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Pensioner's anger at skate park inquiry

PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 June 2006 | UPDATED: 11:06 22 October 2010

A pensioner has criticised the outcome of an investigation into Breckland Council's handling of a skateboard park planning application. The council has been ordered to pay £2000 in compensation to Beryl Thwaites, who endured seven months of noise from the park near her home in Attleborough.

A pensioner has criticised the outcome of an investigation into Breckland Council's handling of a skateboard park planning application.

The council has been ordered to pay £2000 in compensation to Beryl Thwaites, who endured seven months of noise from the park near her home in Attleborough.

A report published on Wednesday by the Local Government Ombudsman, Jerry White, found that the authority's decision to grant permission for the park on Station Road recreation ground was based on inadequate information about environmental health concerns.

It also failed to ensure environmental health officers or independent noise specialists were fully involved in details of its design and the wording of the planning conditions.

Mr White said Mrs Thwaites endured "avoidable loss of amenity" for seven months before an acoustic fence was installed and, finding the council guilty of maladministration causing injustice, has rdered it to pay £2000 compensation.

But last night Mrs Thwaites, 66, said the amount was an "insult" after a valuation of their house in Station Road found it had dropped in value by £12,000 because of the skatepark.

"We are still having problems. What they do not seem to appreciate is that as a skatepark we were all for it. But why couldn't it have been put elsewhere, the site is five acres.

"We obviously wanted them to move it elsewhere, that was the main thing. Failing that I thought they would have given us the full amount of compensation."

Mrs Thwaites and her 76-year-old husband Peter, who has Parkinson's Disease, moved to their home about three years ago and the park, which cost £94,000 and opened in April 2004, is about 25m away.

She said their health had been affected by the noise and they could not use their garden as much.

"I can sit in my lounge watching television and hear that skatepark. But they are only kids so you can't blame them for using the facility that has been provided for them," added Mrs Thwaites.

While there were "numerous shortcomings" in the council's handling of the application, Mr White said that since the acoustic fence was installed in October 2004 the park was no longer causing a statutory nuisance.

A planning application for a skateboard and BMX park was submitted in February 2003 by Attleborough Town Council on behalf of the Overboard Youth Project.

Breckland's own environmental health officer expressed concerns about the type of use, its location and potential for noise nuisance.

The plans were revised but did not overcome the officer's concerns, which were not presented in detail before the council agreed in September 2003 to approve the application subject to conditions.

A spokeswoman for Breckland said they were considering their formal response to the report, adding: "The council takes ombudsman's findings very seriously and uses them to improve our services to our residents and the way we handle cases in the future."


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