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Single complaint forces council to investigate noise from St Peter's church clock in Sandwich

By Eleanor Perkins

Decibel tests are to be taken on the centuries-old clock chimes at St Peter’s church because of a single complaint from a neighbour.

The tower of the Grade 1 listed building rings out the time every quarter hour throughout the day and night but it’s become too much for one resident.

The mystery objector, who is believed to live in St Peter’s Street, has called for Dover District Council to investigate the noise level which it is obliged to do. Tests will be conducted at night.

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St Peter's Church clock chimes quarterly

St Peter's Church clock chimes quarterly

However, Sandwich Town Council says it will resist any attempt to silence the chimes.

Sandwich Local History Society and The Sandwich Society have conducted a survey which found that 85% of 277 people living in close proximity to the church do not want to end the tradition. 

Only 15% said they would prefer for it to be silenced during the night.
 
The societies’ chairman John Hennessy who presented the survey to the town clerk Laura Fidler last week to be passed on to Dover District Council, said: “We’ve had lots of people upset about it [stopping].
“A lot of people in the town find it comforting and say it’s part of the ambiance of the town.
 
“People enjoy it. It’s quaint. It’s like going to the seaside and complaining about the seagulls, or going out to the country and complaining about the farm animals. If you don’t like it, you don’t go there.
 
“It’s part of our town’s heritage and we’d like it to remain.”
 
Chairman of Sandwich Local History Society John Hennessy with the survey sheet they distributed to people living in a close proximity to the clock

Chairman of Sandwich Local History Society John Hennessy with the survey sheet they distributed to people living in a close proximity to the clock

 
The complaint featured on the agenda at Sandwich Town Council’s full council meeting on Monday.
 
Although members chose to refrain from taking action until Dover District Council had revealed the results of its decibel test, they supported the tradition of the clock.
 
Cllr John Bragg said: “This makes me blood boil. Anything that is going to stop us for having a quarter hour strike is out of order.
 
“I would submit that a church clock striking at night is not noise. I think they’re on weak ground.
 
“It’s been there for centuries and it should keep going.”
 
Cllr MJ Holloway said: “Most cities and historic towns have chimes ringing. I agree that it is not noise.”
 
He gave the example of Big Ben, saying “Britain doesn’t go into shutdown mode overnight”.
 
Cllr Jeremy Watts questioned why the complainant had bought a house near a church.
 
 
Cllr Paul Carter compared the noise to that of motorcycles, which he claimed produced
noise pollution on the south side of the Sandwich every Wednesday night and which Dover District Council had failed to resolve.
 
He said: “Some of us have to put up with noise pollution from motorcycles. I’d rather have a church clock.”
 
The Mayor of Sandwich Cllr Paul Graeme said: “We should let Dover do their due diligence and when we know the outcome that’s the point when we really push for it.”
 
The church is under the care of the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT), the national charity protecting historic churches at risk. It is understood the clock has been the responsibility of the town council for the last 60 years.
 
A spokesman for Dover District Council said: “We are aware of this issue and officers are carrying out ongoing monitoring of noise levels.”
 

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