/08/2004

Author:

Editorial

Source:

Environmental Health News

Matter:

Roper - Alton Towers

Local authorities have complicated and, in some cases, contradictory responsibilities. On the one hand, they must promote tourism and industry. On the other, they are enjoined to protect the peace and quiet of their residents.

Alton Towers (see page one) is one of the UK's top theme parks, attracting more than half of the visitors to Staffordshire each year. As a business, it supports almost 4,000 jobs and generates more than £20m a year for the local economy.

It is also, of course, a significant noise generator. Alton Towers says that it is anxious to act responsibly and to be a "good neighbour". The theme park's local authority says its pollution control team has a "balanced approach". It has a policy of initially dealing with nuisance through negotiation. Formal action is only taken after careful consideration of "the gravity of the alleged offence and effect on quality of life".

But this is not the perception of local residents Stephen and Suzanne Roper. The Ropers moved into their house in 1969, a long time before the theme park developed as a business. Over the years, the attractions got bigger and PA systems and fireworks became louder. The Ropers' quality of life deteriorated.

It is their perception that their council refused to take their worries seriously and declined to take effective action. A district judge has now supported the Ropers' assertion that the noise from Alton Towers constitutes a statutory nuisance. Of course, owners Tussaud's Theme Parks Ltd may successfully appeal against the ruling or any subsequent remedy.

But the fact that a council officer denied in court that she had helped the company's legal team to mount a case when, actually, she had, is to say the least extraordinary. As judge Gascoigne said in his ruling, aren't council officers dealing with alleged nuisance supposed to act impartially in pursuit of their duties?