Page last updated at 23:13 GMT, Thursday, 24 July 2008 00:13 UK

Complaint silences historic bells

Galashiels clock tower
The bells of the clock tower have been silenced overnight

The historic clock bells of a Borders town have been silenced at night after an investigation by environmental health officers.

It followed a complaint by a bed and breakfast owner about the sound coming from the Galashiels war memorial.

The head of the town's Royal British Legion branch said that stopping the bells was "frankly ridiculous".

However, Scottish Borders Council said it had decided the complaint about the chimes was "not unreasonable".

The local authority received a complaint from a local guest house about the noise.

It has now decided to take action and ordered the bells to be stopped between midnight and 0715 BST.

'Flow of history'

The move has been criticised by David Babington, the chairman of the Galashiels branch of the Royal British Legion.

"To tamper with a war memorial which is never out of the top three of the best-kept war memorials in Scotland and not even discuss it with the legion is a disgrace," he said.

"When I hear those bells ring out I always think about the servicemen of Galashiels who gave their lives in two world wars.

"For the flow of history to be interrupted on the basis of a single noise complaint seems frankly ridiculous."

He said he was sure 99% of residents would want to keep the bells ringing.

War memorial unveiling
The war memorial was unveiled by Field Marshal Earl Haig

"They make a pleasant and reassuring sound," he added.

Galashiels Community Council chairman Bill White said that he had never heard any complaints about the chimes.

However, he said if one had been received then the majority view of local residents should be sought.

Council environmental health officers visited the guest house premises with a decibel meter and concluded the noise was above permitted levels.

A silencing mechanism is due to be fitted to the clock within the next few weeks at a cost of 850.

A council spokesperson said: "After an investigation by environmental health, it has now been decided the chimes will be stopped between midnight and 7.15am.

"We felt the complaint was not unreasonable.

"The clock dates back to the time when most people would not have had clocks at home and relied on the chimes to help them tell the time, day or night."

'Legal obligation'

The council said that by silencing the clock the it was just "moving with the times".

The spokesperson added: "The council had a legal obligation to act based on the findings of environmental health and consultation would not have changed that fact."

The town clock became fully operational in 1928.

It stands above a statue of a Border Reiver and the war memorial featuring the names of 635 men from Galashiels who died in World War I.

The war memorial was officially opened in 1924 by Field Marshal Earl Haig.

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