Helen Martin: Give us grants so peace can prevail

Hardwood flooring with no sound-proofing can drive neighbours to distraction. File picture: Sean Bell
Hardwood flooring with no sound-proofing can drive neighbours to distraction. File picture: Sean Bell
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REPORTS of noisy and nuisance neighbours made to councils across Scotland include everything from snoring, inconsiderate parking and children’s behaviour, to the noise of showers, washing line disputes and even “staring”.

Edinburgh City Council now has its own mediation team and has clocked up 15 cases so far, with noise coming top and within that the greatest problem being children “running about”.

Some people will write all that off as sheer intolerance. In a densely populated city such as Edinburgh, with a high proportion of flats and conversions, we all have to learn to live together. And it’s clearly not just a case of stamping out wild, late-night parties and 3am sing-songs.

There are some cases of maliciousness, for example cutting washing lines when folk use them on the “wrong” day (presumably in shared greens), or a Midlothian dispute over a neighbour covering the complainant’s car with food! But the highest number of complaints relate to noise, whether it’s snorers, kids, showers, or dragging

furniture – all behaviour that clearly isn’t intentionally antisocial.

Certainly in the last two or three decades parents have become much softer on kids than back in the day when children were, rather harshly, to be “seen and not heard”.

Even my son, now in his late twenties, was not allowed to run about (except as a toddler) or play with a football indoors. And that was because we lived in a flat, albeit a solidly-built Victorian flat with deadening between floors and stout walls between each room let alone the flat next door.

Times have changed. And unfortunately, so have building standards over the years.

We now live in a 30s-built, four-in-a-block. Unlike robust Victorian homes, it was built between wars in a depression. There is no sound-proofing between flats and a heavy footfall upstairs is enough to send vibrations down the way. We can even hear a light switch being flicked on or off! I presume they have the same problems with us – not to mention our dog.

But to be fair to the builder, life was

quieter in the 30s. There was no TV, folk didn’t belt out bass music on stereos, and every room had rugs, before that fashion gave way to the greater sound-proofing of fitted carpet – even in kitchens and bathrooms.

Now glossy tiles and laminate (admittedly more hygienic) and floorboards (not so hygienic) reign supreme and there is even a Scottish Government guidance document called Neighbour Noise Between Flats: The influence of laminate and hardwood flooring. Alas, it is only guidance rather than law, so no-one pays attention to its recommendations that neighbours should be consulted before carpeting is removed, and that hard flooring should only be installed on special underlay that reduces “impact noise transmission”.

If we ever claw our way out of austerity, one thing the Holyrood government could do to create a happier Scotland and save councils the costs of noise mediation, would be offer grants towards sound-proofing flats and conversions that simply were not built for 21st century living. And while the heat is on now to build urgently needed homes, let’s hope there are no false economy short-cuts on the modern and higher standards of noise insulation.

Individual registration won’t increase voter turnout

ONE in 30 people eligible to vote in SNP constituencies have disappeared from the voting register since the system was changed to individual registration rather than one form filled in by the householder for everyone who lived there.

There’s no mystery to this. Young people in their teens and twenties are moving around either to university in another city, or between rented flats.

One flat share falls through so they team up with another mate, they move in with a boyfriend or girlfriend, they find somewhere cheaper or closer to work, and they move on, sometimes within months.

Apart from their links to the family home, they are often rootless in relation to polling stations.

Yes, it’s a simple process to register online but with every move comes so much necessary registration and change from gas,

electricity and broadband to setting up new rent payments, that voting rights are pushed down the priority list and by the time the election comes, they may have moved again anyway.

If the aim was to increase turnout, individual registration was not the way to go about it for young voters.

Harsher punishments needed if microchipping is to succeed

ALL dogs of eight weeks old or over must be microchipped by law come April. Any responsible person who loves their dog and doesn’t want to lose it will comply. It’s the others I’m worried about – or rather, their pets.

Those who haven’t complied will be given a few weeks to do so (some charities do it for free) and if they don’t, the fine is £500. But how will they be found out unless their dog gets lost or causes a nuisance? Will there be dog wardens randomly checking with scanners? Will it discourage dodgy owners from taking their sick pet to a vet?

Those guilty of cruelty, theft, neglect and mistreatment don’t care about dogs or the law. We still need higher fines, harsher prison sentences and longer bans for bad owners if microchipping is to bring improvements.