Church bells in Kent silenced after neighbor files noise complaint

A district council in England has decided to silence the bells of an ancient church in Sandwich, Kent, after a neighbor complained about the noise this summer, but most the town's residents were against the decision.

(REUTERS / Jorge Silva)A man works in a bell tower of a colonial church in the neighborhood of Tlatelolco, in Mexico City, November 2004.

The bells of St. Peter's Church have rung every 15 minutes since 1779, but Dover District Council decided to implement a night-time noise abatement order after a neighbor filed a noise complaint. However, residents are fighting back as 85 percent of the town's population want the bells to continue ringing, BBC News detailed.

The council explained that it had a "statutory duty to investigate noise complaints." It then decided to silence the bells from 11:00 p.m. GMT to 7:00 a.m. the next day.

In the wake of the council's decision, at least 3,500 locals signed a petition to keep the church bells ringing. Save The Chimes campaign leader Carole George said the decision could harm the "traditions and history" of their town and pointed out that the council did not take into consideration the opinion of the majority in its decision.

"The church has been ringing out for centuries, it's not a new noise. It's the beating heart of this town," said George. "It is unclear what tampering with such an old mechanism will do, and there is a concern the bells may stop altogether."

The Churches Conservation Trust has been given 90 days to implement the ordered changes. A spokeswoman said they do not have the funds for an appeal, but they will facilitate it if they receive word that the local campaign group will raise resources to cover the needed expenses.

In a separate situation in September, residents of Dalkeith, Midlothian, have also slammed the council chiefs' order to silence the 120-year-old bells of the West Church. The order was issued after one neighbor complained that the sounds they generated at night were too loud, The Scottish Sun reported.

The owner of the old kirk, Charles Taylor, has been ordered to muffle the bells. Although the structure now functions as a woodwork firm, neighbors think that the tolls of the bells are part of their local heritage.