Theme park noise battle is reignited
A COUPLE are set to take on Alton Towers at the High Court in a legal fight which could ultimately force the theme park to relocate or shut some rides.
Stephen and Suzanne Roper have waged a legal battle against the theme park for a decade.
Now they have won the right to a full High Court trial during which the amount of noise generated by the park will be investigated.
The couple, who have lived just 100 yards away from the park entrance at Farley since 1968, say their lives have been made a misery by noise from the rides and screams from thrill-seekers as well as fireworks and music.
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They first launched their legal fight in 2002, but after years of wrangling, their claim for an injunction and damages was thrown out in January 2011.
Judge Mr Justice Hickinbottom later overturned that decision, bringing the claim back to life.
Alton Towers owner, the Tussauds Group, then sought permission to appeal that ruling, but yesterday, Lord Justice Laws ruled that there was no reasonable prospect of success, and refused permission for the appeal.
The judge also ordered the Tussauds Group to pay the Ropers £8,500 in legal costs in respect of yesterday's hearing.
The decision now paves the way for a full court hearing. The Ropers will seek an injunction forcing the park owners to close or relocate some rides and an order forcing them to pay damages for noise suffered from 1998 to the present.
Speaking after the latest hearing, the couple's solicitor, Richard Buxton, said: "We are pleased that the trial can now proceed. Now we can stop worrying about court procedure."
On reviving the couple's claim, High Court judge Mr Justice Hickinbottom said that he did so 'with a heavy heart' because the cost of proceedings could lead to 'grave financial difficulties for the claimants', if they are unsuccessful.
In July last year, the couple were refused a protective costs order – which would effectively limit their potential liability to pay Tussaud's legal costs if they lose.
Judge Mr Justice Burnett found that they have an income of £200,000 a year, own three mortgage-free properties and are, "by any standard rich".
Mr Roper is a former chairman and shareholder of Churchill China, who retired in May, 2007. Neighbours of the company's Sandyford factory have for years complained about noise from the site.
Stella Heritage, of Castle Hill Road, Alton, said: "I don't suppose anyone expected Alton Towers would grow as big as it has, or to become as noisy as it is.
"But it is a theme park. We can hear the noise of people screaming where we are, especially if you are out in the garden, but I can't honestly say it bothers us.
"Traffic on the other hand is a huge problem."
A spokesman for Alton Towers said: "We are disappointed with the judgment and we will continue to defend our position.
"We've been part of the community for over 200 years and we have always sought to be a responsible and co-operative neighbour. We will continue to work closely with our neighbours, the vast majority of whom recognise the valuable contribution we make to the community and are very supportive."