The recent court case involving aristocratic landowner William Tyrwhitt-Drake and his neighbour, a millionaire pharmacist Dr Charles Gillies O'Brien-Tear, seems to capture many of the tensions that exist in the countryside between those with their roots laid down over centuries and those more recently arrived. The case revolved around noise levels emanating from Tyrwhitt-Drake‘s Bereleigh estate near East Meon in Hampshire, which plays host to numerous shooting parties; noise which Gillies O'Brien-Tear claimed was making his life a misery. On the face of it this seemed all too familiar. A moneyed newcomer, keen to exchange the hubbub of the city for life in the English sward, rolls up and immediately starts to try and change things. We have seen it before - objections to church bells, noise from the cricket pitch and, of course, dislike of shooting are just a handful of examples. But, hold on, ignore the lengthy pedigrees and surnames and what has been taking place in this case is archetypal of more or less every dispute between neighbours, in that the issue at hand is rarely the cause of the argument. The estate has been playing host to commercial shoots for donkey’s year and so when the Gillies O'Brien-Tear family moved close by in 2006, noise from shooting was already an established fact of life, one with which until ten years later, they appeared to have no problem. Indeed, so well did the two families rub along together, Gillies O'Brien-Tear daughter was allowed to ride on their neighbour’s land. That was until 2016 when Tyrwhitt-Drake decided to build a car park, at which time Ms. Gillies O'Brien-Tear was no longer permitted to do so. Are the two things connected? Possibly not incontrovertibly, but these disputes are rarely ever about the issue at hand and you wouldn’t bet against that prohibition going down badly. One neighbour parks carelessly and before you know it, fences are going up and insults hurled.
Whatever the true cause of this dispute, the case closed earlier this month with the judge deciding in Tyrwhitt-Drake’s favour and not just in his favour, because had he not defended his case, the ramifications for shooting estates elsewhere might have been hugely damaging, opening the way for other legal challenges based on noise nuisance. The cost of this has been considerable (Tyrwhitt-Drake‘s are estimated at £750,000) - and the Countryside Alliance has been among a number of observers to suggest that given the benefit to the wider shooting community, shooters should contribute towards those costs. We are inclined to disagree. The fact that he had the determination (not to mention the wherewithal) to stick with it is to his credit, but we should not lose sight of the fact that Tyrwhitt-Drake was defending his livelihood, not shooting. There many examples in case law where an owner has had to defend his business practice and in the doing so successfully brought about a benefit for his competitors. That said, for those who want to assist there is a crowdfunding link below.
Pic: Solent News & Photo Agency