Time called on Wrington's 'noisy' church clock
Wednesday 25 April 2012
It has been a part of village life for a century.
The chime of the church clock in Wrington, Somerset rings out every quarter of an hour.
For 100 years a bell in the clock at the 15th century All Saints Church has been letting villagers know the time.
But after new neighbours complained the noise was keeping them awake at night the clock has been silenced by a council's noise abatement notice.
Officials at North Somerset Council told vicar Nicholas Maddock that the bell, which is separate to the main church bells, must not be allowed to chime between 11pm and 7am.
But because the bell cannot be turned off at night, church leaders have been forced to silence it completely.
The council's move followed a complaint from people who live nearby the church, who are understood to have moved in last year when the chimes had been temporarily switched off for refurbishment of the church.
The switch-off has angered residents who say the church chimes are part of village life.
Church officers are taking legal advice and may challenge the noise abatement notice, while villagers are planning to launch a petition and a letter-writing campaign objecting to the restriction.
Church warden John Ledbury, whose house backs on to the church, said: "It is all so unnecessary.
"People who have lived in the village years and years are not happy at what's happened."
Mr Ledbury explained that it was not possible to stop the clock chiming at night and so the decision had been made to switch it off completely.
"The clock chime is operated by a complicated piece of computer software," he said.
"It has not been possible to programme it locally to stop the clock chiming at night.
"The only way we have been able to comply with the noise abatement notice is to turn the whole thing off."
Mr Ledbury was also critical of the laws that allowed the noise abatement notice to be served in the first place.
"It is very sad situation," he said.
"I am sad at the bureaucracy of this country that has allowed it.
"One person comes into the village and without any reference to the church has decided to go to the district council.
"The law allows an officer of the council to issue a noise abatement notice and takes no notice that no one in the village has ever complained."
Mr Ledbury said the church was taking legal advice and was considering an appeal of the noise abatement notice.
"Everybody in the village hopes this is resolved without having to go to court," he said.
"We are now spending the next few days taking legal advice. We have 21 days from April 21 to lodge an appeal at the magistrates court."
The complainants bought their house last October, at a time when the chimes had been temporarily switched off while an £85,000 refurbishment of the church tower and bells took place. The chimes were switched on again in November.
Church member Richard Thorn, 75, who also runs the village website, told the Bristol Post: "I have lived here for 45 years and the bell chimes are part of the village.
"Wrington is a very happy place with a real sense of community.
"A 98-year-old lady lives in the house next to the church and she has never complained about the chimes - in fact she misses them.
"Surely you wouldn't move next to a church if you were worried about the noise from the bells?
"What has really upset people is that a complete newcomer has behaved in this way and has the full support of the district council.
"It does not seem to matter that there are thousands of people who want the bells to remain chiming."
North Somerset Council spokesman Nick Yates said: "Once we receive a complaint of a noise nuisance we have to investigate it.
"The complaint is that the chiming of the clock on the quarter hour at night is causing a nuisance.
"Our case officer has assessed the complaint, as has a colleague, and they are both satisfied that the noise is a clear statutory noise nuisance - these staff are qualified in environmental health and highly experienced in noise assessments.
"Since receiving the complaint in December 2011, we have made a number of visits and written as well as spoken to both the vicar, who has the responsibility for the noise nuisance, and the secretary of the parochial church council.
"This was to try and resolve the noise nuisance in a way that was acceptable to both the church and the complainants with the suggestion being to switch the chimes off between 11pm and 7am.
"Despite our best efforts this approach has been unsuccessful.
"We would have much preferred not to have reached this situation but having established that a statutory noise nuisance exists, and having tried to negotiate a solution without success we have now serve an abatement notice to stop the bells chiming at night."
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