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EXCLUSIVE: Controversial music venue told to shut by Cotswold councillors

A Cotswolds live music venue built as a tribute to a beloved wife will shut after residents complained it made their lives "unbearable".

Berrybank Park opened last year next to the village of Oddington near Moreton-In-Marsh and has been hosting concerts in its sunken amphitheatre.

It was built by Keith Cockell as a memorial to his late wife Janet who died in 2020 after a 20 year battle with cancer. She loved the performing arts and the first event in June 2022 was a tribute to her.

However, some neighbours were unhappy about the level of noise coming from the site and said it ruined the tranquillity of the village.

Cotswold District Council has now refused planning permission for the site and said it will have to stop running events at the end of the month.

They threw out two retrospective applications made under the name Berrybank Park Events Limited. The first was for the change of use of the former agricultural field to outdoor live performance venue. The second was for erection of a marquee pavilion, installation of outdoor lighting structures and installation of other pod structures for use each year from April 30 to October 1.

Members of the planning committee  discussed the proposals at a meeting on Wednesday (Sept 13)

They heard from objector Gary Johnson who lives with his wife less than 250 metres from the amphitheatre. He said: "We and so many others have lost the peace and tranquillity of living in a quiet Cotswold village due to the pavilion and amphitheatre."

He said their routines had been forced to change "dramatically" because of noise from the site and he feared if approved the venue would grow and the disturbance only get worse.

He added: "The amphitheatre has completely consumed our lives from April to October. It's been a huge negative impact on our lifestyle. It's unbearable.

"We can no longer run our equestrian yard as we have done so for 18 years and it may be that we have to move."

Cllr David Thorpe spoke on behalf of Oddington Parish Council and said: "It all seemed most regrettable that this application should have moved ahead economically without planning approval, which is an embarrassment for everyone and that licences should have been granted for a site that was not approved and is agricultural land.

"We're trying to avoid Disneyland in the Cotswolds and an amphitheatre that is out of place."

Mr Cockell said the idea for the venue came from the "the depths of despair' during the pandemic and was created to bring a broad cross section of theatre and music to people in north Cotswolds.

The 2022 season saw 7,000 people visit the venue and watch performances such as Julius Caesar by the Globe Theatre.

Mr Cockell said he had worked with Oddington Parish Council and agreed on proposals to limit the number of outdoor events and the noise levels. A noise management plan was presented as part of the proposals and both applications were recommended for approval by district council officers.

The site sits within the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and during the meeting Cllr David Fowles (C, Coln Valley) said: "I'm really uncomfortable with these applications. I can't see how they contribute positively to the area."

Cllr Mark Harris (LB, Abbey) said when he first heard of the venue he expected it to host open air Shakespeare and events that would attract tourists. However, he has not been impressed by the line-up of tribute acts which he said could be heard anywhere in the country.

He said: "I find it very difficult to support this without incredibly strict restrictions."

Cllr Julie Leyton (LB, South Cerney Village) also highlighted the traffic created by the site.

She said: "The impact is incredibly high for residents. There will be an influx of cars day and night and at weekends and there's no way they can sit in the garden and enjoy a quiet cup of tea."

Councillors said the development would fail to create a functional relationship or special affinity with the historic and natural heritage of the wider area, it would diminish the Cotswolds Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and would generate an unacceptable level of noise pollution.

The committee voted by a majority of eight to one to refuse both plans.

The full list of reasons for refusal can be viewed on the council website.

Following the decision Mr Cockell said: "Unless the amphitheatre can raise the funds for an expensive appeal the amphitheatre and orchard will have to be returned to an open field."

He did not speak at the planning meeting and said he "blamed himself" for not getting the message across and was "dismayed" by the decision.

He added: "I was content to trust the professionalism of the paid planning officers and important consultees like highways and the landscape officer responsible for this area of outstanding natural beauty.

"The parish council represented those residents that were most likely to hear some music and song and proposed some very restrictive conditions which we had accepted.

"I don't believe that anyone in the village wants to see the complete destruction of Janet's memorial and I never wanted anything other than to bring happy days to my friends and neighbours when there have been so many unhappy ones."

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