London's Pulse: Medical Officer of Health reports 1848-1972

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City of Westminster 1929

[Report of the Medical Officer of Health for Westminster, City of]

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During the year, some 378 pigeons were trapped and 146 eggs were
taken. The same difficulties previously mentioned were experienced in a
still greater degree. There are two opposing bodies of opinion—those
who complain of nuisance from pigeons and wish them exterminated,
whilst others feel equally strongly that it is cruel to interfere with the
liberty of these birds in any way. Thus it is that as soon as the trapper's
cage appears in any public garden or space letters of protest are received
while others appear in the press. Those who oppose the trapping
endeavour to attract the pigeons away from the cages by distributing
large quantities of food at some distance. The other school of thought
complains that sufficient is not done to deal with the nuisance.
Perhaps the mean might be struck if both parties met and argued the
matter to a conclusion.
In cases where nuisance is confined to the copings and ornamental
cornices of lofty buildings, the suggestion that these roosting places might
be wired in with coverings of fine wire-netting has been adopted in many
cases with satisfactory results.
Noise.—The "mechanization of living in modern conditions (if the
word may be borrowed from its military context), particularly in large
centres of population, has resulted in the perpetuation of noise to such an
extent that many see in it a menace to the public health. It is perhaps
one of the drawbacks of the progress of civilization. It is certain that
noise of particular pitch or repetitive character can cause nervous exhaustion
and perhaps nervous disease of functional nature. Loss of sleep,
interference with concentration and other contributions to loss of human
efficiency may in some cases be justifiably attributed to noise.
* The Corporation of Edinburgh has taken the matter up in the interests
of public health, but so far has been unable to persuade Parliament to
grant powers of suppression. The difficulty seems to lie in defining unreasonable
or unnecessary noise, preventable noise, noise capable of
mitigation and noise dangerous to health. Should action be confined to
noise arising from any trade, occupation or business ? That would leave
untouched the roysterers who make night hideous. Street drilling by day
or by night is harrowing, but it is "necessary " noise and would also be
immune from legislation.
Private individuals in "Westminster have been successful in obtaining
injunctions at common law for disturbance caused by the music of powerful
organs in cinemas in the neighbourhood of their dwellings.
* Since the above was written, Edinburgh has obtained powers from Parliament
in an Act which contains a section devoted to the prohibition of noise as a nuisance.
It is hoped that similar powers may be requested and granted for London.

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