Extend 'quiet hours' in S'pore neighbourhoods from 10pm-8am to tackle noise, panel suggests

Hope this helps stop my neighbours from blasting music at midnight.

Nigel Chua | Nixon Tan | November 22, 2022, 01:00 PM

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A panel, formed in April 2022 to attempt to tackle neighbourhood noise, has submitted a few recommendations to manage these disturbances.

Extending quiet time by 1.5 hours was amongst the ideas mooted.

The Community Advisory Panel (CAP) on Neighbourhood Noise submitted its report to the Municipal Services Office (MSO) on Nov. 19.

The report contains "a set of community norms and recommendations" finalised after months of public engagements from May to September 2022.

The panel engaged close to 4,400 members of the public, through surveys, focus group discussions, and meetings with relevant stakeholders in the process of drafting the report.

A copy of the report is available online.

Recommendation to extend quiet hours to 10pm to 8am

The panel recommended that 10pm to 8am be designated as "quiet hours".

The current quiet hours are from 10:30pm to 7am, according to the MSO.

During these hours, residents are "advised to be considerate towards neighbours".

HDB advises that those carrying out DIY works should keep their neighbours informed beforehand, and avoid works involving drilling and hammering during these quiet hours.

However, the panel noted that "while the notion of quiet hours is widely accepted in Singapore, some residents have not been adhering to them".

It thus suggested that government agencies conduct educational campaigns, and "implement initiatives to inform and seek compliance from the public to observe the quiet hours, especially if the revised quiet hours are adopted".

Agencies should also consider "stronger measures" against individuals who do not adhere to the quiet hours, said the panel.

The panel added that "residents should practice civic mindedness even outside of quiet hours" and that the timings outside of quiet hours "should not be seen as 'noisy' hours, where residents can disregard one another's needs and make excessive noise."

Other recommendations submitted

The panel's other recommendations include recommending that "informal discussion with neighbours to resolve disputes should be the preferred first option".

The panel also said it understands that community norms alone are not enough to address noise disputes.

Designating an agency and empowering enforcement

It suggested to designate an agency to take "clear ownership" of neighbourhood noise issues, and called for the agency to be empowered by legislation to "respond and enforce against unacceptable behaviour".

The panel cited "strong support from the public for enforcement against noise disturbances," saying this was especially the case for "disturbances that keep repeating despite best efforts from affected parties to reach out and resolve concerns".

The panel said there is currently "a lack of legal levers for the government to effectively manage egregious cases involving recalcitrant offenders".

It added: "It would be useful for a designated authority to investigate and assess the situation to determine if enforcement measures are needed. Some penalties suggested by our focus group participants include fines or corrective work orders imposed on inconsiderate neighbours."

Reviewing mediation process, involving grassroots leaders

The panel also recommended a review of the dispute management process, calling for the government to make mediation mandatory, in light of some residents' feedback that neighbours had refused to explore mediation.

It also called for a review of the process to make it easier for residents to collect evidence, and for "greater clarity on the evidence required".

The panel also called for "building mediation capabilities" among grassroots leaders in Singapore, saying this "could help make the management of neighbourhood noise disputes more effective".

Setting a decibel limit for noise

Another recommendation was to set a quantitative threshold for noise in the form of decibel limit.

This, the panel said, would help agencies in assessing egregious cases of neighbourhood noise.

"Establishing quantitative thresholds provides an objective assessment when the noise disturbance remains unresolved between neighbours and further investigation is needed to validate claims from both parties," said the panel.

It called for a study to develop decibel limits for specific situations in Singapore, taking into account HDB flat designs.

Issues might not be resolved immediately

Concluding its report, the panel said it "trusts that the government will consider our proposals seriously".

It added: "We would like to highlight that many of these norms and recommendations will require time to be integrated into our daily lives, and might not be able to resolve issues immediately."

Top photo via Unsplash