Rev Hugh Wright. Picture by Peter Boam.
THE hourly chime at Ventnor's Holy Trinity Church, which has echoed through the town for around 150 years, have been silenced — following a noise complaint from a single resident.
Isle of Wight Council environmental health officers, who visited the church to measure decibel levels following the complaint from a neighbour, agreed the chimes were 'a statutory nuisance.'
A council spokesman said today (Friday) however, that an investigation was ongoing, no enforcement action had been taken and it was church leaders who had volunteered to silence the bell.
Vicar Rev Hugh Wright accused the council of being disingenuous and said the church had been left with little choice.
"The clock has been chiming since the church was built in the 1860s. We wish to live in peace with our neighbours and I wouldn't want the woman who complained to feel as though she's being 'got at,' but the fact one person can dictate on matters like this is madness. It's a sign of the times, I do think people are less tolerant," he said.
"There has been a huge groundswell of support from people who want the bell to ring again, which goes way beyond churchgoers. People are talking about starting a petition. I haven't spoken to one person who is in favour of switching the chimes off.
"Our hand was forced by the council, who said we would be served with a notice if we didn't turn it off. It's completely untrue for them to say otherwise. We didn't want to turn it off."
A letter to Rev Wright from the environmental health department, dated July 10, said: "I kindly request you inform me of what action you are minded to take, to ensure this nuisance does not continue. This department needs to see a resolution to this matter as soon as is reasonably practicable. This department does have powers to serve a noise abatement notice should you not be minded to take action, however this department would prefer to mediate,and reach a mutually convenient conclusion."
The clock chimes were silenced on July 16. and Rev Wright said the church council was considering several options, including muffling the bell or installing a timer to stop the chimes between 11pm and 7am, which would cost up to £2,000.