Tue | Dec 6, 2016

Shredding the Noise Abatement Act

Published:Saturday | January 17, 2015 | 12:00 AM

There are ominous signals from the nation's Parliament that in the near future, the Noise Abatement Act may be altered or perhaps abandoned as more voices are raised in support of introducing entertainment zones and extended party hours.

Making the argument most forcefully is the junior minister for tourism and entertainment, Damion Crawford, who, along with members of the city's leadership at the Kingston and St Andrew Corporation, has already identified areas in downtown Kingston where sound systems would be allowed to thump their way throughout the night for the enjoyment of patrons.

Although downtown Kingston is regarded as a commercial district, there are, in fact, thousands of people who live in these lanes and streets. And while some of the residents are likely to embrace the all-nighters, it is reasonable to assume that there are others who are not fans of the looming changes. Are they to be deprived of a restful sleep in order to facilitate partygoers?

Sleep deprivation can have serious effects on people. Deprived of sleep, children cannot concentrate on their studies, adults cannot work properly, and the elderly and sick suffer. So who wins in all of this?

Curiously, some of the persons who are now applauding the arguments to shred noise-nuisance laws were sitting in Gordon House when the Noise Abatement Act - providing for the control and abatement of noise nuisance by making it unlawful for parties to be prolonged beyond 2 a.m. - was passed. Were these honourable members wrong then when they voted to introduce this legislation? What kind of mixed signals are they sending to constituents?

Complaints about noise nuisance have poured into this newspaper over the years, and we believe these relentless lamentations and the insistence on the right to peaceful and quiet enjoyment of their homes contributed to the passing of the legislation.

HEADING BACK TOSQUAREONE

Compliance with the law governing the levels and duration of night noises has never been robustly pursued, so there is continuous bombardment in many urban and rural communities. Now, it seems, we will be right back at square one in a short time.

Supporters of entertainment zones point to the shift from strictly social activities to the economic benefits derived from staging dances, including the sale of liquor and food, clothing, hair and salon services, as well as other party necessities. Should the right of citizens to a peaceful existence take preference over the right of others to conduct business?

Manufacturing is mostly dead in this country. However, the informal economy, which includes some creative and entertainment sectors, appears to be new growth areas. We are not suggesting the stifling of economic buoyancy, if that is what it is, but we believe these efforts should be carefully coordinated without bringing organisers and patrons in conflict with the law. We feel strongly that the Noise Abatement Act should remain in place.

Here is why. It has been established that excessive noise is a serious hazard to public health and exposure to high levels of noise can cause physiological and psychological harm. The Government has a responsibility to protect the health and welfare of its citizens.