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Durham University

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A word on… house parties and noise

(5 March 2019)

Community Liaison Officer Hannah Shepherd

In the first of a series of blog posts, our Community Liaison Officer Hannah Shepherd tackles nuisance noise – and what to do about it.

No-one likes to have their sleep disturbed. I’ve never felt as hopeless and exhausted as when I was a new mum, looking after a newborn baby, surviving on a few hours of broken sleep a night, day in, day out. And, after almost eight months in my role, I know many of you have your own stories to tell on this subject.

Noise from house parties and other social gatherings, in particular late at night, is a widely acknowledged issue in university cities and Durham is no exception. I’ve heard some people call this a ‘lifestyle conflict;’ but I think that minimises the experiences of those affected.

If you look at our Code of Conduct for students living in the City, you’ll see that ‘noise’ is linked to respect and neighbourliness. That’s certainly how we expressed it at Freshers Fair last October when we introduced students to the resident led “Shh…11pm-7am” campaign. In fact, at a community event I attended, also in October, being neighbourly was voted the most important aspiration for flourishing communities.

So, we acknowledge its existence and the importance of tackling anti-social noise; but what can we do about it? Well, we put clear and firm messages to our students when they arrive for Induction and Freshers Fair, and in correspondence with students living in the City.

And our new Student Pledge, which will come in later this year, also carries this message: that we expect students to be good and considerate neighbours both in our Colleges and in the wider Durham community. A new Non-Academic Misconduct Procedure will support this, along with the University’s general regulations, allowing us to take appropriate steps to tackle and punish poor behaviour.

The partnerships we have, like that with the police, are also really important here. I was pleased to hear from our wonderful Police University Liaison Officer Rebecca Carey recently that the number of Community Protection Notice Warnings issued to student houses has fallen to a record low this year. And, as I write, none of the warnings had led to an actual Notice being issued. This is the first year we have seen this and I hope we can continue in this way.

In the meantime, I want to ask something of you: please, please, please report nuisance noise to the police. I know it means getting up, getting your phone, calling 101, waiting to get through, logging an incident and sometimes waiting until the next day for the police to visit, but everyone has a right to peaceful enjoyment of the home and that includes a responsibility to report the misbehaviour of those living around them appropriately.

Where the police are then able to engage with students the Community Protection Notice procedure gives the students on the receiving end the chance to think about and change their behaviour. It’s their chance to remember the messages we gave them and to do better at being those good and considerate neighbours we’ve asked them to be while living alongside you. It’s also their chance to understand that there are potentially serious implications should they do it again.

So there you go: my first “A word on…” for these pages. You may like it, you may not; that’s OK with me. I know there will be nuances to the noise issue you experience that I haven’t covered here. All I ask is that, if you see a way we can do better at this, then let me know at: community.swceoffice@durham.ac.uk

Best wishes,
Hannah