Ashwell residents call for parish poll over church clock chimes

St Mary's Church St Mary's Church

Friday, February 14, 2014
8:52 AM

A parish poll could be held to determine whether a village clock that has chimed for more than a century will be silenced.

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The clock, at St Mary’s Church in Ashwell, has been the subject of much debate in the village since last summer, when residents who live nearby complained about the noise of the clock disturbing their sleep.

An investigation by North Herts District Council determined that the chimes exceed the World Health Organisation’s noise limit of 35 decibels. As a result, Ashwell Parish Council agreed to switch the quarter-hour chimes off between 11.05pm and 5.55am – with the clock still ringing on the hour – for a trial period. This has yet to commence, with the council seeking funding to buy a £1,900 timing mechanism.

However, a group of residents have formed a Save the Bells campaign, and will be demanding a parish poll at the parish meeting on March 31.

Ashwell resident Chris Pack, 46, is one of the campaigners. He said: “The parish council has said that ‘no one really cares’ if the bells are turned off, but I dispute that. The only way to really determine it is to have a proper vote.”

A village parish poll can be held if 15 people call for it to happen.

Mr Pack added: “It’s about maintaining the history of the village. If this happens in Ashwell then what’s to stop it happening elsewhere? The implications for the whole of Hertfordshire would be immense. The clock has been chiming for more than 100 years with no problem, it’s crackers.”

Peter Long, chairman of Ashwell Parish Council, said: “The council would have to support it if it was properly received, i.e. a question that was enforceable by the parish council. However this would be something for the district council to decide and as we haven’t received anything yet, everything is just speculation.”

Parish polls are paid for by the district council, who then claim the money back from the parish council. A poll held in Ickleford on speed humps in 2011 cost £800.

Cllr Bernard Lovewell, NHDC’s portfolio holder for housing and environmental health, said: “We broadly welcome Ashwell Parish Council’s decision to cease the chiming of the quarterly bells throughout the night and encourage its implementation without delay. By working closely with all parties to find an appropriate solution, we seek the best outcome for all concerned. The council is not proposing to take any formal enforcement action, but we are keeping a watching brief on developments.”

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