Extending quiet time by 1½ hours among recommendations to tackle neighbourhood noise in Singapore

The Community Advisory Panel on Neighbourhood Noise on Saturday issued its recommendations to tackle neighbourhood noise. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

SINGAPORE - Neighbourhoods around Singapore could soon enjoy an extra 1½ hours of quiet each day, with a designated agency in place to ensure rules are enforced.

After a six-month-long consultation exercise, the Community Advisory Panel on Neighbourhood Noise on Saturday issued its recommendations for tackling neighbourhood noise, with the main proposal being a new silent period of 10pm to 8am.

Currently, the silent period is from 10.30pm to 7am. 

Speaking at the closing dialogue, Dr William Wan, chairman of the advisory panel, said: “While noise is part and parcel of our daily lives, we must acknowledge that in some cases with prolonged exposure, it can become a serious issue that impacts the mental and physical well-being of residents.”

He added: “The proposals may not be an immediate solution to your problem, as the norms require time to take root and be adopted by the community.”

The panel proposed that a designated agency should take clear ownership of neighbourhood noise issues, and use legislation to respond to and enforce rules against unacceptable behaviour.

Examples of neighbourhood noise include the loud chatter that can come from gatherings in homes and common spaces like void decks and exercise areas, playing of music at a high volume, and even furniture being dragged across the floor.

The panel was set up in April by the Municipal Services Office and the Ministry of Culture, Community and Youth to address issues such as the acceptable level of noise in a neighbourhood and propose community norms that residents should adopt to manage noise disturbance.

After engaging almost 4,500 members of the public, it has come up with recommendations including using campaigns to highlight the issue of neighbourhood noise.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said the Government will respond to the panel’s recommendations in the first half of 2023.

She said finding the right balance is key to the issue, as community noise is a subjective matter.

“Different people have different reactions and tolerance levels to sounds in the community. Yet, as a densely populated city, community noise is indeed a challenge that we have to deal with and manage, collectively, to achieve harmonious living,” said Ms Sim at the closing dialogue on Saturday.

“In order to achieve convenience for residents, amenities will have to be planned near homes,” she added.

“However, the activities that come with the amenities will then create sounds and even noise disturbances... How do we achieve a right balance?”

Currently, neighbours are encouraged to resolve their disputes among themselves, and are expected to act reasonably using common sense when dealing with neighbourhood noise concerns, the panel said.

Stakeholders such as the Housing Board, town councils and grassroots leaders will step in to mediate only if there is an impasse, and residents can approach the Community Mediation Centre or file a claim with the Community Disputes Resolution Tribunal if the issue remains unresolved.

Senior Minister of State for National Development Sim Ann said the Government will respond to the panel’s recommendations in the first half of 2023. PHOTO: MINISTRY OF NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

During a question-and-answer session on Saturday, some residents raised the issue of noise in common areas like playgrounds and basketball courts even late at night.

One administrative worker who wanted to be known only as Ms Teng, 40, said she has been in a dispute with her neighbour for a year.

Her neighbour’s children, aged eight to 10, play along the corridor twice a week, often banging into her gate with their scooters or screaming loudly.

Ms Teng, who lives with her mother, cannot bear the noise. She said she has spoken to her neighbour to no avail, and their relationship has soured.

“When they sweep the corridor, they’ll just push all the dirt in front of my house. We have a very sour relationship and I feel very helpless,” she said.

For some, though, noise is a happy reminder that the community is thriving despite the pandemic.

Sembawang resident Jennifer Goh, 52, said the noise from children playing late at night and some seniors talking loudly in the early morning often seeps into her fourth-storey flat.

“If you change your perspective and compare it with the (peak of the) pandemic... some of the things you missed were laughter in the community and children playing,” she said.

“Of course, It’s also important to me to keep a peaceful environment in my neighbourhood. You don’t want to have conflict and put everyone in a tense or bad situation.”

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