How do you deal with such a petty bureaucrat? Gill Marsh Forecourts cannot be the only company to have had a run-in with the local council following bogus complaints about noisy remote refrigeration.
It’s a bit of a saga. Tom Dant, managing director, believes it all stems from an earlier dispute over hedges at their Bilsby site in Alford, Lincolnshire. Next door is a local housing property. "The hedge hadn’t been cut for some time and was overhanging on our forecourt, making it difficult for vehicles to park," he writes.
The occupants refused to trim it or accept the cuttings (which you are supposed to return to the owner). The local housing officer was contacted and the hedge, after some hassle, was cut.
Complaints about noisy deliveries started soon after. These too were deflected. "After a lot of phone calls and emails they backed down on the delivery issues, as we proved that we had no deliveries at unreasonable hours (the store is open 7am-8pm, seven days a week)," says Tom.
So then the complaint moved to the noisy chillers.
Tom adds: "The store has been there for 44 years, and the units have been in that position for 44 years (although this particular one is around 26 years old).
"We have never had a complaint from any neighbours about noise in all that time."
However, this didn’t stop the council officer getting zealously on the case. "He said it was too loud and wanted a reduction in decibels of 20 DB (which is impossible!). We told him that we were planning a full store refit and when this commenced we would move the chiller unit from the side of the property facing the residential bungalow in which the complainants reside, to round the back of the property (which is just open fields), as we would be replacing all units with new ones. He checked whether we needed planning permission for this, and he came back to us to say that yes, we would need planning permission even if it was to the benefit of the resident next door. He also asked that we get the chiller unit checked by a refrigeration engineer. We did this (at our cost of course!) and he concluded that it was not louder than he expected and if we replaced the unit with a special quieter one (at a cost of several thousand pounds), it would only make a small difference."
Gill Marsh Forecourts built new wooden housing for the unit with sound-proofed material and is planning to erect a fence to further reduce noise. The council isn’t satisfied and threatens an abatement notice. In short a vendetta.
All I could suggest was delaying tactics keeping the council informed of every step taken towards the refurb and making noises (sorry) about consulting further with sound engineers. It should buy them some time.
Repeat: Gill Marsh Forecourts cannot be the only one facing a jumped-up bureaucrat. If you have any ideas towards a solution, please get in touch.
Nailesh and Ajay Gokani spent a fortune revamping their Empire Service Station in North London’s Enfield a year ago. This New Year, Nailesh got in touch with a rant about Cashzone.
"They installed a cash machine on our newly refurbished site at the beginning of the year. Since then it has been nothing short of a nightmare. The company says that its ATMs are operational about 92% of the time I think the the company should change that to 92 minutes of the week. And that’s being kind to them. Our machine is constantly out of order due to poor equipment. Just to highlight how ancient their equipment is, the machine uses a floppy disc for back-ups. I don’t have too much knowledge of what’s inside a computer but even I know that a floppy disc is something from the distant past."
He adds that the ATM is so often out-of-order that it rarely works for two consecutive days: "We have had engineers out at least twice a week to resolve the same issues.
"On one occasion a couple of weeks ago there were three engineers on site for the best part of the day and it broke down again within a couple of days.
"We have requested that the company installs a modern machine or alternatively removes the ATM altogether, but have been informed that there is a five-year agreement in place. The company is aware that its equipment is out-dated, but is not willing to invest in modern machines or train its engineers."
Nailesh has sent countless emails to countless bods at Cashzone/Cardtronics and observes drily that by now, someone should be embarrassed enough to do something.
I contacted the company and this was their response. "We are very sorry for the inconvenience experienced by Mr Gokani and his customers. Whenever we receive reports of service issues we send out our expert team of engineers as quickly as possible because we know how important the ready supply of cash is for retailers’ businesses.
"We have always done so in Mr Gokani’s case, and are committed to making sure his machine remains in full working order going forward."
Nailesh’s free-to-use machine is very popular. Empire Garages is a 24-hour site and the ATM is in a well-lit area. It could be making him a nice commission and keeping his customers happy.
I can’t understand why Cashzone doesn’t just give him a new machine one that works.