Landlord makes stand in court over noise levels

Bruce Woodall by the extractor
Bruce Woodall by the extractor

A landlord has appeared in court after refusing to pay his council tax because he says the council has allowed his property to become uninhabitable.

Bruce Woodall, 68, of The Old Rectory, Sibford Gower, appeared at Banbury Magistrates’ Court last Tuesday charged by Cherwell District Council with non-payment of domestic rates.

The businessman says tenants at his Edwardian terraced property at Newland Place had to move out due to noise from the kitchen at Mr Rice Chinese Restaurant, which opened next door in November 2012, and from a large extractor fan and chimney installed on the rear wall of the takeaway with planning permissions approved by the council.

Mr Woodall says he has been unable to let the property since, causing him to lose some £7,000 in rent and the three-bedroom home’s value to halve.

Sandra Madeley, prosecuting for the council, said legislation states the tax must be paid and there is no provision for non-payment because of complaints against another council department.

But defending himself Mr Woodall said: “I understand the law has to be seen to be fair and reasonable but just because there’s a statute it doesn’t mean to say it’s right.”

He called on the magistrates to “be brave” and demand the council act despite admitting their powers in such matters is limited. He said: “I keep being promised legal action by the council but it never happens.

“The council said they were going to prosecute the takeaway in September but it never happened.”

Mr Woodall cited specifications for the chimney which say it will become a fire risk if grease traps are not cleaned each week. He said: “If somebody was to die as a result I would be up against the wall.”

Chair of the bench, Carole Gibbs, demanded the council set up a meeting between Mr Woodall and a “senior” member of staff. Ms Madeley agreed council tax proceedings would be put on hold. The council is investigating legal proceedings against the Mr Rice takeaway.