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Regulars and staff unite to fight noise complaint threat to future of Stortford's Wheatsheaf pub

Regulars, staff and neighbours gather to support landlady Michelle Brace in her effort to save The Wheatsheaf pub from closure Picture: Michael Boyton
Regulars, staff and neighbours gather to support landlady Michelle Brace in her effort to save The Wheatsheaf pub from closure Picture: Michael Boyton

A landlady and her regulars are fighting to save one of Bishop's Stortford's last remaining traditional pubs.

The Wheatsheaf licensee Michelle Brace is determined to go to court to overturn an order issued by East Herts Council after further noise complaints against the Northgate End hostelry following a series of acoustic performances in its garden.

The abatement notice follows work “at huge cost” to limit noise from inside the pub following complaints from the same neighbour last year.

Mum of two Michelle, who has been in charge for two years, said: “I am now required to ‘cease to permit noise from raised voices, shouting or singing from within the premises such as to prevent a nuisance to neighbouring residents’.

“This is a pub. It is completely unreasonable to expect a pub to be able to stop people raising their voice or, heaven forbid, sing!

“We have also been prohibited from playing ‘loud music within the premises’ on the same grounds. So from here on in, if our customers are heard from outside of our venue raising their voices we will be classed as non-compliant and will have committed an offence and may be prosecuted.”

She said the council moves threatened the viability of the pub, her livelihood and the jobs of her six female staff – four of whom are working mums.

“If they succeed in bringing down our pub, which they seem entirely ready to do, the loss of jobs and the misery it will cause is unspeakable. It has customers in it today that drank their first pint in here 55 years ago,” she said.

“The Wheatsheaf is the hub of the community. We are not like any other pub in this town. It is a community asset.”

A petition supporting the pub has been signed by more than 1,900 people.

A spokeswoman for East Herts Council said that in the last two years the authority had received more than 20 complaints in total from two householders.

“The pub has recently successfully implemented a number of measures, which included an agreement to have no amplified music played in the pub. This appeared to have solved the problems. However, in recent weeks, the pub has introduced live outdoor music which has led to renewed complaints.

“We have now had to issue a formal notice to explain that unless reasonable measures are made to deal with the noise levels, further action will need to be taken. We have not asked the pub to close and will continue to work with them to resolve the issue.

“We support both businesses and residents in our district and we feel confident that we can find a resolution which will ensure the Wheatsheaf pub can thrive, without unnecessarily disturbing residents.“

One of the complainants, who has lived in the area for 20 years, told the Independent he felt “intimidated” in his own home after voicing his concerns.

He claimed he had been the victim of threats and intimidation as a result of his actions and said: “Nobody is trying to close her down, what she’s saying is very, very unfair.”

On Monday, Herts Constabulary confirmed that a man in his 60s from Bishop’s Stortford has made an allegation of a hate motivated online crime, which is reported to have occurred on Friday, August 17.

Police are investigating and anyone with information should call the non-emergency number 101, quoting crime reference 41/28266/18 or report information online at www.herts.police.uk/Report.

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