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‘Harassment’ claims made at Grays Court inquiry
THE owner of an historic York hotel at the centre of a wrangle over noise has claimed she is the victim of a neighbour’s campaign of harassment.
Helen Heraty told a public inquiry yesterday there had been a “litany of complaints” from neighbours about noise from Grays Court, a luxury hotel based in a Grade I listed building in the shadow of York Minster.
She said the accusations were “baseless” and alleged that one neighbour, Kevin Mohan, had subjected her to a campaign of harassment.
Mrs Heraty, a mother-of-seven who was chosen in 2011 to model in an advertising campaign by top fashion retailer LK Bennett, claimed Mr Mohan had made a number of complaints to City of York Council but refused to allow officers to have access his house or install equipment to monitor noise levels.
She also alleged: “Our lenders, NatWest/RBS, were informed in 2009, via an anonymous letter (which we later discovered was written by our neighbour Mr Mohan) that we were operating without the benefit of planning permission, insurance, fire regulations and licences.”
Given the opportunity by The Press to respond to the allegations, Mr Mohan declined to comment.
The inquiry at City of York Council’s headquarters, West Offices, was considering an appeal by Mrs Heraty against a council enforcement notice issued by the authority, ordering its “unlawful” use to cease.
The council claimed there was no planning permission in place for its current use, but Mrs Heraty claimed such permission had been granted when consent was given for her to operate a bed and breakfast in 2006.
She said she had received a letter from the council in February 2010 saying she was allowed to use the property as a hotel under that permission and had been dismayed in July 2010 to receive another letter saying this was incorrect.
“The blighting effect of the council’s indecision has had a considerable effect on our ability to develop the business to the point where it is viable,” she said.
Mrs Heraty said she and her late partner John Edwards had bought the building from the Dean and Chapter in 2005, when it was in need of repair and restoration, and they spent an estimated £400,000 bringing it to its present condition.
She said the banking crisis led to a bank loan being withdrawn in 2008, halting the renovation work, but their appeal to the banks eventually resulted in seven bedrooms being restored by 2010, along with the long gallery, bow room and library.
Tea rooms and a restautant opened in 2009 and the hotel now hosted weddings, functions and conferences, which were essential to its viability.
Four more bedrooms were still to be restored, she said.
She dismissed claims by a council official, Gareth Arnold, that site visits to Grays Court had identified material harm to local residents, in the form of late-night noise from the hotel’s kitchens, including laughter and the clattering of cutlery, and from guests leaving the premises following functions, taxis parked outside and glass recycling.
Chartered town planner John Lynch claimed there had been “various inconsistencies and contradictory elements in the council’s position throughout this case”.
The inquiry, which continues today, is due to finish with a site visit to Grays Court by the inspector this afternoon.