The Noisy Butcher Complaint
Butchers have a hard job. They have to get up early to make sure that they have enough meat ready for their customers by the time the shop opens up, and cutting meat can be tiring, boring work. Sometimes, butchers like to sing while they chop, which is exactly what Brian Clapton did in his UK butcher shop. He’d been in the same shop and had the same routine for about 13 years when he received a noise complaint from the neighbours. He was told to keep the noise down and had to go to court before the magistrates on charges that he had breached the noise abatement order.
The New Neighbour and the Loud Noises
For the first 13 years of his business, he didn’t receive any complaints about the noise, and may not have realized that his chopping and singing was quite as loud as it was. When Michelle Gibbs moved in above the shop, she complained about the noise to the Barking and Dagenham Council. Clapton was then told that he had two choices about how to take care of the noise problem.
First, he could soundproof the shop so the noises wouldn’t carry to the apartment above the place. Second, he could no longer chop the meat between the hours of 6 AM and 8 AM on weekdays and could not chop earlier than 9AM on the weekends. Changing the time that he chops the meat would have been a difficult request for him to follow though, as he has to get the meat ready for the day. He also felt that the council should be the ones responsible for soundproofing the building, as it is the council that owns the freehold on the building.
While it might seem as though the new neighbour was simply upset at some chopping sounds that she heard here, and that she was overreacting, the noise and nuisance officer who visited Gibbs and listened to the sounds said that at one point, it “sounded like someone was carrying out shop refurbishment, such was the sound in the complainant’s flat.” Other times he visited the apartment to check on the noise, he could clearly hear singing coming from the butcher shop below.
According to Clapton, the cost of refitting the shop with the soundproofing would have cost thousands, and he would not be able to afford it. The only other option available would be to leave the shop and find a new place to set up.
Reports say that Clapton had breached the noise abatement on at least four different occasions. He denies these charges.
In this case, it’s easy to feel for both of the parties. Ms. Gibbs doesn’t want to be woken to the sound of someone chopping meat the floor below while the butcher serenades the world. Of course, Clapton relies on the shop for his livelihood and the cost of soundproofing was out of question. One thing is certain though. You don’t often hear noise complaints about chopping meat.