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Croft motor racing circuit loses noise appeal

Best of British Rallycross at Croft circuit

Best of British Rallycross at Croft circuit

First published in News The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by , Assistant News Editor

A RACING circuit today lost its appeal against a legal case brought by a couple and their daughter who say their lives have been blighted by noise from the track.

Croft Circuit, near Darlington, was also hit with an injunction, restricting "noisy activities" at the track to just 40 days-a-year.

Derek and Julia Watson and their daughter, Jill Wilson, all live within about 300 metres of the circuit, in Dalton-on-Tees, and say their enjoyment of their homes has for years been gravely affected by the "loud, intrusive and repetitive noise".

In an extremely rare decision in April last year, High Court judge, Mr Justice Simon, ruled all three had been victims of "noise nuisance" and ordered the circuit's tenants - Croft Promo-Sport Ltd - to pay Mr and Mrs Watson £109,600 damages, and Mrs Wilson £40,000.

Croft Promo-Sport had its appeal against that order dismissed by judges today.

However the issuing of the injunction will result in a reduction in the residents' damages payouts, which were largely based on the reduction in value of their homes caused by the noise nuisance.

Croft Promo Sport also faces massive legal costs bills. The Watsons and Mrs Wilson were represented by top QC, David Hart, and their legal costs bills alone have been put at around £700,000.

At London's Appeal Court, Croft Promo-Sport had argued that Mr Justice Simon was "plainly wrong" to rule in favour of the Watsons.

Richard Jones QC, for the company, argued that 1963 and 1988 planning permissions granted for the race track - formerly a World War 2 aerodrome and first used for racing in 1949 - had "changed the character" of the area to such an extent that the noise levels were reasonable.

He added that noise and other issues relating to the racetrack had been carefully considered by expert planning inspectors during two public inquiries and a balance struck between the interests of local residents and the public amenity value of the circuit.

The QC said the court decision would have serious implications for the future use of the racetrack and had left Croft Promo-Sport not only exposed to enormous legal costs bills, but also open to other potential claims by an "uncertain number" of other neighbouring landowners.

However, Appeal Court judge, Sir Andrew Morritt, today said he could find no legal flaw in Mr Justice Simon's conclusion that the Watsons and Mrs Wilson had suffered an "actionable nuisance".

Sir Andrew, sitting with Lord Justice Richards and Lady Justice Hallett, also ruled it was "illogical" of Mr Justice Simon to deny the trio an injunction, restricting the number of days to 40 on which "noisy activities" can take place at the racetrack.

Croft Promo-Sport were refused permission to appeal further to the House of Lords and ordered to pay more than £120,000 in legal costs straight away. That will be only a fraction of the total lawyers' bills faced by the company.

The objection by the Watsons and Mrs Wilson was not to car and motorbike racing events, which take place on the track on about 45-50 days-a-year, but to "vehicle testing days" and "track days", when members of the public drive cars around the track all day long at high speed.

Croft Promo-Sport Ltd has a leasehold interest in the circuit, which is managed by Croft Classic and Historic Motor Sports Ltd (CCHM). CCHM was set up in 1994 by Mr Jimmy Wilson - who was married to Jill Wilson between 1987 and 1994 - along with Trevor Chaytor-Norris and his wife Katherine, who is the owner of the Croft Motor Circuit.

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