Northern Lights: Unintended thoughtlessness that affects others’ lives and health

Wigan Council received hundreds of noise complaints last year
Wigan Council received hundreds of noise complaints last year

Earlier this year I wrote in this column about the development with the two universities and the Foundation Trust, of a vision strategy for South Yorkshire, which would underpin the development of devolved powers and some limited resources from government, to what has become known as the City Region. That strategy alongside the State of Sheffield report was published in February and much has happened since.

For instance, under considerable pressure, Chesterfield and Bassetlaw boroughs have pulled out of the formal devolution proposal which remains on the table – as does the cash which could, and might still be accessed in this financial year.

Local government has been so denuded of funds that functioning environmental health and related nuisance action has been reduced to real emergencies

However, the machinations which have taken place and the complexity behind why decisions long expected have not yet been made, would not make comforting reading for those who have or who are about to start their holiday.

Instead, to write about one of my obsessions – low-level, and unintended antisocial behaviour.

Many moons ago, too many to remember, I wrote about this subject locally. It seemed to hit a nerve.

The behaviour I’m referring to is not someone deliberately going out to make someone else’s life a misery. It is not a brick through a window, a deeply scratched car, drunken louts or those off their head on drugs marauding the streets. No, this is much more subtle, unintended thoughtlessness, mostly carried out by highly respectable individuals who in other guises would be horrified to believe that they were behaving in an unacceptable fashion or making someone else’s life a misery.

The worst and most offensive is noise. Noise through party walls in terraced or semi-detached housing. Upper flats with a television blaring out or a sound system that blasts the block.

Sometimes with those where age has brought on the onset of deafness, it’s just literally turning up the telly to the point where neighbours only need the visuals because they can hear the sound coming through the floor or the walls next door.

It is in essence, imposing a lifestyle on someone else without intending to cause offence or disruption but in doing so, can change the life and sometimes the health of those next door.

As I know from many years ago, you can end up listening for sound even when it’s not there, as you get so accustomed to endeavouring to sleep through someone else’s late-night entertainment. They do not intend that you should have to join in but in reality you are living alongside their choice of music, time for bed and rhythm of life.

But there are those with even less intention of causing irritation and therefore stress to their neighbours. They fall into two categories:

The first are obsessive gardeners...the people who just feel that they must light a fire on a regular basis and usually when the sun is out, washing is out, and windows are open!

There are, as with noise, laws. The problem is that there is no way in which the police are going to get involved with neighbour nuisance unless it involves grievous bodily harm!

Local government has been so denuded of funds that functioning environmental health and related nuisance action has been reduced to real emergencies and certainly not out of normal working hours.

A second category of the kind and pleasant neighbour are those gardening and recycling habits that involve either buying or borrowing the most powerful strimmers with engines which if used in a factory, would breach health and safety law.

We have suppressors for those working on our streets (and earmuffs), but the once gentle sound of an old-fashioned mower have long been replaced by something akin to having your head drilled.

Alongside them are those feeding wood chippers with branches or even tree trunks, reducing to usable chips what otherwise (yes you guessed it) would end up on the garden fire!

Honestly, you simply can’t win. The environmentalists end up precisely where I started – with noise nuisance!

So, before anyone describes me as a miserable killjoy, I ask only one thing. Please try and endeavour to undertake foul-smelling fires, noisy equipment or the use of ghetto blasters, at a time and in circumstances where least damage is likely to be done to the health and well-being of those living around you.

I don’t always get it right. We all make mistakes but those who do so regularly, may be blissfully unaware of the hurt they are causing to others. Have a good summer!