At this evening's Council Meeting, RA Councillor John Beckett refused to agree to any monitoring of the noise around the Chalk Pit and admitted he did not really understand what would be deemed a Statutory Nuisance that would enable the Council to serve an abatement notice on the site. This complacent approach arose in reply to LibDem Councillor David Gulland's Supplementary Question on the matter (his original Question and the written response from Councillor Beckett can be read on the Council's website at https://bit.ly/3UJJxkD).
David was prevented by "purdah" rules from making his full statement supporting his question but we reproduce what he intended to say here:
"I am disappointed, despondent, frustrated and frankly furious, with this reply. And I'm not alone, many residents having emailed me over the last few days with their comments on its content, with video clips of early morning clangs and clashes coming from this site. I'm happy to share these with you if you wish.
Before asking my supplemental question I need to deal with some issues in Councillor Beckett's reply.
In the first paragraph there is a description of past actions that have been taken. Although welcome, these are the bare minimum expected and have clearly not been effective in stopping what residents, and legal professionals, consider statutory nuisance.
In the second paragraph you seek to convey the impression that because complaints have declined things are getting better. They are not. The reason residents have reduced their frequency of complaints is that they have lost all confidence with this Council and its lack of action. I quote from a couple of emails received in the last few days:
1) "I've given up complaining half the time as there has been no action taken", and
2) "...please can you point out that the majority who have complained since summer 2020 are fed up complaining as their complaints and detail provided to date have been ignored", and:
3) "..It was at this point that I started dis-engaging as it was so frustrating not to be believed and I realised EEBC would do nothing.",
It is also worth noting that the long, wet winter is likely to have reduced activity on the site, leading to lower level of complaints. In any event, it should not be the volume of complaints that matters - I understand that in other Councils, abatement notices have been issued based on single or just a handful of complaints. So, the issue is still live and important.
The third paragraph describes some historic monitoring by the Council. The results of this beggar belief in the light of the huge amount of more up-to-date videos and audio clips collected by residents - often at ungodly hours in the morning.
It is the fourth and fifth paragraphs that have really caused residents' blood to boil with the patronising comments such as "the noise from the site…might be considered annoying..." I would challenge any officer, or other Councillor, to swap homes with any of the affected residents for a month and see whether they would still consider the noise "annoying" rather than soul-destroying and health-affecting. For example, the reply mentions that one factor in determining whether noise is statutory nuisance is the time of day when it occurs. Since residents have reported frequent crashes before 7am surely that time of day would be a statutory nuisance?
These paragraphs also fail to set out what the Council WOULD consider statutory nuisance, as I requested. Council officers, both past and present, HAVE indicated that the current level and frequency of noise would satisfy the requirements to be statutory nuisance and for an abatement notice to be issued. For example, in August 2021 such a statement was made by an officer to residents. Further it is evident that many other Councils do act - often on far less serious cases such as a violin practising or a rooster crowing. Maybe those Councils are more willing to stand up for their residents than here at "Skip & Trommel Borough Council".
I also understand that this Council has obtained legal Counsel's advice on the Chalk Pit situation and has been given thresholds of evidence which if met would support an abatement notice on the whole site. It is extremely disappointing that the substance of that advice has not been shared with affected Councillors or residents.
So, my supplemental question, is as follows:
"In order to carry out the Council's duty of care to its residents, including its statutory duty under the Environmental Protection Act, and given:
(a) the willingness of other Councils to issue abatement notices for less extreme cases than exist for the Chalk Pit,
(b) the past indication by officers that the situation is one of statutory nuisance,
(c) the advice received from legal Counsel, and
(d) the continued evidence provided by residents of the extreme noise being experienced,
will the Council commit to implementing a dedicated team for a clearly defined period of time, such as a continuous month, to seek to gather the evidence required to meet the thresholds given by legal Counsel to enable an abatement notice to be issued to the whole site? And if not, why not."