From the CapeTowner, by Monique Duval, 10th December 2010
Monique Duval conducted an email interview with executive director for the City’s health department, Dr Ivan Bromfield, about noise pollution.
Q. What is considered a noise nuisance?
A. Noise nuisance means any sound which disturbs or impairs or may disturb or impair the convenience or peace of any person as defined in the Noise Control Regulations.
Q. What are the legal requirements for establishments which wish to play loud music, for instance a club?
A. Any pub, club or restaurant intending to provide entertainment, must apply for a Place of Entertainment Licence. One of the requirements of City Health for issuing a Place of Entertainment Licence, is that the premises must be adequately soundproofed.
Q. Who is responsible for ensuring that these requirements are met?
A. The City’s Health Department ensures requirements are met before an Entertainment Licence can be issued.
Q. Do bars which don’t have DJs or live bands playing have to soundproof their premises?
A. If no entertainment licence is required, then no soundproofing can be called for by the City unless changes are made to existing facilities.
Q. What is a noise exemption permit and what does it allow?
A. The Noise Control Regulations allow for noisy events to take place by means of first applying for an exemption from the Noise Control Regulations for the duration of the event. Applications for such exemptions are considered by City Health and the granting of such noise exemptions is based upon careful consideration and is granted for limited periods only. A noise exemption temporarily lifts the restrictions on noise so that such events can take place legally.
Q. What criteria needs to be met before a noise exemption permit can be issued?
A. The tolerance for noise from events varies from community to community. The day of the week, cut-off time as well as the nature, footprint and profile of the event would affect what would be considered acceptable. Generally the City is guided by the results of the written comments it receives during the public participation process that the event organiser is required to embark upon, before any application for a noise exemption would be considered. In order to make it possible to host outdoor events, the Noise Control Regulations allow for the issue of a noise exemption so that the limitations on noise levels are temporarily lifted. During this permitted period, noise levels are not normally measured.
Q. What is the maximum time limit for a noise exemption permit?
A. The maximum time limit (cut-off time) applied for, is considered and finally approved by City Health. There is no standing cut-off time applicable to events, however, City Health may impose a cut-off time depending on what is considered reasonable for a particular neighbourhood or event.
Q. Who is responsible for responding to a noise complaint?
A. Depending on the type of noise concerned and where it occurs, City Health, City Law Enforcement as well as South African Police Services (SAPS) may be responsible.
Q. What are officers expected to do?
A. City Health will assess the noise in terms of the Noise Control Regulations for transgression of the noise limitations, and take action, e.g.. a notice, a fine or a summons to court. Law Enforcement or SAPS officers are also able to act against offenders.
Q. In what instance would a fine be issued?
A. Violations of the Noise Control Regulations may result in a fine as determined by a Magistrate. In the event of someone exceeding the ambient noise levels by more than seven decibels (A scale), a “disturbance” would have been caused and the City could take appropriate action. A lesser noise can be acted upon as a noise nuisance whereby affidavits would be required. Violations in terms of the Public Nuisances By-law can invoke fines by the City’s Law Enforcement.
Q. What is the maximum fine that can be issued?
A. Should any person be found guilty of perpetrating a noise nuisance in court a maximum fine of R20 000 or two years imprisonment may be imposed by the magistrate.
Q. Who should residents and businesses call to lay a complaint?
A. Should any residents perceive noise emanating from places of entertainment or any other source, as a noise nuisance or a disturbance, they may submit affidavits that describe the noise nuisance to the nearest environmental health office or to the City’s Health Department’s specialised services and be prepared to provide evidence in court. They can call specialised services on 021 400 3781. Complaints can also be lodged at the Metro Police all hours call centre by calling 021 596 1999. Once such affidavits are received, the local environmental health practitioner will be able to facilitate legal action with assistance from the City’s prosecutor.
Q. Can the City shut down a business if complaints are received, or what are the processes that need to be followed before a place can be shut down based on noise complaints or non-compliance?
A. The City cannot simply close down a business without having gone through the correct legal processes, which include serving notices. The court will decide on whether the business should be closed down or what measures should be taken.
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