Church bells protected from noise complaints under new planning laws

Church bells will be protected from noise complaints under new planning laws to be introduced.

Ministers are changing planning guidance in England for new houses after parishes whose bells have chimed for centuries were forced to comply with noise abatement orders by disgruntled neighbours who had recently moved to the area.

The village church has been ringing it's bells for 900 years through the day and night.St Peter's Church, Sandwich

The updated guidance shows the government is 'standing up for churches', ministers said, and it means vicars will not have to put up with 'unreasonable restrictions put on them because of changes in nearby land uses since they were established' because new houses are built near them.

Becky Clark, the Church of England's director of Churches and Cathedrals, said: 'We welcome these planned changes, which will help ensure that the distinctive sound of church bells continues to ring out well into the future.

'The Church Buildings Council – the body which helps dioceses maintain church buildings - supports the continued use of church buildings as places of worship, including proclaiming their presence through the ringing of bells.

'We maintain a register of historic bells, some of which date back to the 13th century, and provide grants to help with their care and conservation. Bell ringing has been part of Christian worship for a thousand years.'

National planning policy already stops unreasonable restrictions being placed on businesses but ministers will change the National Planning Policy Framework to emphasise the point. The changes will not just apply to churches but also music venues.

Housing Secretary Sajid Javid said it was 'wrong' that churches and entertainment sites were having to make expensive changes to their business arising from developments outside their control.

'I have always thought it unfair that the burden is on long-standing music venues to solve noise issues when property developers choose to build nearby,' he said.

'I am pleased to finally have an opportunity to right this wrong and also give more peace of mind to new residents moving into local projects.'

It comes after St Peter's Church, Sandwich, was forced to silence its bells after a handful of complaints from new neighbours. A Save Our Chimes campaign started, and a local survey organised indicated that 85 per cent of residents wanted the chimes to continue.

Local MP Craig MacKinlay told The Daily Telegraph: 'Church bells have tolled for centuries across the country and it is vital that they can continue to be heard.

'This started off as a local issue in Sandwich and I am delighted that ministers have listened and are now going to act nationally.

'The bell has tolled for local meddlers who want to silence the chimes and local councils who too frequently put commonsense and centuries of tradition aside to come to decisions that are held in respect by local people.'