A SWANSEA man who was being driven mad by noisy student neighbours put speakers up against the wall and went away for the weekend, leaving music playing.
But instead of having heavy metal or gangster rap on a loop, he went for something a little more sophisticated. And when he came back, said a councillor, the noise issue was resolved.
Cllr Allan Jeffery recounted the story at a meeting of a council panel which is carrying out an anti-social behaviour inquiry.
The Uplands ward member said the resident’s choice of music was Gustav Holst’s The Planets – a sweeping, seven-movement orchestral suite.
Cllr Jeffery explained that 24/7 music from the student neighbours had “almost drove him mad”. He described the resident’s retaliatory move, and said it had the intended effect on his return three or four days later. “It did solve the problem,” said Cllr Jeffrey. “The girls did stop playing music.”
A council officer said music equipment could be seized in nuisance cases but that it was not common.
A report before the panel said the council received 1,033 complaints about amplified music in 2022. It was down significantly from the two previous years, when people were frequently stuck at home due to Covid lockdowns.
The 1,160 dog barking complaints, however, was higher in 2022 than 2020 and 2021. The council officer said it could be because people who had bought puppies and dogs during lockdown had now returned to physical places of work, leaving their pets anxious and on their own.
The figures also showed a significant rise in DIY noise and waste-related complaints in Swansea – up from 108 in 2020 to 409 in 2022.
The panel was told that noise abatement notices could be served on offenders, with court action a last resort for failing to comply.
Officers said the council’s approach to anti-social behaviour was to engage with the complainant and person being complained about. Mediation might be offered in neighbour disputes.
Judith Williams, a housing services operations manager, said the council operated 13,700 tenancies and that a proportion of the most vulnerable tenants had “significant challenges in respect of their behaviour”.
She said complainants often expected the council to evict the person they were complaining about, but she said this was very much a last resort, and that doing so would not stop the council from having to house them.
“Our ethos is very much to support people to modify their behaviour to be able to sustain their tenancies,” she said.
But Ms Williams said the council took anti-social behaviour very seriously and that warnings, injunctions and even possession notices could be served.
She said officers were currently dealing with 206 live anti-social behaviour cases, which represented 1.5% of total council tenancies.
There have only been six evictions from council houses in the last five years, and 17 anti-social behaviour injunctions. Mediation has happened between one and eight times per year in that time.
Cllr Rebecca Fogarty asked why mediation numbers appeared low. An officer replied that it often involved one-to-one neighbour disputes, and that people assumed they’d have to sit down opposite each other, which they didn’t want to do.
The officer said that mediation was initially a “shuttle” arrangement and that both parties were not expected to sit down in the same room until they were ready to do so. He added that the council used an external service to run the sessions. Ms Williams added that council officers did a lot of informal mediation themselves.
Cllr Fogarty also asked if there were particularly types of complaints in estates where some people owned their house and others were tenants.
Ms Williams said this could bring challenges as the owners might say they didn’t want a certain type of person living there. She said: “This is what council housing is for – we have to house the most vulnerable and this is what we will continue to do.”
The panel also heard about measures around fly-tipping and waste enforcement. Between April 2021 and March 2022 there were 1,628 fly-tipping and waste reports in Swansea, the vast majority small-scale. The council issued 88 fixed penalty notices.
Cllr Sam Bennett said this number seemed low, especially the sole fixed penalty notice for dog fouling.
Chris Howells, head of waste, parks and cleansing, said a dog had to be witnessed fouling and the owner not picking it up, which was difficult.
“I’m comfortable with the numbers we have and the approach we take,” he said.
The panel report also listed a number of things that weren’t anti-social behaviour, such as general disagreements or young people socialising, but which some people might be wound up by.
An officer said one woman thought a neighbour running a bath at 11pm was anti-social behaviour. “That went on for a long time, trust me,” he said.
Another case, he said, related to children playing. He said it had to be explained to the complainant that they were children aged five to seven just playing outside.