Pretoria - On Monday the Pretoria News reported about a breakthrough court ruling which saw a serial noise offender given a jail sentence for failing to keep noise levels down at his township shebeen.

For years his neighbour complained that he could not sleep because of the noise which continued until the early hours of the morning and described as “torture” what he and his family had endured.

Despite the shebeen owner being slapped with a R12000 fine, with half of it suspended for three years, the situation did not improve.

The neighbour persevered and got city officials to come and do noise level readings and, with solid evidence, a municipal court flexed its muscle, finding the owner guilty on 26 charges related to contraventions of the noise control regulations.

These regulations control environmental noise as well as other noise pollution. The City of Tshwane had previously admitted that its approach was on an ad hoc basis - reacting to problems as they occur.

Some years ago it realised the need for a comprehensive pro-active approach to noise management and control especially in the urban environment, and developed a policy to guide regulations and their implementation thereof. This included setting out maximum noise level standards for various situations.

The magistrate said it was clear that the shebeen owner had no regard for the law or his neighbours.

He sentenced him to two years jail time.

That, the council confirmed, was the first time that such an offender had received such a harsh sentence and it should strengthen their hand in dealing with noise pollution.

For many residents the idea that they can get a disturbing neighbour - especially a club or pub - to turn down the noise after 11pm, is a remote possibility.

What noise level is acceptable depends on the legal land use obviously, but residents can celebrate this court ruling as one which, if used effectively, will make noise nuisance a problem that can be dealt with, rather than one they have to put up with.

* Val Boje is editor of the Pretoria News.