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Council delays decision on noise row between Jools Holland and Cooling Castle Barn venue

An award-winning venue has been told it will have to wait for the outcome of a licence review after becoming embroiled in a row with the musician Jools Holland.

Cooling Castle Barn, near Rochester, faces having conditions added to its licence following complaints from the Hootenanny host and his wife Christabel, who has lived in neighbouring Cooling Castle since 2002.

The couple – who married at the venue in 2005 – asked Medway Council to review the venue, citing issues with noise and anti-social behaviour such as some visitors “effectively” urinating on the “front door”.

Jools Holland at Maidstone Studios. Picture: BBC
Jools Holland at Maidstone Studios. Picture: BBC

However, having spent five hours listening to both parties, the panel said it would have to spend more time considering the review and deliver a judgement within five working days.

Audio clips of noise coming from the barn and picked up my microphones near the couple’s front door – recorded in a 10-month period – were played at this today’s meeting (Tuesday).

This included live performances of Beyond The Sea, That’s Amore and Ain’t Nobody, as well as a football chant dedicated to Danish and Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen.

There were also aggressive arguments picked up in the recordings.

Representing the Holland family, Leo Charalambides said: “This happens 320 days a year – the same songs, the same cheers, the same jeering, the same drunken fights, the swearing, (and) the abuse.

“It starts with deliveries in the morning and it doesn’t end when the party finishes at 11pm – it continues with the people that stay behind, the stragglers, with the people in overnight accommodation, and now they want an outside smoking area. They have had enough.”

Suggestions mooted by the Holland team include limiting access to the gardens, seasonal restrictions, having event stewards at all times, and banning licensed activity – such as live entertainment or selling alcohol – two days every week.

Jools Holland at Cooling church for English Churches
Jools Holland at Cooling church for English Churches

Mr Charalambides added: “A day or two of peace in this village would be no bad thing.

“This is a good, healthy company which needs some pruning and tidying up. Two years to prepare for a transition to a five-day operating model is reasonable and proportionate.”

Rebecca Collins, general manager of Cooling Castle Barn, was supported by a large group of local residents and got emotional in her strong defence of the business.

She outlined plans to invest £70,000 on air conditioning to help keep more people – and more noise – within the barn during summer months, as well as acoustic screening.

The director also spoke of measures already put in place to appease Mr and Mrs Holland, who say they have had issues with their neighbours over the past 10 years.

She told the meeting: “We’re not perfect but you would struggle to find another venue that is more professionally run or that has taken the needs of its neighbours to the heart of its operation.

“In my mind, we do our upmost to balance the competing interests of our venue and those living and working in the area.

Jools Holland
Jools Holland

“We are a lifeblood of the rural area, giving heart to our village and I’m so thankful for the 50 plus representations we’ve had supporting our business, because we’re not as we’re being portrayed.”

Mr Holland was not present at the meeting – he is currently on tour in Austria – but wife Christabel briefly spoke after being described as “uncomfortable and nervous” by her own representation.

She said: “We have had some double glazing put in, but we still hear music and shouting from inside our house.

“It’s the way the walls of the (castle) ruin relate to the barn that (makes) the noise bounce around, so it’s very hard to get away from it.”

Mrs Holland was quizzed about why she, along with her husband, are on the electoral role in Westminster – but Cllr David Carr, committee chair, said the matter was not relevant.

More than 50 businesses, staff and villagers wrote letters to the authority showing their support, some of which spoke at the meeting.

The Holland family is the only complainant to have approached Medway Council.

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