Mark and Stephanie Whight face a huge legal bill after they were taken to court over a party at their home on the May Bank Holiday
A married couple say a Bank Holiday get-together at their home has turned into ‘Britain’s most expensive barbecue’ after they were taken to court following complaints about noise.
Mark and Stephanie Whight held a party at their £300,000 home in Rownhams, on the outskirts of Southampton, on the May Bank Holiday weekend last year.
But they were deemed to be in breach of a noise abatement notice imposed on them two months earlier and now face a huge legal bill following prosecution by their local council.
Mechanic Mr Whight insists his elderly neighbours complain too easily and the court action against him was heavy-handed.
He said: ‘The neighbours complain about everything, as soon as they hear the dog bark that’s it.
‘I threw a barbecue for friends and family – there were around 12 people there, if that. It wasn’t even a full flowing party, it was an afternoon barbecue and they had all left by about 12.
A row over noise at an afternoon barbecue in this Hampshire cul-de-sac led to a couple being taken to court and fined thousands
He added: ‘Who doesn’t have a barbecue on a May bank holiday when the weather is nice? Anyway, some people obviously complained and the council came for us.
‘Apparently the noise was causing a health issue but not one doctor’s note was submitted.
‘It’s cost us £14,000 with my legal fees – drug dealers are dealt with less harshly.
‘£14,000 for a barbecue, how am I going to pay that? It’s ridiculous. I don’t have that sort of money, it’s putting me in debt.
‘Now I can’t have people round, I can’t have my family or friends over, I’m always on edge as I don’t know what I’m doing right or what I’m doing wrong.
‘My boy wants to have a party for his 18th birthday – that shouldn’t be a problem but now it is. It seems I’ve thrown Britain’s most expensive barbecue.’
The couple say their neighbours complain too easily and the party only involved a few friends
The couple were each fined £1,900, ordered to pay a £120 victim surcharge each, and between them they were ordered to pay the £5,074 costs given to the council. The couple’s legal fees brought their total costs up to around £14,000.
Mr Whight and his management accountant wife, who are both originally from Zimbabwe, have three children and have lived on the cul-de-sac for 15 years but say they have ‘no relationship’ with their neighbours.
The couple, both 47, were initially given a noise abatement notice in March last year by Test Valley Borough Council.
Local councillor Phil Bundy backed the authority’s action, insisting it was a ‘last resort’
They were brought before Southampton Magistrates’ Court after neighbours complained about the music and conversation volume at the party two months later.
Mr Whight said: ‘Our household is a normal working household and we try to be good neighbours.
‘I’ve been here 15 years and have tried to invite [the neighbours] over for drinks in the past but the relationship is non-existent.
‘By their own admission we are not the people they want on their street. It makes me feel a little victimised.’
He also criticised the council, saying: ‘Not once have they been round here to help with what we can and can’t do, they’ve offered no help.’
Test Valley Borough Council housing and environment boss, councillor Phil Bundy, insisted: ‘This is a last resort. The last thing the council wants to do is take people to court.
‘We will always give people the opportunity to resolve the problem themselves in the first instance but if the issues persist then we will take action.
‘We certainly don’t want to stop people having fun but when they are consistently impacting their neighbours – and in this case the parties were so loud this was not just their immediate neighbours – then something has to be done.
‘I am pleased that we have been successful in this prosecution and I am grateful to the council officers for all their hard work in this case. I firmly believe that this is the right outcome.’