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 Inside Out - West Midlands: Monday September 27, 2004

NOISE POLLUTION SOLUTIONS

burglar alarm
It may keep the burglars at bay, but will also keep the neighbours up

There is always someone on the street who manages to wake everyone else with their barking dogs or love of the latest dance music. Inside Out follows the Coventry Noise Pollution Team as they tackle roaring burglar alarms, loud parties and difficult noise makers.

Every year 8,000 complaints pour in from the public to Coventry council's 24 hours noise hotline.

Millie and Adrian have been part of the Coventry Noise Pollution team for seven years and they have seen it all. This job is not like many others.

Millie says, "You never know what is going to happen, who you're going to meet or what scrapes you might get into.

"The one thing that's predictable about this job is that you can't predict it."

Some aspects of the job are more annoying than others. Millie is not a big fan of the domestic safety device.

"House alarms are a pain in the butt. I just groan when a house alarm call comes in."

It normally takes more than two hours each to deal with a house alarm incident, and this one is no different. This one has been blaring for three hours already.

A quick electrical snip

pair of pliers
One noise pollution solution

The residents do not seem to be at home, so Millie and Adrian need to get a warrant from the local magistrates' so that they can shut the alarm off.

With the warrant in hand, Millie gets on the case of finding an electrician to carry out the work. But finding an electrician on a Friday night? You must be kidding!

Several calls later, Millie and Adrian finally manage to track down an electrician who's not in bed, on holiday or down the pub.

All that is needed now is a ladder and a pair of pliers and the neighbourhood can quietly go back to bed.

When dealing with noise nuisances, Millie and Adrian have to catch it as it happens, which works fine and well with house alarms, but not in all cases.

Ups and downs behind closed doors

Millie and Adrian meet up with one couple that has had enough of the next-door neighbours' quarrelling.

tape recorder
Recording the distrubances is great for evidence, but the team need to catch the noise-makers in action

With a small tape recorded, they claim they've taped what sound like a violent argument coming from next door.

A woman and man are heard screaming and shouting and Millie and Adrian are clearly shocked at what they're hearing.

But as the couple next door aren't disturbing the peace for the time being, Millie and Adrian can't witness the noise and act on it.

It's frustrating but they'll have to be called out another time to catch the distrubance as it happens.

Not all disturbances are of a serious nature. On the phone is a woman who wants to report her noisy neighbour.

She has had enough of his nightly "cries of passion" as she puts it.

Adrian is sympathetic over the caller's complaint but can only advise her to call again when she is disturbed by the neighbour's cries again.

Even noise pollution teams suffer from noise

Millie remembers some noisy neighbours of her own, who in the end got her to sell up and move.

"I've had bad neighbours, really bad neighbours to the extent that I cannot listen to Craig David anymore because they played it so loud.

"He used to "eff and blind" at his wife all the time. It just drove me insane to such a degree that I moved house."

Adrian also has his noisy neighbour dispute, although it is a bit more ongoing.

Street at night
It may appear to be calm, but looks can be deceiving

After a late night's work getting other people to turn the volume down, he woken up at 9am to the loud sound of Iron Maiden.

Unfortunately, the next-door neighbour didn't answer the door, and Adrian missed a golden opportunity for some enlightening conversation.

From passion to party

Adrian and Millie's night is far from over. Complaints about a loud party have poured in, but no-one seems to be able to pinpoint the house.

The loud party takes a while to find, and when the team finally locate the birthday celebrations, the tenants are unexpectedly willing to turn down the music.

Millie is surprised at the outcome of this incident.

"I'm always amazed at how compliant some people can be, or that they just don't realise how much they are affecting so many people.

"But the nice ones are few and far between, 'cause we get attacked quite regularly."

Despite the attacks, Adrian and Millie will continue to respond to the calls from annoyed people and make sure the noise levels are kept down in Coventry.

See also ...

On the rest of the web
Defra's information on noise pollution
Noise Abatement Society
UK Noise Association

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Linda B
I live in an area which is close to a night club. There are very many problems encountered by people living in the surrounding residentail streets,including noise nuisance and anti social behaviour. A residents group was set up last year to protest about the weekly nuisance that people living in close proximity have to put up with on a regular basis. However the local environmental health department does not appear to think that there is a problem and the night clubs license was renewed earlier this year despite opposition by local residents and the police.

I too think the Coventry City Noise Control Team is an excellent idea that could be expanded to include other areas throughout the country. However because of the anti social behaviour that could be encountered these teams would need the support of the police.

Jill Hudson
Personally I think measures against this anti-social behaviour should be shorter and sharper and conducted by the police, not local authorities. Obviously people should be given the chance to stop the noise before they are charged with an offence though, but if they cause offence again within a set period of time then they should be fined. I know the police are busy, but the Council staff could perhaps be redeployed under the Police Authority rather than by Councils. I think that it is the job of the police to uphold law and order, not the council. Likewise with parking offences.

Dr Linda Evans
I think the Coventry City Council noise control team is an excellent idea. More councils should copy this initiative. I cannot understand the selfishness of people who think they have the right to make as much noise as they like, whenever they like. I would like to see an expansion of the team so that it could deal with more cases and be on 24 hour call. In the past I've suffered from noisy neighbours but am fortunate enough now to be able to afford to live in a detached house. Not everyone is so lucky, but they still should have the right to peace and quiet, especially during the night. Inconsiderate noisiness is one of the most aggravating forms of anti-social behaviour. Kep up the good work, Adrian and Millie!

Derek Cooper
I live in an area where there are people who totally disregard the discomfort of others when it comes to excessive noise from stereos etc. I feel it is hard for people to complain about such intolerable inconsiderate behaviour as many are afraid of retaliation. I am disturbed, particularly in the summer by people 100 yards or more away. What it must be like to be next door I can't imagine. It's hard to beleive people can be so inconsiderate.

Alan Organ - Coventry
I think Coventry's noise polution team carry out a vital under resourced public service. Its a terrible pity that Coventry City Council are currently cutting the wages of such front line people.

R. Graham
There is definitely a need for more teams like this around the Midlands. I had to leave my home because of noisy neighbours. It made me ill and took months to recover. There should be more support for sufferers and MUCH stronger deterrants and penalties for offenders.



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