The Noise Pages records 53 incidents
With the help of residents, The Noise Pages recorded 53 student-noise incidents of various types in the August-December period, covering the first term of academic 2018-19.
Of these, 31 were house parties and 17 were other forms of noise associated with an identifiable address. The remaining 5 incidents involved street noise; typically these aren’t linked to a specific address and it often isn’t possible to say definitively that the people involved are students—indeed this category is massively under-reported for precisely these reasons.
Almost half of all incidents, 25, occurred in the Chandos area, defined as streets connected to Chandos Road. These broke down into 13 parties, 11 noise incidents and 1 case of street noise.
Removing the 5 street-noise incidents from the total of 53 leaves 48 incidents associated with an address. But 7 addresses appeared twice, so the total number of unique addresses in the database for this period is 41.
In the Chandos area, the number of unique addresses was 19. That’s 23%—almost a quarter—of the 84 HMOs (Houses of Multiple Occupation) shown on the Bristol pinpoint map for the streets in question.
Also striking was the number of times residents’ emails mentioned previous incidents at an address they were complaining about. Often the details were sketchy and these earlier incidents hadn’t led to formal complaints. There were 15 such reports. If we add the 7 cases that were listed as repeat incidents, it turns out 22 of the 41 unique addresses—more than half—were linked in some form to more than one disturbance. Which suggests the site’s incident list was not the work of trigger-happy residents looking for the first excuse to complain about unruly students. On the contrary, it appears many residents put up with a degree of noise before they were eventually moved to complain.
Indeed, the 53 incidents in the list probably represent significant under-reporting. I relied exclusively on residents’ reports for roughly half the list; I drew on my own observations for the other half, usually with residents’ reports in support. But no doubt many residents didn’t send me reports, at least until the website became better known. And my own postings were well short of the total number of candidates I jotted in my notebook as I walked around the district, usually on Friday nights. I count a couple of dozen “events” I never followed up, often because I focused on whatever seemed to be most disruptive at the time. So if we’d all been totally fixated on reporting noise, this list could easily have been twice as long.
The fact that it wasn’t is not a problem. It provided a representative sample of what’s actually happening (at least, if we ignore the under-reporting of street noise, which is a problem that doesn’t have easy solutions). More particularly, the reports brought forward many clear examples of the real impacts noise has on residents, told in their own words. I have been highlighting these on the website to bolster the case for better action from the university, the council and the police.
We should not forget landlords. Although I’ve removed house numbers from the published reports, I retain them in the (offline) noise database so we can identify addresses where repeat problems are being encountered. In the coming year, I want to push efforts to bring these cases to the landlords’ attention, with requests that they tighten up their supervision so that noise and other forms of anti-social behaviour are minimised. That is a legal duty for owners of licensed HMOs, which account for most of the properties cited in noise complaints.
The biggest noise event recorded was a house party in Waverley Road on 6 October. We don’t know how many people attended, but it may well have hit the 100 mark. The noise was off the scale. Next day I put leaflets through 50 letterboxes (eight of them student houses, so no reply expected but an excuse to get the message out). Over several days, 13 residents responded. The neighbourhood police followed up with a visit to the house, UoB called the students in for a disciplinary hearing (result unknown; it is never revealed) and a nearby resident wrote to the out-of-town landlord, who professed shock that her house was being used in this way. She said it was the first complaint she’d had in 14 years of ownership. But I’ll bet it wasn’t the first time that house had been a party venue.
This website’s complaints statistics aren’t directly comparable with those published by the University of Bristol. I’ve written about UoB’s latest report here.
For one thing, this website lists a few incidents involving students of the University of the West of England (UWE). However, there are some numbers we can compare:
UoB cites 17 party complaints and 42 noise complaints in “Redland”, which extends eastwards from Whiteladies Road and includes (from north to south) the Manor Park, Chandos Road and Waverley/Ravenswood areas. Filtering the Noise Pages database identifies 20 parties in Redland involving UoB students that resulted in complaints to the university—3 more than the UoB figures. There are several potential explanations, among them the fact that some students are appealing against UoB’s penalties, which means their cases weren’t counted in its recent report.
By contrast, the website recorded only 12 noise incidents in Redland involving UoB students that resulted in complaints—well short of the 42 cited by UoB, and with no obvious explanation.