Published: 11:00, 30 November 2017
Campaigners working to save the traditional night-time clock chimes at St Peter’s Church in Sandwich have announced they will not pursue an appeal.
Dover District Council served a noise abatement notice to owners the Churches Conservation Trust (CCT) ordering them to silence or muffle the four-times-an-hour chimes between 11pm and 7am excluding on Christmas Eve and New Year’s Eve.
It comes after the authority carried out decibel tests after a complaint from a neighbour about the noise created by the clock, which was installed in 1887.
Despite an increase in signatures to 4,000 on a petition, the Save The Chimes group say they are not planning to lodge an appeal due to the costs and low chances of success.
Campaign leader Carole George said: “It is our belief that currently there is no legal basis to appeal and we do not feel that Sandwich people should be asked to contribute to a fund without there being a realistic chance of winning.”
But members continue to work with Sandwich MP Craig Mackinlay who has sent letters to the appropriate ministers in the hope “common sense will prevail.”
Mr Mackinlay said: “The issue regarding St Peter’s Church in Sandwich is one that arguably should never have reached this stage.
“I have met representatives of the Save the Chimes campaigning group and am making enquiries, both within the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) and DEFRA, as to the veracity of the guidance issued to local authorities by the then Secretary of State at DCLG, Sir Eric Pickles, published in February 2015.
“The guidance was designed to give common-sense guidance to this very position.
“I had urged Dover District Council to undertake more noise testing to be absolutely sure that any further action would be soundly based. I also asked for a brief reprieve while guidance from DCLG could be sought and clarified.
“Unfortunately DDC ignored my suggestions and have now issued a legally binding noise abatement notice. I remain hopeful that commonsense can still prevail.”
The campaigners feel it is not their responsibility to seek a solution for the options stated in the abatement order, to silence or muffle the chimes.
They have called on Sandwich Town Council to host a public meeting to gather the views of residents on these options.
It is understood it will cost about £2,000 to turn the chimes off or £4,000 to insert a muffling device. Either one of these measures must be implemented within 90 days of the order being made.
The Mayor of Sandwich, Cllr Paul Graeme, said: “There is already £900 offered from the complainant, £500 from Kent County Council’s Sue Chandler and both Dover District Council and the CCT have indicated they may have some small pots of money to contribute.
“Sandwich Town Council will continue to support in any way it can.”
A spokesman for CCT said: "The CCT supports and respects local traditions, and has no intention or desire to change the long established tradition of the chiming clock at St Peter’s Church against the will of the local community.
"However, we have been served with an abatement notice under the Environmental Protection Act as owners of the building and clock, to silence the chimes during night time hours.
"As a national charity which cares for 352 historic churches across England, we do not have the funds or resources to pursue an appeal. However, if we receive a clear mandate from the community that they will fundraise to cover the costs of an appeal, we will take it forward."
A DDC spokesman said: “We can confirm that a decision has been taken to serve a Noise Abatement Notice under the Environmental Protection Act 1990 with regard to church bells at St Peter’s Church in Sandwich."
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