Today we have lodged our response to Defra to their Consultation on the Code of Practice on Noise from Ice-Cream Van Chimes, Etc., 1982.
While the Society welcomed the opportunity to respond to the consultation, we were extremely surprised and concerned not to have our views sought during the pre-consultation process described in section 2.13 of the Consultation Document. As the UK’s only registered Charity who’s sole remit is to find solutions to noise pollution problems, we were at a loss to understand how a reasonable review of “noise stakeholders” could not have included the NAS.
We also expressed our concern that Paragraph 2.13 of the Consultation Document is prejudicial, referring to “initial discussions with noise stakeholders that suggest that they are not overly concerned by a relaxation of the Code”. Government should not prejudge the positions of stakeholders on the basis of cursory discussions in which people may be reserving their positions in the context of Prime Ministerial comments which may themselves be considered prejudicial.
We also fail to understand how a consultation on adding more noise into sensitive environments benefits anyone or is aligned with any of the principles, aims or objectives of the Government’s Noise Policy Statement for England.
The NAS would like to go on record to clearly state that it does not support the view of other “noise stakeholders”, as stated in Section 2.13 of the Consultation Document, of being “not overly concerned by the relaxation of the Code”. The exact opposite is true.
The use of chimes in public streets is a form of aggressive selling and noise pollution that would not be countenanced for other industries. It abuses and seeks to bypass the relationship between children and their parents/guardians, exploiting the ‘pester power’ of children.
It is especially irresponsible to encourage such selling practices of ‘fast food’ and sugary treats for children. Parents may be concerned at child obesity, encouraging healthy eating and may want to protect their children from aggressive selling and the attendant peer pressure from other children. People can usually get ice cream from plenty of other outlets, including convenience shops and supermarkets, which do not use inane noise pollution to force their attention on citizens who have a basic human right to peace and quiet in their own homes.
As has been well documented in numerous studies, noise can cause annoyance and fatigue, interfere with communication and sleep, reduce efficiency and damage hearing. Long undisputed by practitioners and underpinned by the World Health Organisation in its report Burden of disease from environmental noise, quantification of healthy life years lost in Europe (World Health Organization 2011, www.euro.who.int), “the health impacts of noise are a growing concern among both the general public and policy-makers in Europe”.
The WHO report presents a summary of “synthesized reviews of evidence on the relationship between environmental noise and specific health effects, including cardiovascular disease, cognitive impairment, sleep disturbance and tinnitus”.
It shows that “with conservative assumptions applied to the calculation methods, estimated DALYs lost from environmental noise were 61 000 years for ischaemic heart disease, 45 000 years for cognitive impairment of children, 903 000 years for sleep disturbance, 22 000 years for tinnitus and 587 000 years for annoyance in the European Union Member States and other western European countries”.
Callers to the NAS’ National Noise Helpline give a human voice to these findings with their appeals for help heard on a daily basis:
‘Ever since we moved in my life has been hell. I don’t want to go home sometimes but there’s nowhere else to go.’
‘I am a prisoner in my own home because of noise.’
‘I can no longer tolerate the noise. I have not slept properly in weeks.’
It is not unusual for highly distressed callers to the Helpline to cry on the phone.
It is against this backdrop of our own experience, those of the callers to our helpline and the considerable evidence as to the adverse health effects of noise pollution, that it is NAS’ strong view that given the many disturbances that residents are already required to put up with in the built environment, there is no justifiable reason to encourage unnecessary noise disturbance in order to encourage unhealthy eating practices amongst the young and the attendant health risks this will engender later in life.