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News & views

Screaming at ice-cream cacophony

[17 May 2012] You don’t have to suffer from misophonia – intolerance of intrusive noise – to get pretty fed up with the incessant muzak from mobile ice-cream vans that blights so many otherwise peaceful afternoons and evenings.

There’s a nationally agreed code of practice that’s supposed to limit the so-called ‘chimes’ – in practice, snatches of ‘Greensleeves’, ‘It’s the Loveliest Night of the Year’, ‘O Sole Mio’ etc. The vans are supposed to inflict their racket only when moving towards a place of sale, only for four seconds at a time, not when in sight of other vans, and not in the same street more than once within a specified time.

Naturally, as no-one bothers to enforce the code, the vans flout the rules and the drivers who plague our local streets have no idea what the code says. The government’s Red Tape Challenge – born of the sensible wish to deregulate where possible – has led it to issue a consultation paper putting forward proposals that will make the situation much worse for anyone who likes a bit of peace.

If the document’s supporters get their way, vans will be allowed to start their detonations at 10.30am (90 minutes earlier than now), so the nation’s obese kids will be able to buy their their first fix soon after breakfast, and extend their sales for an extra hour into the evening till 8pm. They’ll also be able to impose their muzak on the population in 12-second bursts, triple the present permitted time.

My response to the consultation opposes this lunacy and asks for all vans to be made to display the main aspects of the code prominently and in plain language.

Then, in an insane riff of futile hope, I’ve also asked for tachograph-style machines to be made mandatory in all vans so that enforcement bodies can check the time, loudness, duration and place where the muzak is played. Otherwise there’s absolutely no chance that any local council will take complaints seriously.

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