Children's Activity Lake Planning Permission Survives Noise Objections

The noise of playing children screaming and shouting is purgatory to some but, in a High Court case, such concerns were not enough to convince a judge that planning permission for an adventure activity lake in the grounds of a historic manor house should be overturned.

The case concerned a landed estate which has a Grade II* listed manor at its heart, surrounded by grounds and formal gardens which are also listed. Those heritage assets, which were once home to a private boarding school, had fallen into a sad state of disrepair when the estate was acquired by a company that provides outdoor adventure activity courses for schoolchildren.

When the company applied for planning permission to create a lake on the estate on which children could enjoy activities such as raft building and canoeing, it met with concerted opposition from local residents. Objectors said the tranquillity of nearby homes would be blighted by the loud noise of children enjoying themselves. The local authority, however, granted planning consent for the development subject to restrictions on the number of children who could use the lake at any one time and the hours of the facility's operation. The lake was also required to remain closed during three winter months.

Challenging the decision, an objector argued that councillors were seriously misled by a planning officer's report and an updated document which were placed before the planning committee. He claimed that the documents downplayed the clear views of an environmental health officer (EHO) that the noise impact of the development would be unacceptable and could amount to a statutory nuisance.

Rejecting the challenge, however, the Court noted that there was no obligation to place the EHO's verbatim advice before the committee. Although the documents could have been clearer, on a fair reading they adequately communicated to councillors the gist of the EHO's concerns. A further argument that the committee had been misled in respect of the potential heritage benefits of the development also fell on fallow ground and the planning permission was upheld.