From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 17th March 2011
City centre residents have welcomed a proposed amendment to the Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisance By-law, which could see the sound equipment of noisy clubs impounded if they don’t listen to warnings to turn down the volume. A motion passed by the City’s safety and security portfolio committee, called for an amendment to the current by-law to allow city officials to impound sound equipment of noisy pubs, clubs and restaurants.
Mayco member for safety and security, JP Smith said the reasons for the amendment was that up till now city officials could only issue fines. Mr Smith said residents who experienced sleepless nights due to noise emanating from city centre establishments were required to fill in affidavits and submit them to the City’s health department. However, he said due to long, drawn out court processes this was not ideal and that City officials needed to be given additional powers to deal effectively with the situation. Mr Smith said currently there are three establishments in the CBD which are problematic and said officials had received hundreds of complaints from residents.
According to the motion, many of the complaints have dragged on for more than a year and “leads to hundreds of repeated noise complaints and angry frustrated residents across the city who blame the City and the South African Police Service for not being able to bring repeated offenders to book”. Hilda Borman, supervisor of the St Martini Gardens residential block in Queen Victoria Street said she received many noise complaints from residents in the building. “Some of the owners have installed double glazing, others try to sleep with earplugs, but this has hardly any effect at all. I often report the noise to the police. Sometimes they do react to the complaint and the noise is quickly attended to, but not always. I would like to suggest that events rather be held on the Parade or at the stadium,” she said.
Siranne Ungerer, operations manager of the Urban Chic Boutique Hotel, said she would support the proposed amendment as she hoped it would improve the quality of sleep for residents and tourists, and that clubs, pubs and restaurants would “know that there are very real consequences for the businesses should they not obey the law”. “We are a boutique hotel, and while it doesn’t affect my daily living directly, it does adversely affect the sleep quality of the international and local tourists that have booked rooms in our establishment. “We have had situations where music was so loud that the beds our guests were sleeping on vibrated. We have had to supply ear-plugs our guests on many occasions, which only block out about 20% of the sound and are uncomfortable to sleep with,” she said. “For years we received no feedback and no consequences were laid out to the establishments. This year we are seeing an improvement, one establishment has received three fines since January and another has been summoned and has been instructed to install sound proofing.”
A Loop Street resident who asked not to be named said she had continuous problems. “When I moved into my city flat in 2003, noise from night clubs was not a problem. Now it is a problem on most nights of the week. It is often thought that party noise occurs just on Fridays and Saturdays, but that is not the case, as it can occur every single day of the week. And it is this constant noise nuisance that makes it such a problem. “Over the past few years I have found my self becoming more and more irritable. My temper flares quickly, and when there is noise I can hardly control my anger. During the day I find myself worrying about possible noise in the evening and instead of looking forward to quiet time at home, I dread it. I have difficulty sleeping and often wait till after 2am – when the clubs close–to go to bed. But it is not just sleep that is affected. It is also the normal living that is affected,” she said. She said reporting noisy clubs to the authorities didn’t seem to resolve the issue as “authorities don’t have any real authority”. She told the CapeTowner of phone calls she made to the police, the Central City Improvement District (CCID) and the City’s noise inspectors but it did not achieve any results.
Mr Smith said many aspects needed to be taken into consideration when looking at noise pollution. He said the responsibility is on residents and developers of residential blocks. “I would not support a resident who moved into Long Street and then complained about noise,” Mr Smith said. However, he said, in cases where a resident had been living in a particular area for several years and a new club opened and caused a nuisance, the City would need to intervene.
Christiane De Villiers has been living in an apartment in Long Street for 13 years. In November last year she spoke to the CapeTowner about her grievances about a bar which opened below her flat (“Long Street noise ‘too much’”, November 4). When asked whether she supported the proposed amendment Mrs De Villiers said: “I hope that it will make club owners more aware of the residents’ needs and rights and that they take this into consideration. It seems punitive action is the only reasoning that will be understood, fines are just built into the clubs’ budgets”.
Piers Allen who has been living in Long Street for more than 15 years said the quality of life had plummeted in recent years. “This is due to the noise and repercussions of having so many late-night drinking establishments in Long Street. People-traffic and vehicular-traffic has become enormous; party buses go by at 11pm, and later, passengers whooping and screaming, booster amplifiers making every window in my building reverberate to their awful clamour,” he said.
However, Vusa Mazula owner of Zula Sound Bar said he believed the city needed to consult all parties including clubs before the amendment could be added. He said he understood the grievances of residents but said he thought all parties should come together to discuss the logistics of the area. He said he agreed that developers who intend building residential blocks or hotels in the area should ensure that the windows of their buildings are double-glazed. Mr Mazula said he would be sure to comment when the amendment came up for public participation.
Byron Qually, convenor of the Long Street Residents’ Association (LSRA) said while he supported the proposed amendment, his concern with noise pollution in the CBD was the state of the City Health Department which seems to be understaffed and out-of-sync with the rate of development in the city. He said businesses were obliged to soundproof their premises before an Entertainment License can be issued. “When a concern is reported, the health department’s assembling of a team to take a noise reading on a specific night seems ill conceived. This testing methodology relies on chance, and as has been experienced, the bars/clubs know in advance about the testing, and just change their behaviour on the designated evening. “The use of a data logger which records audio levels over a longer period (months) seems more appropriate,” he said.
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