Church can play reggae or dance music again as racism row is settled

A row over music events at a church in Shropshire has been settled after an agreement was reached in court.

Chris Jones, who owns At Anne's Church in Lea Cross
Chris Jones, who owns At Anne's Church in Lea Cross

Chris Jones, who keeps St Anne’s Church in Lea Cross, near Shrewsbury, had accused Shropshire Council of ageism and racism after he was told not to play amplified dance or reggae music at the building.

But a noise abatement notice has now been lifted after Mr Jones and the council agreed on a series of measures to mitigate complaints about noise from the building.

Mr Jones, who also owns the Albion Vaults pub in Shrewsbury, said the council began proceedings against him following two events at the church last year, where drum-and-bass and reggae music were played.

Following an appeal hearing at Telford Magistrates Court, the court adjourned so that the council could suggest measures Mr Jones could implement to prevent there being a problem in future.

The council said it had now agreed a series of measures with Mr Jones which meant the abatement notice would not be necessary.

Shropshire Council's solicitor Mike Davies said during the appeal hearing both parties were asked to meet together with a view to reaching an agreement on how to reduce noise problems.

“Following an agreement by St Anne’s Church to limit events and noise levels, and implement measures to restrict noise nuisance, the council invited the court to quash the abatement notice. This was accepted by St Annes’s Church, and the court agreed and quashed the notice.”

Mr Jones had previously accused the council of racism and ageism after an environmental health officer identified particular types of music which were considered a problem.

In an email to Mr Jones, Leighton Collier wrote: “From our point of view it is likely that any amplified dance music, reggae, trance or similar music played at the church is likely to create a noise nuisance.

“This is because this type of music or event will be played at high volume that would be likely to travel easily into nearby premises, particularly given the quiet background in the area and the close proximity of other houses.”

But Mr Jones said such demands were unacceptable for a venue which catered for people from a range of backgrounds.

“The idea of an elitist’s rule on music styles is not acceptable, barring forms of music is daft,” he said. “I’m not having anything to do with some seeming ageist, racist bar on forms of music."

He said it could also have interfered with plans for an appearance by comedy-folk music group The Wurzels.

“Am I supposed to tell The Wurzels they cannot play reggae tracks or have any dance music or my licence is under threat?" Mr Jones said. “The church is a natural meeting place for the whole community, rich, poor, young, older and all ethnic groups.”

Mr Jones said he could not afford to risk any criminal proceedings because it would affect his drinks licence at the pub.

Mr Jones’ late father, Eric, bought the church for the use of the community in 2010 after being declared redundant by the Diocese of Hereford. Villagers had been locked out for five years following a legal battle.

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