Edinburgh Council could ban silent discos - due to noise complaints

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The city council is considering moves to curb the rise in silent discos in the Capital following complaints of noisy headphone-wearing revellers blocking pavements and causing traffic hazards.

With a growing number of walking tours operating in Edinburgh, there are concerns in the community that congestion is reaching ‘saturation’.

A silent disco walking tour in Edinburgh's Grassmarket.

A silent disco walking tour in Edinburgh's Grassmarket.

Silent discos involve a group of people wearing headphones and dancing and singing as they follow a guide around local landmarks.

But a report being put to members of the South East Locality Committee today highlights an increase in complaints involving pavement obstruction and noise nuisance as a result of their soaring popularity.

Others were concerned about the safety of those taking part, saying there was a “risk to attendees if they walk into traffic or fail to hear approaching vehicles”.

Conservative City Centre councillor Jo Mowatt told the Evening News: “Silent discos are not silent. There is a lot of whooping and screaming, especially when you have 40 women on a hen party. There is also the safety aspect as who is going to have to step in the road due to the groups taking up the pavements?

Paul Weller

Paul Weller

“I have been contacted by many of my constituents regarding silent discos while the Old Town Community Council has been raising this issue for around nine months.”

A Street Trading Licence is required for anyone carrying out a service for money in a public place. However it is believed a large number of traders are taking bookings and payment exclusively online or in a retail premises, meaning they avoid needing a licence.

The council has urged traders that it is best practice to seek a licence to guard against the risk of action if one-off payment is received in the streets.

But the current legislation leaves the local authorities with limited power in order to take action against silent disco tours.

In 2016, the Swiss city of Lausanne banned outdoor silent discos due to noise complaints.

City council chiefs feel the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982 is “out of date and not equipped to deal with modern types of trading”.

Despite recognising the unique issues surrounding silent discos, the council has stressed any change in policy would need to address the wider concerns of walking tours in general.

They have written to the Scottish Parliament and the Scottish Government in order to update lawmakers on the issue.

But cllr Mowatt feels there may be existing legislation available to use, it is just a case of finding it.

She added: “I am always wary of introducing new legislation. I feel there may be something in the legislation box already at our disposal and I think we need to double our efforts to see if there is something that already exists which we can use.

“There’s not a lot we can do at the moment in the never-never land of licensing.

“The current legislation does not serve the residents of the city who never get a break from activity such as this.”