A Noise Abatement Order has been served on the Isle of Wight Hunt after two neighbours complained about the barking and howling “nuisance”.
The problem began a couple of years ago when one of the inhabitants of Gatcombe complained about the disruption, particularly at night, caused by the kennels.
In the recent hearing, the hunt argued that householders must have known when moving into the vicinity that the nature of the hunt’s business would mean there would be some noise nuisance.
District Judge John Woollard, sitting at the Isle of Wight magistrates’ court expressed some sympathy for the hunt’s position, but maintained that he had to apply the law.
The order gives the hunt six months in which to abate the noise “so that the kennels are no longer a nuisance, according to environmental health officers,” explains Master of Foxhounds, Andrew Sallis.
“This, to all intents and purposes, means enclosure [of the hounds] in a new structure at night,” he continues. “Obviously we are very disappointed with the outcome of the hearing, not least because when I first arrived here a year ago, with the current huntsman, I was amazed by how quiet the hounds were. They are one of the most settled packs I have ever come across.”
The Isle of Wight Hunt has been based in the village of Gatcombe since 1927, and has spent considerable time and effort on the development of the kennels. According to the MFH, erecting a new structure would involve pulling down existing buildings, at great expense.
It is not only from a financial point of view that the hunt is opposed to the suggestion of a new structure. Hunt staff, as well as other animal welfare specialists, believe that such a measure could compromise the well-being of the hounds in terms of space, ventilation and hygiene.
“Our primary concern will always be the welfare of the hounds,” says Mr Sallis. “Within that, we are mindful of the fact that the vast majority of inhabitants at Gatcombe are happy with our presence.”
There has been some concern that this case could set a dangerous precedent in future, not only for hunts, but also for other animal-boarding establishments and rural business in general.
“Hunts around the country should consider their positions carefully,” Andrew stresses. “Our kennels are at a dead end of a quintessentially English village, and many other hunt kennels and boarding kennels are in much more vulnerable situations.”