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► Rokeby, 16 Mar: Police, ambulance called to party that residents tried to stop

Updated: Sep 18, 2020

(18074) Party attended by 150-plus guests with beat music and noise from people in garden on night of Fri/Sat, 15/16 March, 2019. Event held despite efforts to curtail or stop it: Residents raised concerns with students and notified university, police and council.

* Council issued pre-emptive noise abatement notice * Police intervened on night, and music was turned down, for a time

* Paramedics and ambulance attended to remove ill student.

(Article updated 20/03/2019 with residents' comments and minor additions and amendments. Correction, 21/08/2019: Date in first paragraph corrected--March, not February.)

The house is a large semi with a small forecourt and a rear garden reached by a narrow side path. It is the only student house in Rokeby Avenue. The students circulated a notice to neighbours giving several days’ notice of their party plans. Residents in Montrose Avenue, whose houses back on to Rokeby, immediately expressed concern that the event would be inappropriate.

One of these residents contacted me and others for help. I advised her as to various steps she could take to try to get the party stopped or curtailed. Cotham councillor Anthony Negus also took action, and the University of Bristol was alerted; it notified the Neighbourhood Enforcement department at Bristol City Council. The local police were also informed (and reportedly visited the students beforehand).

I saw this case as a useful test of how the public agencies would respond, so decided to monitor the event myself:

22:10 Parked in street. Quiet. No sign of activity.

-- A few people turn up in small groups.

22:50 Beat music noticeable, but at low volume.

23:07 Music turned up; cumulative arrivals now at 22

23:30 Arrivals now at 34

23:50 Arrivals now at 60

00:00 Arrivals now at 87

00:07 Arrivals now at 107; 11 people leave a short while later

00:15 I leave Rokeby to check sound levels in Montrose Avenue, at the back. At the point nearest the rear of the party house, the beat music is very evident, as is noise from people in the garden.

00:30 Back in Rokeby. Further 40 people arrive, taking cumulative total now to 136. Girl, arriving, squats beside cars on forecourt of neighbouring house to urinate.

00:45 Arrivals now at 152

01:00 Arrivals now 165; I meet a resident on the street. She is from Montrose and knows about the discussions in the lead-up to the event. She is taking a sound measurement using the Noise App. We talk for a few minutes. Another 5 people turn up; arrivals now 170. (I state attendance at “150-plus” to allow for the possibility that a few people left while I was in Montrose Avenue.)

-- The volume of the beat music is now stable: moderately high but potentially disruptive. The flow of people peters out and I stop counting. I return to my car and continue to monitor from the top of the street.

02:00 A police car pulls into Rokeby. Two officers go to the house and speak to the students. I talk to the officers when they return. The female officer says she has asked the students to turn the music down (they have, quite noticeably) and ensure guests are inside. She’s aware the council have served a notice, but neither of us knows how, or if, that will be followed up. (I have not seen any council staff in the street.) I also say I’m concerned there will be more noise when the party ends: I reckon about a dozen Ubers brought people to the address; presumably there will the same number on departure. The officer says they may check back later.

-- No change in the interim. The music remains at a relatively low level

02:30 The police car returns and makes three slow passes up and down the street, stopping near the house, presumably so the officers can check the noise. Eventually they leave without further intervention. At this point, the noise level is roughly where it was when they last left, so they may be satisfied that the agreement to reduce noise is being kept.

-- Over the next hour, the music volume creeps back up. Little activity in street

03:15 A paramedic response car stops outside the house, followed five minutes later by an ambulance. The crews, four in all, briefly look at a man who was vomiting on the forecourt, but it turns out they have been called to an incident in the back garden. A student is eventually stretchered out, looking motionless and with a breathing mask in place. However, there is no sign from the accompanying students that suggests undue alarm or distress. I note while watching this from the opposite pavement that there is no interruption to the party, and the beat music from the house has risen quite significantly. However, some people are now leaving.

03:45 (Time corrected) The paramedics and ambulance (with patient) leave the street about 20-30 minutes after they arrived. Noise level continues to be elevated. Not much activity in the street, though occasionally a taxi or Uber shows up to collect departures.

04:00 I make a final check of noise levels from the pavement opposite the house. The noise now seems little different from before the police intervention. Although some people have left, and a few are still leaving, it seems likely there are still quite a lot of people at the house. A female voice calls loud goodbyes in the street to someone leaving by taxi. I depart a few minutes later.

(20/03/2019: Updated below with comments from residents, in the order they were received. Several have complained to the University of Bristol, which has since called the students to a disciplinary meeting.)

Resident 1 (Montrose Avenue): Raised concerns, on behalf of herself and others, before the event. Contact was made with both the university and the police. Several people spoke directly to the students, but hopeful signs that the event would be downgraded were not sustained. She eventually arranged to sleep elsewhere, as did other residents.

Resident 2 (Montrose Avenue): "I went to bed before the party kicked off and, because I sleep on the Montrose Ave side of the house (and because I’ve invested in sound-proofed secondary glazing), it didn’t wake me. I was up early this morning and could hear the music but I’d say it was nowhere near the levels of the party at 70 Waverley Road (at the bottom of our street), in March last year—which is not to endorse it: It was still far too loud."

Resident 3: Circulated a message addressed to the property agents, who visited the house shortly before the party: "I am astonished to hear that your visit at 9pm last night caused no alarm, as from 6pm onwards some serious heavy-duty music equipment was being set up, as well as lighting equipment and makeshift screens, mattresses and duvets being put up across the windows—it was very clear at that stage that preparations for a large party were under way.

"Other than primarily the welfare of the young person who required emergency medical attention at 3.30am, our greatest concern is your tenants’ blatant disregard for their neighbours and the relevant authorities who made it clear the party was not to proceed. If appropriate action is not taken by you and the relevant authorities, they will feel they can just get away with it and will continue with such unacceptable anti-social and dangerous behaviour.

"This is not the first time these residents have had a party which has resulted in the need to complain and speak to them the next morning, but this was by far the worst ..."

Resident 4 (Rokeby Avenue): "The 'party' started at 10.00 p.m and ended around 6.00 a.m. although there were still stragglers in the garden and hanging around outside until later that morning. The music was very loud, my partner and I could not sleep. There were groups of people in the road creating more noise.

"This was not a party, it was a rave event with a sound system ... A note from the organisers sent earlier in the week stated that 'we are very excited to be hosting such an event with a brilliant sponsor like Bumble.' Bumble is a dating and business networking site that targets university campuses. A neighbour told me that one of the residents of [x] Rokeby Avenue works for Bumble."

Resident 5 (Rokeby Avenue): "I can confirm that our worst fears were realised despite the assurances of the students about 'scaling down' the party. The noise was significant and disturbed the sleep of myself and my family. The party went on until 0530/0600hrs on Saturday morning. The police attended at one point and the music was turned down briefly. Inevitably after the police had departed the music was turned back up again."

Resident 6: Says in her complaint to UoB: "Local residents were concerned, yes, about the potential noise but also about risk assessment re health and safety and fire concerns due to the large numbers of people in the house, which is not a professional venue with public liability and insurance for commercial gatherings.

"The neighbours with two young children immediately adjacent had to move elsewhere for the night as we had all experienced a very noisy party several months ago from this same house ... Neighbours at the top of the road were also kept awake, which is an indication of how loud the music was.

"There should be zero tolerance for this type of anti-social behaviour. Noise is one thing but the welfare of all the local community and the guests at the party are paramount."

Resident 7: "Generally it wasn’t too bad ... I think probably because we all made such a concerted effort! One of my daughters was woken quite early in the morning (6ish) & I could hear it all clearly at the back of the house, but it could have been worse!"


Comment: (Updated) This was an unacceptably loud, late, large party, even though it was perhaps not as loud as some originally feared—some of the comments above reflect that, as did the lady I met on the street at 1am taking noise readings. It was a wet, windy night, which might have masked the party noise to some extent for some residents, though not those closest to the property.

But by any measure, there is a lot to be concerned about here. The number of people at the house (up to 170 by my count) raises safety issues. The advertised "sponsorship"—whatever that means—by Bumble, a student networking platform, potentially raises questions as to whether entertainment-licensing laws were broken. And the students' refusal to heed warnings in advance from the university, police, council and managing agents, plus the police visit on the night, clearly demonstrate the inadequacy of current prevention and enforcement.

Plenty of disturbance, in terms of anxiety, time and effort, had already been caused even before the event started. Some residents tried to reach an accommodation with the students, as well as alerting the authorities. These efforts, and the official responses both before and after the event, have consumed time and energy for a long list of people. When the efforts failed, some residents made arrangements to sleep elsewhere. In my view, those who felt the need to change their sleeping arrangements (whether moving to another property, or to a spare room) have as much ground for complaint as those who had to stay put and were kept awake. AW


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