West Sussex Mediation Service on neutralising neighbour noise problems

WSMS Pant Blue ECBuzzing boilers, banging builders, loud sex – Nick Handley,  Service Co-ordinator for West Sussex Mediation Service, sets out the extent of noise referrals and how getting neighbours talking can encourage better neighbour relations – and could prevent problems arising.

 Noise nuisance is the number one topic for referrals to West Sussex Mediation Service in relation to neighbour disputes, the core business of the charity. The 87 referrals received by the service in 2012/13 is the equivalent of 46% of community mediation referrals.

Reported noise nuisance comes in a variety of forms, from the obvious – such as loud music (stereos or musical instruments including drums) or loud TVs and building work to shouting and screaming, stomping feet (including heels on wooden floors), banging doors, children, banging on walls, buzzing/vibration noises (from boilers/appliances) and even loud sex.

There may be underlying issues that the mediators will not be able to resolve, such as poor noise insulation, badly converted buildings or essential building works, but they can aid communication and help individuals build a strategy for the future. This might involve such things as deciding how to resolve issues in months/years to come, how to be civil to each other and addressing misconceptions/untruths. In mediation the past is acknowledged but parties are encouraged to ‘draw a line in the sand’ and look to the future and think of how they would like things to be.

The mediators are not there to give advice and will always remain impartial – ‘on the fence’. It is for those involved in the dispute to devise an agreement which is acceptable to all involved. On more than one occasion, having experienced mediation first hand, clients have then chosen to become volunteers with our charity and become greater mediators themselves.

Our mediators work in pairs and first visit clients separately in their homes. This is an opportunity for them to fact find and be a listening ear. They will fully explain the mediation process and encourage parties to enter into formal mediation. They would coach clients on how to react in a mediation meeting and how to take the heat out of what they wish to say to the other side. With the agreement of those involved, a mediation meeting (at a neutral venue) is arranged and paid for by the charity. This is where the real work starts to resolve disputes, which have often persisted for some time.

We would like to be used as an early intervention tool – the same way that you would go to see your doctor when symptoms first appear, rather than when the condition gets worse. We are a tool in the toolbox to be tried. It may not always work but we do have many successes and some great client feedback to evidence that. Sometimes there needs to be a leap of faith to try it.

For more aboutWest Sussex Mediation:  Twitter @mediation1       nick@wsms.org.uk                       http://www.wsms.org.uk

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