Preachers to turn down volume

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A spokesperson for Ballymena Gospel Hall says it was their decision to reduce the volume at outdoor preaching events and not because of any conditions imposed by Council.

They were reacting after a statement referring to a ‘loud and intrusive’ religious event in the People’s Park recently was released by SDLP representative Declan O’Loan.

He said the event had been amplified and had resulted in complaints from people who had been hoping to enjoy a quiet day in the park with their children.

In the statement, Cllr. O’Loan welcomed assurances he says he was given which would lead to some elements of such events being curtailed.

He said: “I received a complaint about the intrusive nature of the event from a member of the public, and having observed the event for myself, I endorse those concerns. I have now been informed by a Council officer that the organisers - understood to be Ballymena Gospel Hall - have been instructed to reduce the volume of the amplified sound, to cease distributing religious tracts to the public, and to put their cars in the car park instead of along the frontage of the park lake. Also, in future conditions will be placed on the service.”

However, on Monday morning, a spokesperson for Ballymena Gospel Hall said two of their members had gone along to the People’s Park offices when they first heard of noise complaints.

“We met with an official at the Park and in course of conversation it was our members who conceded that the volume may have been a tad loud on the Sunday in question.

“It was our members who offered to turn down the sound in future on the basis that co-operation is a better approach than confrontation.

“This offer was welcomed by the official, who thanked us.

“Since no other outstanding issues were raised, the meeting ended amicably.”

Councillor O’Loan added: “When I went along to observe this event, I realised that it was not the simple religious service I thought I was agreeing to when I gave my assent in the former Council. There were three cars parked on the paved area by the lake and an evangelical message was being preached to the general public in loudly amplified sound. Tracts were also being distributed to passers-by. The resident who complained to me had gone to the park for a quiet afternoon with his children. I totally understand why he took exception to the nature of the event.

“We have to be a lot more careful with future applications. I have no objection at all to a religious service involving as many as choose to be involved. I do not think it is acceptable for an evangelical event to occur which is targeted at the general public and is very intrusive in character.

“That is not what the majority of people going to a public park on a Sunday afternoon expect or desire. In future we should, if they apply again, steer this towards a religious service in an unobtrusive area, with any amplification limited to that group, and the option to put temporary signage advertising the service.”

Note: Ballymena Borough Council gave permission to Ballymena Gospel Hall to hold a religious service in the People’s Park on Sundays in June, July and August, 3.00 to 3.30 pm. No conditions were attached.