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Last Updated: Monday, 2 August, 2004, 19:18 GMT 20:18 UK
Fun park 'makes too much noise'
Oblivion ride at Alton Towers
Oblivion thrill-seekers drop nearly 200ft at a speed of 110km/h
Alton Towers has been found guilty of making too much noise.

The judge ruled against the theme park in Staffordshire after a couple living nearby brought a private prosecution.

Stephen and Suzanne Roper said they had been forced to put up with excessively high decibel levels from popular rides at the attraction.

Alton Towers said it was disappointed with the judgement, which comes before a hearing in November to arrange the details of a noise abatement order.

The Ropers expressed their satisfaction with the ruling through a statement read by their solicitor, Richard Buxton.

"It has never been our intention to close down Alton Towers but after 25 years of escalating noise we seek a level of civilised behaviour," he said, outside Stafford Crown Court.

'Windows shake'

The Ropers told an earlier hearing at North Staffordshire Magistrates' Court how late-night firework displays, concerts and corporate weekends which involved discos and loud public address systems contributed to their misery.

"If you live within I would suggest a mile or any more of Alton Towers, your windows literally shake and if you go outside, the ground shakes," Mr Roper told the magistrates.

The court heard an independent acoustics expert carried out nine noise readings during a six-month period last year.

Results showed a "significant increase" in noise when Alton Towers was open.

District judge Timothy Gascoigne, who personally visited the Ropers' home 100 yards from Alton Towers, said that noise associated with a corporate event at the attraction had continued for two days and could clearly be heard two miles away.

He said fireworks at the site were "particularly intrusive".

He singled out for criticism 'Oblivion', a ride which stops just over the edge of a drop before plummeting vertically into a hole in the ground.

He said: "Obviously the 'don't look down' message played as the car hangs over the edge is designed to heighten the white knuckle effect. This induces screaming."

"I find that the screams and mechanical noise is intrusive and constitutes a nuisance."

Noise 'inevitable'

Richard Kimblin, acting for the park's owners Tussauds Theme Park Ltd, said Alton Towers had taken steps to reduce noise nuisance by limiting firework shows to 30 minutes and cutting sound-testing times for public address systems.

"Alton Towers is naturally very disappointed with this verdict and we will now consider the implications of the judgement whilst we work towards a compromise solution that is acceptable to all parties," said a company statement.

"However, we are a theme park and it is inevitable that there will be some noise associated with our business.

"We do not believe that this decision is representative of the level of actual complaints received or the feelings of the majority of our local residents."

The BBC's Liz Copper
"This is a hugely significant ruling"

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