Court orders that port church bells stop ringing after complaints from a resident

The parish church must pay an amount of 6,000 euros in compensation to the resident “for moral and physiological damage”.

Wednesday 7th September 2022 · Mike Smith
Source: XAD Carlos López

A judge has ordered that the bells of the port church be sealed and stop ringing, as a result of complaints from a resident of Calle Bartolomé Ros, who brought the high noise level in his home to court when the bells rang.

The decree was made public a few days ago and states that the parish church must pay the residents an amount of 6,000 euros as well as turn off the external speakers of the church and seal the bells to prevent them from ringing again.

The resident filed a new lawsuit in March 2021, claiming action for “compensation of damages for noisy emissions and cessation [of the bells ringing]” since his home is just 21 metres from the bell tower of the iconic port church. And the whole process has been going on since 2009 , when he began his fight through administrative means and through the courts to try to reduce or eliminate the tolling of the bells.

In a long process, the residents collected reports and sound measurements that made it clear that the decibel level was higher than the maximum allowed and also took the case to the ombudsman, who urged the local administration to comply with the Noise Law of the Comunidad Valenciana.

In this context, in 2017, the local government board approved exempting the church from complying with the precepts of that law during 2018, although it set a series of limits on the ringing of the bells, such as only to announce religious services, burials or fiestas linked to the parish.

As the decree records, since then the local administration seems to have looked the other way since “the authorization by the Xàbia Council of the programmes corresponding to the years 2018, 2019 and 2020 has not been accredited, only stating the authorization to the 2021“.

In another section of the decree, the judges recognize that the “noise produced by the ringing of bells constitutes an illegitimate interference in the life of this resident that affects his right to privacy as it has been proven, through the aforementioned documentary and expert analysis, that since 2009, he has been enduring the noises coming from the ringing of the bells of the defendant parish, which far exceed the limits established by the decree of the Consell 266/04 that develops Law 7/2002 and that this same law establishes as very serious infractions, as well as that the defendant parish has been ignoring all the recommendations that have been made to it to cease this harmful activity for the defendant“.

The judge’s argument continues, “without this conclusion being distorted by the fact that on February 6, 2017 the governing board approved a plan of authorized uses for the parish church regarding the ringing of the bells for acts of a religious nature corresponding to the year 2017, exempting him from the maximum disturbance levels set, since, in any case, said authorization would only cover ten months of the more than ten years that the [resident] has endured this illegitimate intrusion on his privacy. And in any case, municipal authorization has not been accredited for the bell ringing programs with a level of noise disturbance higher than the permitted level, presented for the parish for the years 2018, 2019 and 2020, only consisting of 2021“.

The decree also indicates “that in these cases, it is logical the annoyance felt by the resident who has to endure an acoustic emission with a level higher than that allowed by the fact that another resident is engaged in a noisy activity, in this case the defendant parish, since the home is a place of peace, rest and personal and family calm, also linked to the important fact that it is not a temporary, punctual or short-term discomfort, but rather it is habitual“. When talking about this action -continues the sentence- “how annoying it is due to the fact that the injured party already knows that it is not an isolated or punctual event but that he would have to endure it permanently, which alters his normal rhythm of life“.

For this reason, the judge sets compensation, which he places at 6,000 euros “by estimating the admissible existence of moral or psychological damage caused to the resident by limiting the normal development of his daily life“.

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