OWNERS of a former builder's yard in Whitton, where noisy machinery made neighbours' lives a misery, have lost their battle with Richmond Council.

Surrey Hire & Sales had operated from the yard in Hounslow Road since January 2008, regularly running loud generators and high-pressure cleaning equipment, according to the council, to the fury of residents in the otherwise quiet area.

The plant hire firm moved on in December after being issued with a noise abatement notice by environmental health officers, only for the site's owners to challenge the council's decision.

In a judgement last week, the Planning Inspectorate ruled in the council's favour, saying use of the land for plant hire had led to 'unacceptable disturbance' for neighbouring residents.

Councillor Virginia Morris, cabinet member for environment, said: "This firm, which had no permission to operate this type of business in Hounslow Road, ruined the lives of decent local people. I am very happy to see the back of them.

“There is no excuse for this kind of un-neighbourly behaviour. I would like to thank the households near the site for being so patient while what must have seemed like an interminable racket went on for so long. I can only imagine how frustrating this must have been."

The council's planning department had issued a planning enforcement notice against the owners, claiming use of the site for plant hire was unauthorised. The firm appealed, leading to a public inquiry by the Planning Inspectorate.

The council claimed the site's use as a storage area for concrete mixers, cherry pickers and other building equipment, with noise from the generators and testing of the power tools, was a far cry from its lawful use as a scaffolding yard.

The site's owners argued that it had been used as a building yard since the 1930s and its use for plant hire was not 'materially different'.

However, the inspector, David Morgan, ruled that the firm would need planning permission to continue its operations at the yard because the change of use had led to 'unacceptable disturbance' to neighbours.

Surrey Plant Hire has already left the borough and a council spokesman said it hopes to recover about £12,000 from the site's owners to cover its costs in dealing with the issue.

Douglas Fuller, whose house backs onto the yard said the noise had been 'unbearable' and he was relieved at the ruling.

"You couldn't hear yourself speak in the garden because this powerful generator was constantly running. This ruling's a big relief," said the 74-year-old former shop fitter.