Published: 13:16, 23 April 2021
| Updated: 15:41, 23 April 2021
A charity that's saved the lives of hundreds of animals could end up being fined £2,500 after complaints were made about its noisy geese and cockerels.
The Happy Pants Animal Ranch, in Iwade Road, Bobbing, near Sittingbourne, was asked to stop “allowing animals on the land to make an unreasonable level of noise” by Swale council or face being slapped with a fine. It is home to about 20 geese and 50 cockerels.
We went to see Amey James on her ranch in Bobbing
The complaints came after the rescue centre – a sanctuary for about 350 unwanted or abandoned animals from cows, dogs, ducks and sheep to goats, parrots, pigs and more – moved from its previous base at Yelsted, near Sittingbourne, to the new 20-acre site earlier this year.
Before being in Yelsted, founder Amey James ran the charity from her semi-detached home in Rainham.
The 37-year-old said: "It makes me so sad and angry to think that in all the years of the charity taking in unwanted and abandoned animals at the last two sites, which were completely residential with neighbours either side, there’s never been any problem or noise complaint about any of the animals.
"Yet the ranch relocates here, to what seems to be the middle of nowhere, no houses in sight, and we have noise complaints."
Amey said she received a letter from Swale council because the sanctuary’s conduct was "having a detrimental effect of a persisting or continual nature on the quality of life of those in the locality".
"It’s so sad that this is happening when the charity and its volunteers are doing their very best, under what’s been really difficult circumstances of the relocation, to bring a positive, welcoming, kind, and safe place to and for the community, on what was just a plot of overgrown, disused land," she said.
"All of this is causing me so much stress and taking up so much valuable time away from the two most important things; caring for the animals and raising funds for the charity."
She added: "I can't sleep. I'm worried that we're going to get kicked off.
"I just wish the council would've given us, say, six months or so to settle in first, rather than come straight down on us like a ton of bricks. It's really upsetting."
To add to her stress, Amey said the charity has had to apply for change of use from agricultural land to allow the animal sanctuary to use the site. It's now waiting for permission to be granted.
Amey said the noise complaints were to do with a generator at the sanctuary as well as its geese and cockerels.
"I would say the geese are more noisy out of the two," Amey said. "If they're alerted by anything they'll make a racket but it's not prolonged.
"Obviously I'm used to it and noise doesn't bother me but we're living in the middle of it and I'm a light sleeper and it still doesn't bother me, and of all the visitors we've had, no-one's said it's too noisy.
"We just really want to get on with what we are doing and what we have always done, which is saving the animals, helping people and bringing something nice to the community."
Amey said the sanctuary had already put things in place, since getting the warning, to help reduce any noise.
She said: "We've blacked out the windows on the cockerel barns to, hopefully, keep them a bit quieter in the morning before we let them out at about 9am.
"We've been trying to encourage the geese to use the bottom pond, so they're further away, and we've put the generator in a shed and soundproofed it.
"As soon as we can get solar panels, we will do, so the generator isn't going to be forever – I'm not sure what else we can do?"
Neighbours living nearby, who did not wish to be named, said: "Since the council has got involved it has got better but beforehand it was unbearable.
"There were four problems, the generator, cockerels, geese and fire smoke.
"However, in general, it's better for us."
Other neighbours said: "It doesn't affect us as much as others but we can hear the cockerels and cows mainly, and the geese make a noise. It's all day more or less.
"Our main problem at the beginning was all the cars on the road, as it's a small lane. They've got a small space inside now but if they have a lot of visitors it will block the lane."
A council spokesman said: “We have a statutory duty to investigate environmental complaints, but we don’t publicly share details of ongoing investigations.
“When we receive a complaint, we always try to work with all those involved to resolve incidents in an amicable manner, and in most cases this prevents the need to take formal enforcement action.”