Noise complaints against students dropped slightly in 2018-19, according to University of Bristol figures presented at a meeting with residents in July.
Total noise incidents fell 6% to 205 in the year to June, compared with 218 the previous year. However, numbers for the two main categories of noise went in different directions. While complaints about parties fell 24% to 78, that improvement was partly offset by a continued rise in general-noise incidents, up 9% at 127 cases (see chart on this page).
As last year, more than half of all party complaints came from Redland, but the tally dropped to 43 from 60 a year earlier. Why the drop? No official reason has been offered. The minutes of the UoB community liaison meeting where the figures were revealed note that Redland was the main target of the Operation Beech police patrols. But in fact the drop in parties was already evident in figures released in December for the first academic term. The two-week trial of Operation Beech didn’t happen until June, so this is unlikely to explain the decline. One factor could be a wave of publicity last October for the university’s new fines and penalties, as well as coverage of the creation of The Noise Pages; however, those possibilities are unproven.
Noise was by far the biggest category of complaints. Other issues included waste recycling and anti-social behaviour. The university had some success with recycling problems; complaints there fell to 36 and have almost halved since 2016-17.
In response to complaints (all categories), 91 student households were called to a disciplinary meeting with UoB’s Community Liaison Manager. It’s likely that most of these were complaints about parties (total, 78); previous meetings have been told that party complaints routinely result in a disciplinary meeting.
Ten households were fined up to £150 per person, 15 households were required to attend an anti-social behaviour “impact awareness” course at a cost of £50 per person, and 27 households were required to write a letter of apology to residents who complained. (There could be some overlap between these three groups.)
Five cases were escalated to higher levels of the disciplinary system, including one which went to the pro-vice-chancellor, the top level. We don’t know which complaint this was (or even whether it was a noise complaint), because the university doesn’t disclose what happened in individual cases, citing data-privacy rules. (Many residents think its procedures would have more credibility if we were told the level of penalty applied to specific incidents; that information could be provided without revealing the identities of the students involved.)
The total number of students contacted by the university following complaints was 1,331 (down from 1,776 the year before). That represents 7% of all students living outside halls (9.6% last year).
Of the 1,331 who attracted complaints, the largest segment, 796, or 60%, were second-year students. These typically are renting private accommodation for the first time, having lived in halls during their first year at university.
The report also revealed the extent of cooperation between the university and the Neighbourhood Enforcement Team at Bristol City Council. It says, “At least 4 planned parties were deterred by NET intervention.” These are understood to be instances where residents became aware in advance that a party was likely to be held, and raised concern with the university. Under a joint protocol with the NET, the university passes information to the council team, which may contact the students to warn them of possible consequences if the event attracts complaints on the night.
A second scenario relates to complaints by residents of persistent noise from a particular student household, usually their next-door neighbours. The Community Liaison Manager, Joni Lloyd, told the meeting NET officers were in a better position than her to evaluate these kinds of complaints. The minutes record that 10 complainants were referred to the council, resulting in warnings and other action. Five student households were issued with noise abatement notices and one was issued with CPNW notices (community protection notice warnings). The latter are served under the Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014.
The university plans to continue with its “impact awareness” courses, which students can be required to attend at a cost of £50 each. These were introduced last October and are run by the charity Victim Support. After evaluating feedback from both facilitators and students who have attended, the courses have been adapted and the name, formerly “anti-social behaviour impact awareness course", is being changed to “community impact awareness course”.