Ashwell villagers row over 'silencing' church bells

St Mary's Church, Ashwell The St Mary's Church bells have rung since 1896

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A row over the silencing of church bells in a Hertfordshire village could be "solved amicably", a council says.

North Herts District Council (NHDC) said it received about 12 complaints regarding the bells of St Mary's in Ashwell chiming every 15 minutes.

It said it had found the bells "prejudicial to health" but favoured the chimes just being stopped at night.

The parish council said any loss of the chiming would be unpopular with a "large majority" of villagers.

The St Mary's bells have been ringing since about 1896 but, now chiming through its clock mechanism, stopped for 18 months for repairs to be carried out.

They were fixed in June 2012 but, residents believe, the complainants moved to the village when the bells were silent.

'Need clear guidance'

A NHDC spokesman said it was "legally obliged" to investigate the issue and officers felt the noise was "prejudicial to health" because it caused sleep disturbance.

Councillor Bernard Lovewell said he hoped the matter could be resolved informally within the community, without taking formal action.

"As long as there is a meeting of minds, the matter can be solved amicably," he said.

"One idea that has been discussed is the possibility of a mechanism to stop the chimes from 23:00 and 07:00, which would be something for the parish council to implement."

However, parish council chairman, Peter Long, said: "A lot of people feel any silencing at any time would be a loss."

"[A timing mechanism] would cost money and whether it would solve the issue is another matter."

He said if the noise was prejudicial to health, the parish council would need to act, but "we haven't seen that evidence from the council".

"We need clear guidance from the council, and if there was a noise abatement notice, at least we would know where we stood," he said.

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