The boss of a Fife dairy threatened with a hefty fine over noise complaints has hit back strongly in the row – vowing to take court action of his own if need be.
Robert Graham, managing director of Graham’s The Family Dairy, said he was “bewildered” by a letter sent from Fife Council’s head of protective services Nigel Kerr to Green MSP Mark Ruskell which confirmed the council is progressing a report to the procurator fiscal over noise levels at its Cowdenbeath facility.
Despite that though, Mr Graham maintains the business’ detailed monitoring has shown noise levels well within legal limits and criticised the council’s stance.
“As a business, we should be able to rely on the support of our local authority, but I’m afraid most of the time it feels as though they are acting against us,” he stressed.
“As a responsible business we simply continue to put fresh food on supermarket shelves during the pandemic, but this incessant behaviour is an unwanted distraction for our local staff and management.
“Unfortunately, when it comes to our business, public authorities have a habit of treating us in an unlawful manner.
“We have recently overturned two unlawful decisions of the Scottish Government and are currently taking a third challenge to court.
“All of this is unfortunately at the taxpayer’s expense because Scottish Government, having lost or conceded defeat, has had to pay our legal expenses now on two separate occasions.
“Our lawyers are now becoming concerned that Fife Council’s actions in relation to our business over the last 12 months may give rise to actual and apparent bias.
“If we have to take the council to court to ensure that they treat us fairly and lawfully then we won’t hesitate to do that.
“It shouldn’t have to come to that but that is for the council to decide.”
Mr Graham added that assurances had been given that any report to the procurator fiscal would not be progressed without further consultation with the business, although this has not been the case.
“The fundamental flaw in Fife Council’s approach is that they have decided that there has been breach of the abatement orders without having conducted any robust, regular and detailed monitoring of noise coming from our site,” he noted.
“Instead, they have based their assessment on one or two random visits to a complainer’s home.
“In contrast to that, our experts have been consistently monitoring noise levels around the site and providing detailed reports to Fife Council showing that noise levels are well within legal limits.
“I am left to wonder if anyone at the council has actually read a word of what has been provided.
“Despite the fact that noise is well within legal limits we have taken a number of measures to reduce noise levels lower still.
“The truth is this is not really about noise for the complainers. They don’t like the site and never have.
“The previous owners of the site had the same issues with a constant trickle of baseless complaints from the same individuals. If it wasn’t noise it would be something else.
“I acknowledge that council officers such as Mr Kerr are being placed under extreme pressure by these complainers but to react to that pressure by preparing to refer the matter to the fiscal before obtaining any detailed and reliable noise data is simply perverse.
“Some of the Fife Council officers seem to forget that as a business, we are a council taxpayer too.”
Mr Kerr confirmed that a report to the fiscal was being progressed but is open to further dialogue.
But he added: “The onus is now on Graham’s Dairies to resolve these noise issues as soon as possible.”