Marquee noise splits experts as licence sought for charity bash

A NOISE wrangle, which has raged on for five years – since Jim Sutherland was first given planning consent to erect a 300-capacity marquee next to his hotel, The Lodge at Carfraemill – remains unresolved, writes Andrew Keddie.

Tomorrow, Mr Sutherland will attend the meeting of Scottish Borders Licensing Board seeking a licence to hold a forthcoming charity function within the structure.

But, not for the first time, councillors will hear conflicting opinions on the level of noise emanating from the marquee when live music is played.

Scottish Borders Council’s environmental health department has lodged an objection to the application for an occasional licence for a Marie Curie Cancer Care fundraising celidh, featuring a live band, from 6pm till midnight on Saturday, May 21.

The environmental health submission claims that, despite a range of sound mitigation measures carried out by Mr Sutherland, the entertainment noise measured at a series of functions last year was “regularly above the limit adopted to prevent noise disturbance”.

That is a reference to the 45 decibels which SBC’s former Eildon Area Committee insisted, as a condition of another planning consent granted in 2009, should not be exceeded in the garden of the closest residential property at West Hope.

The environmental health submission goes on: “Council officers routinely monitoring on site have consistently reported the predominant noise source to be the music, entertainment noise and, at times, the response of guests to speeches, particular songs and traditional ceilidh dancing.

“The continued complaints by residents of disturbance within their homes during such events confirmed the continuing loss of amenity ... noise from events such as that proposed in this application has proved particularly challenging for the applicant to control. Given the history of disturbance ...we would object to the granting of this licence.”

In direct opposition to this appraisal and its recommendation, the board will consider technical reports from Mr Sutherland’s acoustic consultants RMP on whose advice he last year installed a dedicated PA system which could be set at maximum noise levels and placed dense absorbent material under the wooden floor.

RMP’s Tom Waters-Fuller focused on measurements taken by the company at a wedding last August with noise monitored close to West Hope.

“An indication of the residual noise level not attributable to the marquee is evident from the monitoring periods during the musicians’ break and after the event from midnight,” wrote Mr Waters-Fuller.

“Consideration of these periods indicated that, at West Hope, the level was generally between 45 and 50 decibels.

“The relatively high level of residual noise is predonimantly attributable to noise from passing vehicles ... a traffic count on the A68 counted a total of 80 cars passing between 11pm and midnight.

“The dominant source of noise was due to road traffic and therefore an accurate appraisal of noise from the marquee is not possible.”

Notwithstanding tomorrow’s deliberations over a drinks licence, Mr Sutherland should learn soon if another planning application, his third in respect of the marquee, will be successful.

It was submitted in November last year and local planning officer Carlos Clarke said this week he expected an early determination, subject to receipt of information over noise levels from Mr Sutherland and his experts.

“At the moment, the marquee does not having planning consent,” he added.

Two residents, including James Tough of West Hope, have objected to the new planning bid.