The gentle thwack of leather on willow is said to be the sound that defines an English summer.
But now the noise has become the subject of a heated dispute between a 150-year-old cricket club and its neighbours.
Residents of a new housing development in Darlington, County Durham, are furious that Darlington Cricket Club has built cricket nets three feet from their back fences.
David Elliott, 60, says the new batting nets at Darlington Cricket Club are making his life hell and he wants them moved, despite being a member
They are campaigning to have the astroturf practice wickets moved because of the noise of ‘bat on ball’ and grunts from ‘the effort of batting and bowling’.
The club, founded in 1866, had submitted a retrospective planning application for a new all-weather practice area, including two astroturf wickets within cages and nets.
But now it says the only way to appease the residents is to stop playing cricket at the ground altogether – while local homeowners say the club should simply have built the nets on the opposite side of the ground.
The diggers turned up at the cricket ground in April last year, and within two days the nets were up and running.
Residents claim the nets are used on and off for up to 12 hours per day, and the club are planning to put a new bowling machine in, able to fire balls at up to 95mph.
One local said the sound of the ball hitting the bat is like a ‘rifle going off’, while another complained that the sound is ‘intrusive and shocking’ and ‘makes you jump’.
Members of Darlington Borough Council’s planning committee are now planning a site visit after angry residents played tapes of the noise to a meeting.
Retired electrical engineer David Elliott, 60, and his wife Christine say they are ‘in shreds’ due to the racket from the nets, which sit three feet from his back fence.
They bought their £280,000 townhouse because of the idyllic view across the cricket ground, where Mr Elliott himself played a number of times as a batsman for Redcar Works.
He now keeps a spreadsheet recording the times net practice takes place, annotated with comments such as: ‘How early!!’, ‘No peace even on a Sunday’ and ‘It’s never ending!!’
He said yesterday [Thurs]: ‘It has ruined our lives, we have no peace and quite, no enjoyment of our outside area, I can’t bring my grandchildren to enjoy the garden, my wife and I are in shreds over this.
Mr Elliott says the nets, which were built without planning permission, are used from 8am until 9pm some nights, and the noise from the ball hitting the bat is ‘intrusive and shocking’
‘We spent quite a lot of money on a lovely house with a beautiful view across a cricket ground. I have no problem with cricket, I used to play and I’ve played on this ground. We’re members of the club.’
Mr Elliott said he spent £10,000 on the landscaping of his 12-foot outdoor terrace, just in time for the nets to be put up.
He added: ‘This constant day-long barrage, that starts at 8.30am and sometimes goes on till 9pm, is completely unbearable.
‘They’ve put in power for a bowling machine that fires balls at 95mph every seven seconds. I can hardly imagine this being made worse – but that will do the trick.’
Tom Dennis, 24, who works in sales in the sporting industry, lives next door with his partner, Becky.
He said: ‘The sound of bat on ball is intrusive and shocking, it makes you jump.
‘They are so close that they’re looking through our windows when we get up in the morning. We’re not ones for wandering around in the nude or anything, but the sudden lack of privacy is shocking.
‘If the council find against us we’re stuck here because we can’t afford to move again, but it’s a blight on what was a lovely place to live.’
Brian Johnson, the chairman of Darlington Cricket Club, told councillors the site had been used for 25 to 30 years.
‘This development largely covers the part of the original all weather pitch,’ he said. ‘The whole purpose of the net facility is largely to encourage youngsters, aged six to teens, to develop their cricketing skills.’
Mr Johnson, who has been a member of the club since 1948, added: ‘The only way that I can see it being resolved is if we stop playing cricket all together at Feethams.
‘We take the nets down in September and put them back up in mid-April – they are not used all day and every day. The busiest time is probably between 6pm and 8pm on an evening.’
Outlining the application, the council’s principal planning officer, Dave Coates, said: ‘We are trying to strike a balance between what we expect to take place on a cricket field with people living next door are reasonably expecting for their quality of life.’
Councillors voted to defer any decision to enable them to carry out a site visit at the ground so that they can hear for themselves the noise coming from the practice nets. The date is yet to be fixed.