Noisy neighbour rules create local headaches

A new set of rules imposing harsh new fines for people that hold late night parties in their homes has caused controversy in the Spanish region of Extremadura.

Noisy neighbour rules create local headaches
The town on Badajoz in Extremadura wants to impose tough new fines for noise violations. File photo: mrmatt/Flickr

The draft municipal code will see much stiffer fines for residents of the regional capital of Badajoz who perform "actions that cause discord between residents", reported Hoy newspaper on Saturday.

Under the new rules which go up to the vote on Monday, people living in the city could be fined up to €1500 ($2,000) for holding noisy parties at home.

Tough fines will also be handed out to people whose pets make too much noise at night, and to those drivers who play music too loudly in their cars.

"Our fines are very low. The new law will let us increase those charges," said Badajoz town councillor  Alberto Astorga.

"We are also including behaviour which is currently 'in limbo' like noise pollution" said the official.

"The rules are chiefly concerned with night hours when people are sleeping," he added.

In that vein, the new municipal laws aim to stop noisy groups of smokers gathering outside the doors of bars and clubs late at night.

Those clubs will have to close doors and windows. 

The new rules for Badajoz come in the wake of a ruling from Spain's constitutional court that "noise in society" can have a negative impact on "the quality of life in cities".

That noise can even harm "constitutional rights" said the court,  as well as causing "emotional problems".

But left-wing groups within the Badajoz town hall have objected to what they see as a veiled attack on civil liberties.  

The spokesperson for the left-wing Izquierda Unida party in Badajoz, Manuel Sosa, said the new fines were "brutal" and highlighted the fact that fines were going up seven-fold from "the old 15,000 pesetas to €3,000".

The left-wing councillor added that the city's government was using "the pretext" new laws to clamp down on protest camps. 

One of the proposed changes to the civil code will make it an offence to sleep out at the city's emblematic or historical monuments. 

Sosa also complained about the lack of consultation on the issue and said the city's PP had only called for one meeting to discuss the new rules.

Meanwhile, the spokesperson for the city's socialist PSOE, Celestino Vegas, slammed new rules it said  let police arbitrarily fine people for what they did in their own homes.

The party described the new measures as "Franco-like" — a reference to the right-wing dictator who ruled Spain until his death in 1975.  

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