An unauthorised back garden swim school has been forced to close after neighbours complained about children making “whooping” noises.
Andrew and Richelle Brooks opened Little Otters Swim School in the garden of their five-bedroom home in Colden Common, near Winchester, Hampshire, in March 2021. They claimed it was needed because “there are not enough facilities” in the area for children with learning difficulties and swim schools in the country are in decline.
However, they were bombarded by complaints from neighbours on their upmarket street, where houses sell for more than £1 million. They claim “singing, whooping and screaming” at the pool has driven them to despair.
Now, Winchester City Council has ordered Mrs Brooks, a swimming instructor from South Africa, and Mr Brooks, the owner of an electrical engineering company, to shut down the swim school after rejecting a retrospective planning application to use the house as a business.
The council’s planning committee was told that swimming lessons at the house cost £16.50 and took place Monday to Wednesday from 9.30am to 11.30am and 3.30pm to 7pm as well as further times on Thursdays. Lessons lasted 30 minutes with up to four children at a time.
Dr Adelaide Morris, who lives next door to the Brooks, said her family had been “severely disturbed by a cacophony of noise”. She told a council meeting: “Singing, whooping, screaming from instructors, carers and children – worse still when the roof is retracted. Our normal lives cannot continue until the lessons end.”
She added: “This swim school is noisy and disruptive to the entire neighbourhood. We’ve put up with this for two and a half years – we are suffering.”
Maggie Hill, chairman of Colden Common parish council, said the 23 comments in support of the Brooks’s application were from users of the swim class and not neighbours. Ten of them did not even live in the village.
Mrs Brooks hit back at the neighbours, telling Winchester City Council’s planning committee: “We live in the home where these lessons are conducted from and we’re not disturbed at all – it’s just a little bit unreasonable.” She added: “Where do you take children with disabilities, or special needs, that need quiet swimming?”
The committee unanimously voted to refuse the retrospective planning application, saying it risked becoming a “real nuisance”. The couple said they plan to appeal the decision.