Agreement reached to silence Ashwell church chimes
18:12 14 May 2014
An agreement has been reached to temporarily silence a village church’s quarter-hour chimes at night despite them being rung uninterrupted for more than a century.
At an Ashwell Parish Council meeting last week, it was agreed to silence the quarter-hour chimes at St Mary’s Church in the village for eight hours between 11pm and 7am for a trial period of no more than six months – after which a long-term solution will be decided. The hourly chimes will still ring.
The meeting featured a presentation from the Ashwell Advocates group – who want the chimes off during the night – and Save the Church Chimes of Ashwell, who are trying to keep them chiming as they have done for the past 117 years.
District councils can issue Noise Abatement Orders (NBOs) when a noise is deemed a nuisance – something based on World Health Organisation guidelines and its own discretion.
Maria Brown, who spoke on behalf of Save the Church Chimes of Ashwell at the meeting, said: “We understand that the chimes must be turned off until our alternative solution is implemented as the council has no choice.
“We are not happy about it but we have accepted that a Noise Abatement Order (NBO) can be issued at any time, and if one was then the chimes would not come back on at all.
“Turning them off gives everyone some breathing space and allows us to raise the funds we need to pay for the new mechanism [which would make them quieter]. Permission has been granted to put a timing mechanism on the chimes and we would have to seek new permission to put a new device on.
“We will also have to prove that the device works. We have contacted a mechanical engineer who says that he can make a device to reduce the noise to within safe levels, but before it can be installed we will have to prove this to the parish council.
“I have looked but can’t find any other parish church in the country that has this type of device fitted, so the council is understandably cautious about giving it the go-ahead without proof.
“The solution we have put forward is an ideal alternative if it all goes to plan. It will save the chimes and allow the people who have been affected to sleep.”
In a statement, the Ashwell Advocates said: “We think we are at that very welcome moment when a way forward agreed by all parties can potentially be announced.
In particular we thank the Save the Church Chimes of Ashwell campaign for recognising that compromise is required.
“We are also pleased to confirm that those affected by the bells and chimes at night would welcome any long-term robust solution which solves the noise problem.”
Outgoing Ashwell Parish Council chairman Peter Long said: “We welcome the decision and will be able to move forward with the proposals now.”