Church worship causes ‘unacceptable’ disturbance

The Hillsong Church at the Somerset Mall Precinct, is embroiled in a dispute with some residents of nearby The Links residential complex, just visible on the far right of the picture, over an alleged noise disturbance during church services.

A long-running dispute between some residents of The Links residential complex at the Somerset Mall Precinct, and the nearby Hillsong Church boiled over last week, when angry resident Nikki de Jager contacted Bolander for assistance.

“They continuously wake us up from 6am onwards on Sundays, and now they seem to have started their services on Saturdays as well,” Ms De Jager said in an email to Bolander on November 26.

“Not only do they now do this on Sundays but as well as weekdays till late. They have no sense of respect for the tenants around them and they just keep going at it. Again today, we tried to go speak to them and say that they are actually disturbing our peace, and they just brushed it off and asked if it was the church calling us. At times it is so loud, that it sounds like there is a live band in town, and that the fans of the band are extremely excited to see their idol.”

According to Ms De Jager, the disturbance goes back almost year, when she first emailed City Health about the matter. “The environmental health inspector has responded to my mail almost a year later,” she said in a follow up email on December 1.

She does note that in June, the City’s law enforcement department responded to the matter, and brokered a meeting with the church’s pastor, which resulted in soundproofing the back door, which Ms De Jager contends, is inadequate. Her requests for further soundproofing were rebuffed by the church because the City’s fire department apparently said it is not permissible to cover the air vents, from which the disturbing noise now emanates.

Ms De Jager supplied Bolander with reference numbers of the complaints she has laid about the matter, four via the City’s call centre going back to June, and six via the City’s online portal, but it was only once her landlord took the matter up with ward councillor Greg Peck, that the City of Cape Town has taken further action to address the matter.

In response to a media enquiry, Mayco member for safety and security JP Smith confirmed the June intervention by law enforcement and the back door soundproofing, adding: “In addition, a noise control technician has been assigned to measure the noise level at the church.”

Mr Peck confirmed this in an email to Bolander on Saturday: “I sent the mail on to law enforcement on November 26, and received a reply on November 28 that they would get an affidavit from Mr Brokenshire (Ms De Jager’s landlord) so that they could start an investigation. On November 30, law enforcement copied me in on a mail to the health department, requesting that health do decibel tests. They have also contacted the pastor of the church , who has agreed to cooperate with both law enforcement and the health department to solve the problem.”

It remains unclear why, after Ms De Jager first raised the matter with the City health department almost a year ago, and complained telephonically (four times) and on-line (six times) since then, it was only once Mr Peck was approached for assistance, that the matter was taken up by the health department, and a sound technician assigned to the case.

Sean Brokenshire – Ms De Jager’s partner – confirmed to Bolander telephonically on Sunday, that the City’s health department had contacted him, to confirm that a sound technician had been assigned to the case, and that a sound assessment would be done at some point.

Asked for comment about Ms De Jager’s complaint, Hillsong Church’s Pastor Jurgen Humer confirmed via email, the June meeting with law enforcement and the complainant, and the soundproofing of the back door. Asked whether there have been any other complaints aside from Ms De Jager’s, Mr Humer said: “Not that we are aware of.” This is, however, in contradiction to an earlier statement, in which he said: “We are aware of some complaints by some residents and have been working with the residents to resolve these.”

In response to Ms De Jager’s assertion that a recent complaint had elicited the response: “Isn’t it the church calling you?” Mr Humer said: “We are not aware that anyone on our team made such a comment.”

Asked what is the church’s position in response to Ms De Jager’s complaint, Mr Humer said: “It’s our intention to always be a blessing in the communities where we meet and we will continue to do so in this community.”

In response to Bolander’s enquiry as to the applicability of Clause 3. Noise Nuisance of the City’s By-law Relating to Streets, Public Places and the Prevention of Noise Nuisances, 2007, to the matter at hand, Mayco member for health, Siyabulela Mamkeli, had this to say: “Any reported excessive noise emanating from a church during the course of a service, or related to its worshipping practices, is treated as a noise disturbance and is referred to the environmental health practitioners for investigation. If a disturbing noise has been found to exist, the appropriate legal action is initiated in terms of the Western Cape noise control regulations in order to bring the premises into compliance. The City’s law enforcement department is initially involved if the complaint is referred to them, and will normally inspect and issue a compliance notice where necessary. Then, if the problem persists, the case is handed over to City health for investigation and further action.”

It is unclear from the City’s responses, whether or not a compliance notice was issued to the church, when the law enforcement department first attended to the matter in June.

In conclusion in her email, Ms De Jager said :”These continuous noise disturbances are starting to become a health issue, as we are not getting enough sleep.”