Flushed with success

Water, water, everywhere,
And all the boards did shrink;
Water, water, everywhere
Nor any drop to drink.

The fact that a lady has been taken to court by her neighbours for flushing the loo too often at night sounds like a real silly season story. But if you dig a little deeper there are issues here which go behind that of dodgy neighbourhood relationships.

Mwynwen Jones has lived in her council house in Tremadog, Gwynedd for more than 20 years, but annoyed another resident by banging her bathroom door and flushing her toilet during the middle of the night.

The High Court in London heard that Jones was just making normal ‘household noises’. But the judge said : “Whilst flushing a toilet may not be a nuisance, plainly it may be so if it is done repeatedly and at anti-social hours.”

Jones’ barrister told the court that her client was in the habit of flushing the toilet twice after use, but blamed poor sound insulation in her home for the row, which meant that a neighbour could even hear the sound of her ironing clothes.

I’m not sure I really want to think about why Jones might be in the habit of flushing twice, but for sake of argument, let’s assume that she is extra fastidious. Whatever the reason, it highlights the fact that we really do need to think about how we use water in and around our homes. It’s quite ridiculous that we should be using six litres of drinking water every time we flush the loo – even more in some older properties, so the Government’s proposed changes to Part G of the Building Regulations which will look at this issue, are well overdue.

Talking of Building Regulations, Jones’ point that the sound insulation is so poor that she can be overheard ironing (not a particularly noisy pastime in my experience), demonstrates that, despite all the hullabaloo a few years ago about Part E and Robust Details and the like, there are still thousands of people living in houses and flats where the level of sound transfer is appalling.

The National Home Improvement Council has been telling us for years that an unacceptable number of UK dwellings are classified as ‘non-decent’. Their point is that there’s no way that we can actually build all the houses our still-growing population requires, but by changing, renovating and improving existing properties there is a good chance that demand could be met, probably without stamping all over the green belt.

It’s time they were listened to, seriously.

About Fiona Russell-Horne

Group Managing Editor across the BMJ portfolio.

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