NEIGHBOUR OF OPERA CARRYING ON `VENDETTA'

Leonard Ingrams, the founder of Garsington Opera in Oxford, yesterday claimed that a neighbour had become `obsessed' with the annual open air music festival and was conducting a `vendetta' against it.

Mr Ingrams told Thame magistrates that Monica Waud, who has claimed that the five-year-old summer festival held at Mr Ingrams' home is an ordeal, had reported him to conservation officers after he replaced roof slates and again when he and his wife Rosalind felled two diseased trees in their garden. In the latter case Ms Waud, a social worker, was a witness for the prosecution against the Ingramses.

Mr Ingrams said that the vendetta had become so bad that "we can't go out into our garden without it being objected to."

On Monday Ms Waud and other neighbours claimed that the sound Haydn and Rossini wafting from the Ingrams' home Garsington Manor was noisy and irritating.

While opera lovers from home and abroad paid £65 each to sit on the grass and enjoy the music over lobster and champagne the objectors said the noise forced them to shut themselves inside their homes and grit their teeth.

Mr Ingrams, brother of the former editor of Private Eye Richard Ingrams, denied breaching the conditions of the opera's entertainment licence by failing to prevent local people being "unreasonably disturbed."

Yesterday the village's opera lovers lined up in court in the festival's defence. Adrian Townsend, 42, a teacher who lives one mile from the manor said that the opera held in June and July raised people's lives "from the humdrum." He said the festival enhanced rather that disturbed the village.

Mr Townsend said: "The opera had been the subject of two village meetings and that Ms Waud did not represent the majority of villagers."

Martin Smyth, 69, who has lived in the village for 26 years said that Garsington was now almost a suburb of Oxford with more than 200 cars an hour passing through in the rush hour it was far from sleepy. Mr Smyth, who lives 100m from the manor, said tha t the opera music came in faint snatches and had never driven him indoors.

Solicitor Hugh Blaza who lives 150 metres from the Manor said Waud had `exaggerated' the effect of the opera. "She is determined to stop the opera at all costs," he said.

Mr Blaza, an active supporter of Garsington, said Ms Waud had brought the festival up at every meeting this year at the Garsington Society, a body set up to protect village life. He said when the society voted on the issue in September 80 per cent were in favour of the opera.

David Suratgar, financial director and trustee of Garsington, said he had tried to act as mediator with Ms Waud following complaints. He said on one occasion he offered to lend her his own gardeners when she complained she would not be able to tend to her garden because the noise was so disturbing.

The gardens of Ms Waud's luxury home are open to the public in summer. He said his offer was declined. "I doubt this was a lady interested in compromise. She wanted to make her point and she didn't want the festival to continue," he said.

Mr Suratgar said the festival, which has increased its performances from six to 18 since it began in 1989, added to Oxford's cultural live.

He added: "If Ms Waud wants to sell her house I would gladly buy it."

The hearing was adjourned until today.

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