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  • Andrew Waller

Whisper it softly—it's quieter, Noise Pages records show


(See correction in 3rd paragraph, 31/01/2020)

This academic year has so far been quieter than the previous one, according to analysis of complaint emails sent to The Noise Pages.

Although the total number of incidents logged in the autumn term was almost the same as a year ago—52, compared with 53—the latest figure encompassed reports from a wider area, reflecting increasing interest in the website over the past 12 months. Several Clifton residents sent in reports this time round.

The quieter trend is obvious in figures for the Chandos area, which has the biggest concentration of students. Its total incidents dropped to 23 from 29. To the west of Hampton Road, the Ashgrove Road area produced no reports at all, compared with 6 at the same point a year ago. (Correction: Chandos total reduced to 23 from 24; Waverley/Ravenswood raised by 1. Chart corrected.)

Breaking down the overall total by type of incident rather than location shows parties down to 25 from 31, with a shift to more reports of street noise (usually by unidentifiable people) as well as general noise—anything that isn’t a party or street noise but is associated with an address. This last category includes “noisy neighbours” who cause repeated disturbances.

Emails sent to The Noise Pages are typically copies of complaints sent to the universities. So far this year, all complaints sent to the website have related to students with the University of Bristol.

Students with the University of the West of England are relatively thin on the ground in this part of Bristol, and accounted for only 4 out of a total of 95 incidents in the whole of 2018-19. (Ironically, two of those reports related to a house in Alexandra Park, at the end of Chandos Road; the house has been cited again this year—this time occupied by students with UoB.)

Identifying reasons for the quieter trend isn’t easy. One candidate is Operation Beech, the UoB-funded tie-up with Avon and Somerset Police, which provided for two officers tasked specifically to noise incidents to be available on selected nights during the term. For the first month or so (normally the noisiest period), the officers were on duty from 8pm to 2am on Wednesday, Friday and Saturday nights. Residents were asked to text a dedicated mobile phone number.

Comment: Beech generally got good reviews from residents who called for intervention, but was chiefly focused on parties. Officers expressed some surprise that they were receiving fewer calls than expected, which can now be seen as consistent with the overall decrease in party complaints shown by the figures above.

Was it coincidence that parties declined just as Beech arrived on the scene? Or did Beech, by its very existence, help to persuade students to take noise issues seriously—possibly even dissuading some from holding parties at all? If the latter, then it has at the very least met expectations, and may even have exceeded them.

  • Normally when presenting noise statistics I give priority to those from the University of Bristol. Most complaints go directly to UoB, so its database is the most representative (probably twice as large as the website’s and more likely to record incidents in Clifton and other western areas). This year the numbers provided by UoB are in a different format from those supplied previously and therefore are not directly comparable with previous-year data. I will update the UoB charts if and when I can obtain comparable data.

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