New judgement could force Mildenhall Stadium to close

Mildenhall Stadium, West Row.

Mildenhall Stadium, West Row. - Credit: Archant

Mildenhall Stadium 'could close' after Supreme Court judges ordered the owners to pay nearly £500,000 in costs.

The stadium is also home to the Mildenhall Fen Tigers speedway team.

The stadium is also home to the Mildenhall Fen Tigers speedway team. - Credit: Archant

The costs come after a long running legal dispute over noise, brought by two former neighbours of the stadium, which employs around 50 people.

The stadium owners, RDC Promotions, lost their case a year ago, but have since disputed whether £300,000 of the figure was legal.

Speaking after yesterday's judgement, Ron Coventry, who co-owns the site with his brother Dave, said they were 'devastated' at the thought they could lose their 'lives' work'.

He said: 'We have been treated worse than criminals. It is disgusting and I am devastated. All they are going to end up doing is putting us out of business. We can't afford to pay that figure, it is ludicrous.

'We would end up declaring ourselves bankrupt. The stadium is mortgaged, so the bank will take that, there will be nothing left for the lawyers.

'We own all the rights to the stock car racing as well, so if we go bankrupt, the speedway and the greyhound racing alone won't be able to keep the stadium afloat. It could close down.'

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He said they were considering taking the case to the European Court of Human Right's in Strasbourg.

Mildenhall Stadium, off Hayland Drove in West Row, runs stock car, speedway and greyhound racing events. The Mildenhall Fen Tigers Speedway team is based there.

In 2006 Katherine Lawrence and Raymond Shields moved to a house just 560 metres away from the stadium. Two years later legal proceedings over noise nuisance started, and in 2009 the case reached the High Court.

Mildenhall Stadium, West Row.

Mildenhall Stadium, West Row. - Credit: Archant

They claimed to be unaware that they would be able hear noise from the stadium when they bought the house.

The High Court ruled in favour of Ms Lawrence and Mr Shields in 2011, but this ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal before being upheld by the Supreme Court in February 2014.

The couple, who have not lived at the house since it burnt down in 2010, were awarded £20,000 in compensation for the noise nuisance.

Should the house be rebuilt, a court order restricting the stadium to just 12 events a year would be enforced.

Mr Coventry said: 'We run the stadium not for the money, but for the love of the sport. Since the recession we have paid ourselves less than the cleaners.

'I just can't understand this ruling, where do they think we are going to get that kind of money from? I look back on all this and think 'I should have just stayed a mechanic'.'

The brothers invested their 'life's work' to buy the venue from the previous owners.

Yesterday's ruling was handed down five to two by a bench of seven judges.

Lawyers Richard Buxton represented the claimants, who had a 'no win, no fee' agreement.

Richard Buxton, partner at the Cambridge firm, welcomed the decision and when asked whether the six-figure costs were acceptable for a return of £20,000, he said: 'This is a case not about money but about peoples' social lives and their right to live in their home without a nuisance.'

The disputed £300,000 was made up of two fees, which RDC's lawyers argued were incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights.

The 'success fee' and 'After the Event premium' now no longer exist since the law was changed, in a bid crack down on nefarious 'no win, no fee' claims.

Justice Lord Anthony Clarke supported RDC, saying the costs were beyond 'the bounds of what was reasonable or proportionate'.

The five other judges agreed that the fees did not breach Article Six of the convention which protects the right to a fair trial, or Article One which protects the right to peaceful enjoyment of possessions.

Mr Buxton added: 'The costs do seem disproportionate for £20,000 compensation, but they already were when it reached the High Court.

'This could have been resolved without going through three courts – but the Coventrys were not prepared to agree a solution.'

The couple had originally asked if the stadium owners would buy their house from them, including an additional six-figure sum. This offer was refused.