Fenland farm will be allowed to host weddings despite objections from nearby residents

Fenland District Council’s leader said his ‘heart sank’ when he saw the application, while residents raised concerns over noise and anti-social behaviour
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A farm in Cambridgeshire has been granted permission to host weddings and other large gatherings, despite objections from local residents.

John and Andrea Anker have been issued a music and alcohol licence for events at Old Chapel Farm on Eldernell Lane in Coates, a small village near Whittlesey.

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But neighbours have said they’re concerned about increased noise and antisocial behaviour, with one telling Fenland District Council’s (FDC) licensing committee that the Ankers will be “profiting from the misery” of everyone else in the area.

Fenland District CouncilFenland District Council
Fenland District Council
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The committee also heard from FDC leader Cllr Chris Boden (Conservatives, Whittlesey East and Villages), speaking in his capacity as a ward councillor, that his “heart sank” when he saw the application, primarily due to noise.

“Everything is very still in the Fens,” he said, meaning noise will carry from the venue to surrounding areas.

But he did say he was reassured by a number of changes the applicants agreed to make to their original licensing request, such as restricting music and alcohol sales to 11:30pm at the latest rather than 2am.

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But, while the application received 13 letters of objection, it received 16 letters of support, including from people who’ve had their weddings at the farm previously (with temporary licensing permissions).

These say that the farm is a secluded location – ideal for weddings – in which noise can be contained and that allowing it to function as an events space will create local jobs.

The Ankers’ solicitor also stressed at the committee meeting that being granted a music and alcohol licence will mean the family will have to install CCTV and train their staff to comply with conditions such as asking for ID before selling alcohol to people who appear under 25.

Having a licence is “like having the sword of Damocles hanging over you”, he said: it sets out the conditions that must be followed for hosting large events – and the consequences of failing to meet them, which should be a comfort to concerned residents.

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Residents said, in their letters of objection, that they’re concerned about noise, light pollution, disturbance to wildlife, pets and livestock, antisocial behaviour and the impact this could all have on local children.

“My children shouldn’t have to hear the profanity or see the inappropriate behaviour of people that are intoxicated,” one wrote.

“Neighbours have experienced people under the influence of alcohol laying in their driveways and refusing to move, leaving broken glass in their driveways and urinating on their property,” another added. “I don’t want my children to be witness to these things; they are all very scary scenarios for adults let alone children.”

Another raised more specific concerns.

“The applicants and another neighbour allow night shooting of deer and vermin,” they wrote. “Could a twinkly party hat be taken for deer or fox eyes through a high powered rifle sight? Anyone familiar with Eldernell knows that once out of the range of the artificial lighting it can be pitch black and you can become disorientated. The worst thought of all is the abduction of any youngster straying into the dark. Extreme but possible.”

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The authorities consulted as part of the application process, including the police and the council’s environment team, were satisfied, however, that granting the licence would be acceptable.

FDC’s committee deliberated for around 40 minutes before agreeing to issue it.

This means that live music may be played at the venue until 11pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, until 11:30pm on Fridays and Saturdays and until 10pm on Sundays.

Alcohol may be sold until 10:30pm on Wednesdays and Thursdays, 11pm on Fridays and Saturdays and 10pm on Sundays.

This will be for occasional events; the applicants say they have no intention of turning their business into a pub, club or hotel.