Thursday, February 18, 2016

Couple lose legal battle with neighbour over noisy pond

A couple desperate to silence their next door neighbour's "noisy" pond have lost their court battle after magistrates found their prosecution bid unnecessary. Sarah Smith, of The Ridge, Little Baddow, Essex, brought a private case to Chelmsford Magistrates' Court on Monday, alleging neighbour Soroush Ebrahimi's water feature was causing a "nuisance" to her family. But Mrs Smith, who represented herself and called her husband Simon as her only witness, had her case thrown out of court after a three-hour trial and was also ordered to pay Mr Ebrahimi's legal costs. "I have no legal training," admitted Mrs Smith as she opened her case, who was guided throughout by the court clerk.

She was in court aiming to secure an order that would prevent Mr Ebrahimi from having a pond filtration system turned on all day after suggesting the noise pollution was "persistent". "The noise is intolerable and the feature is left on 24 hours a day, even when he goes on holiday," she said. "Our request is simple and entirely reasonable. We would even be happy for the feature to just be boxed in so the noise is directed away from our patio. Even when I let my dog out for a wee in the middle of the night I can hear it going." It's not specifically the noise levels that matter, but how the noise affects the enjoyment of one's own property that determines whether a nuisance exists. "The noise never goes away and destroys any pleasure we previously enjoyed from our garden. My son cannot leave his window open in the summer and we've even offered to fix the problem ourselves," added Mrs Smith, who explained the pond is 25 metres from her boundary.

The Smiths appeared in court to gain an order to "abate or prohibit a statutory nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act 1990, namely for the noise emitted from a pond within the garden in respect of premises at Foxgloves, The Ridge". The dispute stems from the noise caused by water that shoots from a hose into Mr Ebrahimi's kidney-shaped, 20 metre by 10 metre pond, which has been recorded in deeds since 1894. Mr Ebrahimi, who moved into his house in 2011, just months before the Smiths, excavated the pond in September 2013, but complaints over noise from the pipe only began the following year. A city council environmental protection officer visited the pond in May 2014 to measure the decibel levels after the Smiths claimed they had "hit a brick wall" in negotiations with Mr Ebrahimi, but the officer was satisfied the noise did not constitute a "statutory nuisance".

Nick Ham, defending Mr Ebrahimi, said: "The pipe was installed to deal with algae as the pond was becoming odorous, which in itself can also be a statutory nuisance. Mr Ebrahimi has consulted with pond experts about putting plants in his pond to deal with the algae rather than the pipe, but was told that because the pond is surrounded by 30-odd trees, the plants would not get enough sunlight to perform the natural chemical reaction. The noise from the pipe was found to be around 40 decibels, which is the same level as a refrigerator or quiet speech; he has done all that has been asked of him at every turn and has rightfully sought legal help to defend his name. The Smiths are simply oversensitive to this issue." The magistrates found Mr Ebrahimi not guilty of being responsible for a statutory nuisance. Mr and Mrs Smith have 28 days to pay Mr Ebrahimi's legal costs in full. The amount was not disclosed.


Anonymous said...

I wonder how people can go on doing something that they know is bothering their neighbors so much? Surely he could find a way to make it quieter. How can you enjoy it when you know it is making others so unhappy?

Dunex said...

@Anon 6:51am
There can be other issues not brought up in the article but the neighbours can also be batshit crazy with nothing else to do but bitch and moan. 40db is compared to the sound in a library and shy of a bird call or a loud computer.

Anonymous said...

I love the sound of running water, as do most human beings. It's built into our DNA, as clean running water (e.g., a spring) was a requirement for survival before the advent of technology to divert and pump water from underground. A stagnant pool of water, on the other hand, is a health menace in several ways. I'm with Dunex: the neighbors are batshit crazy and probably chronic complainers.

xoxoxoBruce said...

I wonder if she's bitching about the sound of the running water or the pump, If the discharge dumped back in the pond under water it wouldn't oxygenate it. She says the pond is 25 metres from her boundary, but not how far from her house is from the boundary. Seems to me some judicious plantings along the boundary would kill most of the noise, but she would still know it's there, and that would make her crazy... um, crazier.

Anonymous said...

I think she did a reasonable job representing herself. The trouble with noise or anything to do with neigbours is that if you are stressed normally, then any sound another person makes can affect you, especially if you don't give yourself time to get used to the new area you have moved into. Where I live it used to be very quiet with horses walking around the area. Now it's all built up, horses gone and constant noise. You have to give it time and eventually you won't notice the small stuff. We have a woman around here who sounds exactly like this woman. Not happy with anyone.