Futile court case costs council tax payers £10,000

PUBLISHED: 18:46 29 October 2008 | UPDATED: 13:43 06 May 2010

Jass Patel outside Mokoko

Jass Patel outside Mokoko

A BAR owner is celebrating after St Albans District Council lost a High Court appeal against a court ruling that his venue was not creating a noise nuisance. Magistrates ruled in favour of Mokoko in Verulam Road, St Albans, after the district council pros

A BAR owner is celebrating after St Albans District Council lost a High Court appeal against a court ruling that his venue was not creating a noise nuisance.

Magistrates ruled in favour of Mokoko in Verulam Road, St Albans, after the district council prosecuted them for failing to comply with a noise abatement order last year.

The council appealed against the decision and the case was heard by Mr Justice Forbes.

He upheld the magistrates ruling that bar owner Jass Patel had done everything "reasonably practicable" to alleviate the noise suffered by surrounding properties.

The saga has so far cost taxpayers' more than £10,000 and Mr Patel will be applying for his costs, which also run into thousands of pounds, to be refunded from central funds.

Speaking about the ruling this week, Mr Patel said: "I was relieved. For us it is our livelihood and if we had lost we potentially might not have survived. It is the council's job but it seemed like there was a lot more riding on it for us. Now that we are safe it's amazing, it's been going on for two-and-a-half years."

When Mr Patel opened Mokoko as an upmarket cocktail bar in 2006 the district council had already granted him a licence to open until 11pm with use of his garden for up to 100 people along with permission for 10 live music events a year before 7pm.

But they soon served a noise abatement order on him following complaints from neighbour Jane Lockley, whose garden in Upper Dagnall Street adjoins the pub garden.

When the district council took Mr Patel to court for breaching the order their case centred on Ms Lockley's complaints but the magistrates took the view that a pub was already there when she moved into her property even if it was a quiet venue at that time.

The magistrates also found that Mr Patel tried to resolve matters by closing off part of the garden, restricting the numbers allowed outside to 40, monitoring noise levels and placing prominent signs asking drinkers to keep their noise down as well as never allowing live music in the garden.

Mr Patel also closed the garden earlier than required by his licence even though that affected his summer profits which are vital to help his business through the winter.

In addition, the magistrates heard that Mr Patel had paid for another neighbour in Verulam Road to have secondary glazing fitted in a window but that attempts to discuss similar action with Ms Lockley were dismissed.

In the High Court the district council argued that the magistrates were wrong in their conclusions and that they took into account immaterial considerations about the bar's finances and the fact that Ms Lockley moved next to a pub.

They argued that the magistrates failed to establish why other measures, including limiting the garden to fewer than 40 people or closing off more of the garden, were not practicable.

Rejecting the council's appeal, Mr Justice Forbes said it was not right to say that Ms Lockley had "brought the nuisance upon herself" but that the magistrates had been entitled to take into account that a pub was there before she moved in.

He said that that Mr Patel demonstrated willingness to co-operate with his neighbours and said: "I am satisfied that none of the matters raised by the council has called into question the correctness of the decision reached by the magistrates in this case."

A district council spokesperson said: "The council have considered future appeals against the Mokoko judgement and decided internally not to take any further action regarding the noise abatement issue. The defendant's costs will come out of central funds and the council consider the matter now closed.

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