• Brett Herron

Myself to ask Mr AW Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Pla

PARLIAMENT OF THE PROVINCE OF THE WESTERN CAPE

THURSDAY, 1 AUGUST 2019

QUESTION FOR ORAL REPLY

QUESTION:

3. Mr B N Herron to ask Mr AW Bredell, Minister of Local Government, Environmental Affairs and Development Planning:

(1) Whether sounds from places of worship, such as church bells and calls to prayer, are regarded as “disturbing noise” in terms of the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations, 2013; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details;

(2) whether regulation 12(1)(a) of the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations, 2013, permits the City of Cape Town or any other local authority to exempt places of worship from the provisions of these noise-control regulations; if not, why not; if so, what are the relevant details?

REPLY:

(1) In terms of the Western Cape Noise Control Regulations PN 200 of 2013 (hereafter, Noise Control Regulations), a ‘‘disturbing noise’’ means “a noise, excluding the unamplified human voice, which—

(a) exceeds the rating level by 7 dBA;

(b) exceeds the residual noise level where the residual noise level is higher than the rating level;

(c) exceeds the residual noise level by 3 dBA where the residual noise level is lower than the rating level; or

(d) in the case of a low-frequency noise, exceeds the level specified in Annex B of SANS 10103”; In terms of the above, the Noise Control Regulations define the rating level as “the applicable outdoor equivalent continuous rating level indicated in Table 2 of SANS 10103”, while the residual noise level is defined as “the all-encompassing sound in a given situation at a given time, measured as the reading on an integrated impulse sound level meter for a total period of at least 10 minutes, excluding noise alleged to be causing a noise nuisance or disturbing noise”.

Therefore, a noise, irrespective of its origin, is termed a “disturbing noise” when it is scientifically measured as the reading on an integrated impulse sound level meter and found to exceed the allowable rating level or residual noise level, as defined above, and which should not be exceeded. In relation to exceeding the ambient levels by 7dBA as indicated in the Noise Control Regulations, it should be understood that in terms of human hearing perception, a 3 to 3.5 dBA increase in the noise level amounts to a doubling in noise, in terms of hearing perception. Therefore, the 7dBA increase is more than twice the doubling of sound in relation to human hearing.

The term “disturbing noise” does not relate to the type or source of noise but rather to the level of noise, as defined above, which is scientifically measured. Therefore, sounds from places of worship, such as church bells and calls to prayer, are not regarded as a “disturbing noise”, unless it has been scientifically measured as the reading on an integrated impulse sound level meter, and is found to exceed the allowable rating level or residual noise levels, as per the definition of a “disturbing noise” in the Noise Control Regulations.

(2) Regulation 12(1)(a) states that the local authority may exempt any person or venue or type of venue from any provision of these regulations (a) on its own initiative; or (b) on application by any person. Thus, the Noise Control Regulations do not specifically “exempt places of worship from the provisions of the Noise Control Regulations”.

The local authority must follow a process to exempt any person or venue or type of venue from any provision of the Noise Control Regulations. Thus, the local authority, upon considering any exemptions from any provision of the Noise Control Regulations, must obtain full reasons for a noise exemption application, and in a manner determined by the local authority, solicit written comment regarding the application, the process of which must afford an opportunity to potential interested and affected parties to submit written representations on the proposed exemption, and the applicant may comment in writing on any representations received.

Only after considering an application or a proposal for the granting of an exemption, and where applicable in accordance with the principles of NEMA, a local authority must, in writing, “(a) grant an exemption and set out the conditions, if any, in terms of which the exemption is granted; (b) refuse to grant an exemption and upon request provide reasons for the refusal; or (c) require a noise impact assessment in terms of SANS 10328 before making a decision referred to in paragraph (a) or (b)”.

The local authority must consider the period for which the exemption is granted, and must include various conditions, inclusive of whether noise levels must be monitored, and if so, the manner in which it must be done, etc. In addition, the local authority may attach additional requirements to such exemption and have also the right to suspend it immediately, should the need arise.

© 2021 by Brett Herron