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How neighbours' 16-year friendship ended with a £226,000 court battle

PUBLISHED: 11:03 01 August 2019 | UPDATED: 12:46 01 August 2019

Sharon Tidnam at Low Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Sharon Tidnam at Low Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Jamie Honeywood Archant Norwich Norfolk

A long friendship between neighbours ended in a long, bitter court dispute - costing one woman nearly a quarter of a million pounds.

Topcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam with friend and neighbour Kathy Thomson. Picture: ArchantTopcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam with friend and neighbour Kathy Thomson. Picture: Archant

Topcroft kennels owner Sharon Tidnam was ordered by Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday to pay her neighbour £93,000 in legal costs and £3,000 compensation after she lost a row over noise from the kennels.

The 62-year old said she had known barrister and neighbour Matthew McNiff for 16 years and that they were good friends up until last year.

She said he had even made a short speech at her 40th wedding anniversary and her 60th birthday.

But that friendship came to an end in 2018 after Mr McNiff, of Manor Farm, Rectory Road, brought a private prosecution against Mrs Tidnam over the noise of dogs at her kennels at Low Farm, Snakes Lane.

Topcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam looks after up to 25 dogs. Picture: ArchantTopcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam looks after up to 25 dogs. Picture: Archant

The trial heard Mr McNiff and his wife could hear the "howling and barking" from their home half-a-mile away.

Now, Mrs Tidnam has a legal bill of £96,000 after being found guilty of breaching an order to prevent noise nuisance in June this year.

"The first trial cost me £130,000," she said. "I used all of my savings and my husband used his pension money. I don't know how I am going to pay, I don't know what to do."

She is determined not to give up on her business and vowed never to close it down.

Low Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodLow Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Mrs Tidnam was banned from keeping more than 25 dogs at the farm following the first trial, whereas before she would keep up to 50.

More than 10 kennels now lay empty with others fitted with an acoustic roof to minimise the noise of barking.

Mrs Tidnam and her husband of 44 years Russell, 67, have been running the kennels for 31 years.

Mr Tidnam said the farm has been with his family for three generations, adding: "We have never had complaints from neighbours, the council or customers. In all these years we have never had a complaint made against us."

Low Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie HoneywoodLow Farm Boarding Kennels. Picture: Jamie Honeywood

Villagers have rallied in support of Mrs Tidnam, with 30 people attending the sentencing at Great Yarmouth Magistrates' Court.

The day after, a nearby fisherman heard about the court battle and donated £5 to Mrs Tidnam to begin a crowdfund for her costs.

A new customer at the kennels spoke highly of the business, stating she wanted her new Border Collie puppy named Bow to spend a day getting used to the farm to prepare her for future holidays.

Mr McNiff has been contacted for comment.

Topcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam looks after up to 25 dogs. Picture: ArchantTopcroft Low Farm kennels owner Sharon Tidnam looks after up to 25 dogs. Picture: Archant

The empty kennels at Topcroft Low Farm after owner Sharon Tidnam was banned from keeping more than 25 dogs. Picture: ArchantThe empty kennels at Topcroft Low Farm after owner Sharon Tidnam was banned from keeping more than 25 dogs. Picture: Archant

Sharon Tidnam with husband Russell outside Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court. Photo: ArchantSharon Tidnam with husband Russell outside Great Yarmouth Magistrates Court. Photo: Archant

Supporters of Topcroft kennels owner Sharon Tidnam outside Yarmouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday July 30 2019. Photo: ArchantSupporters of Topcroft kennels owner Sharon Tidnam outside Yarmouth Magistrates Court on Tuesday July 30 2019. Photo: Archant

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