District judge Andrew Vickers ruled at Reading Magistrates' Court this morning (Friday) against a private prosecution by a group of 13 households near the playground in Locks Ride Recreation Ground. The court heard the prosecution case had cost £30,000. Judge Vickers later ruled that the prosecution should also pay the parish council's costs of £18,008.10.
Some neighbours launched the prosecution, made under the name of Dr Catherine Bentley-Thomas, against Winkfield Parish Council, saying children playing and screaming was a noise nuisance under the Environmental Protection Act.
The park was installed last year by the parish at the cost of £150,000.
Supporters of the park collected thousands of signatures in favour of the playground and presented the petition to Winkfield Parish Council.
Giving his judgment today (Friday) after a two-day hearing earlier this month, Judge Vickers rejected evidence by an expert prosecution witness, saying the sound recordings he had made in a garden were not long enough to give a reliable picture.
In court today, he re-capped evidence from one resident's diary that the park "is really full of fat women from Bracknell who have no imagination or intelligence to do anything with their even more unimaginative and unintelligent children. I wish they would **** off".
Judge Vickers said: "There was a concern as to where these people were coming from and the parish council took a survey and found that 90% of users were coming from Bracknell."
He also said some residents had complained about parking, the smell of barbecues and potential devaluation of house prices, but these were not relevant to the noise complaint.
In addition, he suggested Dr Bentley-Thomas had become "over-sensitised" to noise from the park.
The court had heard from a number of nearby residents that the noise from 200-400 visitors a day at some points was disrupting their lives and work.
But Judge Vickers said of the park - which had already been used for football, cricket and softball before the playground was added a year ago: "It was never a village green. It's not quintessentially Betjeman England. It's land that has had a sporting use for a considerable period."
Concluding, he reject the prosecution case as being "pre-emptive and presumptive".
The judge said the plaintiffs would be able to seek to appeal the judgment if they chose.
See next week's News for more reaction.
What do you think? Is this a victory for commonsense or do you have some sympathy for those living near the new park?
Please enter your comments below or email firstname.lastname@example.org