How couple's £90-a-night bed and breakfast sparked a nightmare dispute

The major, his £1m B&B and a ‘bullying’ battle with neighbours: Couple’s £90-a-night bed and breakfast sparks ‘nightmare’ dispute with residents on their private road

  • Steve Marcham and Diana Groves have turned their £1million home into a B&B
  • But the £90-a-night bed and breakfast has sparked a dispute with neighbours
  • Residents of the private road in Ringwood, Hampshire, launched legal action 
  • Experts warn the use of the law could threaten other B&B owners in Britain

It had been intended as a fun business venture at their £1million home after their seven children had flown the nest.

But the £90-a-night bed and breakfast set up by former Army major Steve Marcham and Diana Groves has sparked a nightmare dispute with neighbours.

Fellow residents of their exclusive private road near the New Forest have launched a legal action aimed at shutting down the B&B, saying it is a ‘breach of covenant’ – a binding condition written into property deeds or a contract by a seller.

Steve Marcham and Diana Groves (above) turned their £1million seven-bedroom home in Ringwood, Hampshire, into a £90-a-night bed and breakfast

Neighbours on the private road have launched a legal action to shut the B&B (above), saying it is a ‘breach of covenant’ – a condition written into property deeds or contract by a seller

But Miss Groves, 64, said: ‘The neighbours are ganging up on us because they hate us so much. It’s not like we are running a brothel. We are being financially blackmailed by them.’

She and former Grenadier Guard Mr Marcham, 65, an MBE, began advertising for guests to stay in their seven-bedroom home in Ringwood, Hampshire, last year. 

But the move provoked a furious response from neighbours who complained over noise caused by guests in the swimming pool and cars clogging up the drive.

The feud later descended into accusations of spying and eavesdropping between the warring neighbours, who were once friends and enjoyed parties together. 

Residents on the lane, where house prices average £925,000, are now suing over the covenant.

Experts warn the use of the law could set a ‘damaging’ precedent and threaten other B&B owners across Britain. 

Miss Groves said: ‘Now we are being taken to court and it’s in the hands of a judge. We’ve already had to pay out £2,300 and have been told we could end up paying £20,000.

‘It’s had a huge impact on us as it has taken a lot of the fun out of running this B&B and in the process we have felt intimidated in our home.’ 

Miss Groves warned that if the action against her is upheld it could set a dangerous precedent for other B&B owners in Britain. Pictured, aerial view of Avonhurst Bed and Breakfast

Neighbours on the lane, where house prices average £925,000, complained over noise caused by guests in the swimming pool (above) and cars clogging up the drive

Mr Marcham and Miss Groves decided to turn two bedrooms into B&B accommodation in May 2019.

But they were stunned two months later to receive a solicitor’s letter on behalf of their neighbours. It said residents had ‘continually heard guests using your swimming pool’ and had ‘seen numerous cars parked at your property’. 

It added: ‘You are clearly not using Avonhurst as a private dwelling house in the occupation of one family and you are causing nuisance and annoyance to your neighbours.

‘Our clients consider – and are advised – you are in breach of your restrictive covenant.’ Covenants, which are common across the UK, ban property owners from carrying out certain acts, including using a home for anything other than a private dwelling.

Miss Groves has warned that if the action against her is upheld it could set a dangerous precedent for other people who run businesses from home.  

The former IT sales worker said it could see residents suing neighbours for offering piano lessons, childminding or even working from home. 

The feud later descended into accusations of spying and eavesdropping between the warring neighbours, who were once friends and enjoyed parties together 

Miss Groves, 64, and former Grenadier Guard Mr Marcham, 65, an MBE, began advertising for guests to stay in their seven-bedroom home near the New Forest last year

The couple have launched an online petition against the action at change.org. 

They say online: ‘When we purchased Avonhurst we were aware of this covenant and were told it was to stop further development of the land. We have now had written confirmation of this information from the property developer who bought the land.’

The couple add: ‘We have made repeated requests for our neighbours to speak to us about any concerns they may have. However, all our requests have been ignored.’ 

David Weston, of the Bed and Breakfast Association, said: ‘We are concerned about the situation she faces and the damaging precedent it could set – preventing any kind of home-based business if that literal wording succeeded.’

The five sets of neighbours in the dispute did not want to comment or could not be contacted.

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