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The music of summer: Unravelling the ice cream van music rules

Ah, the sweet, tinkling music of an ice cream van in the summer! It's a sound that instantly brings to mind visions of creamy, chilly treats and the delight of a spontaneous sugar rush.

woman eating ice cream

But what time do ice cream vans have to stop playing the music? And what are the rules that govern this joyous yet potentially intrusive jingle? Let's dive into the world of ice cream van music regulations and find out!

The music law of ice cream vans

Ice cream vans, despite their cheerful exterior and the happiness they bring, are subject to a rather specific set of laws, especially when it comes to the music they play. The music that each van plays is generally left up to the vendor, but there are distinct government guidelines that limit the duration and frequency of these tunes.

So, what time can ice cream vans play music until? These official guidelines state that the ice cream van's chimes are allowed for 12 seconds every two minutes while the van is on the move. However, they cannot be played before noon or after 7 pm. Furthermore, the vans are forbidden from playing their chimes within 50 metres of sensitive locations such as hospitals, schools during school hours, or churches on Sundays.

Sounds pretty strict, doesn't it? Yet, these rules are in place to ensure that the delightful music of ice cream vans doesn't become a nuisance in certain situations or locations.

The evolution of ice cream van music rules

Interestingly, the current rules are actually a relaxed version of the previous ones. Thanks to the efforts of the Ice Cream Alliance, the regulations saw an update in 2013. Before the update, ice cream vans were allowed to play their chimes for only four seconds! The change in rules extended this time to 12 seconds, making the jingles more noticeable and enjoyable.

Despite the relaxation in the rules, there are still some strict stipulations. For instance, the chimes should be played only once on the approach to each selling point and only once when the van is stationary. More importantly, the chimes should never be played at intervals of less than two minutes and not more than once every two hours on a particular street.

Noise restrictions: Where and how loudly can they play?

Depending on the location, ice cream vans might not be allowed to play music at all. Specific guidelines state that the chimes should not be played where they might cause significant disturbance. This includes within 50 metres of any hospital or similar institution, a school during school hours, or a place of worship on a Sunday or other recognised day of worship.

It's not just about when and where the chimes are played; it's also about how loudly they are played. If ice cream vans play their music in a manner that gives reasonable cause for annoyance, they could be committing an offence.

Violations of ice cream van music rules

Yes, believe it or not, some ice cream vendors do run afoul of these rules, sometimes leading to complaints and even bans from certain areas. For instance, in 2021, an ice cream van was banned from a street because a resident complained that the tune it played was distressing.

The resident accused the van of playing its chimes for more than the statutory 12 seconds and at a volume exceeding the allowed 80 decibels. As a result of the complaint, the local authority investigated whether the van had broken the rules and eventually decided to ban the van from that street.

The responding side: Vendors' perspective

On the flip side, not all vendors agree with complaints or allegations made against them. For example, Lamarti's, an ice cream company, was reported for playing its chimes for too long and too loudly when it arrived at Ashfield Crescent in Lowestoft.

The company, however, denied any wrongdoing. Omar Lamarti, the son of the owner, stated that their chimes only played for seven seconds and automatically stopped, and that their drivers were trained not to restart the music after they had stopped until they moved on to the next street.

Despite the dispute, the council upheld the complaint and banned Lamarti's from the crescent, though it was allowed to keep its wider street trading licence under certain conditions.

The underlying legislation

The rules surrounding ice cream van music are not arbitrary; they are based on specific legislation. Section 62 of the 1974 Control of Pollution Act provides the relevant guidelines regarding ice cream van loudspeakers.

According to these guidelines, the loudspeaker can only be used if it operates only between the hours of noon and 7pm, is fixed to a vehicle used for carrying perishable food for human consumption, is used solely to inform the public that the food is on sale from the vehicle, and is operated in a way that doesn't cause reasonable annoyance to people in the vicinity.

Interpretation of these guidelines can sometimes lead to disagreements or differences of opinion, especially regarding the definition of 'reasonable annoyance'.

To clarify this, the 2013 Defra Code of Practice indicates that noise pollution is most likely to be caused when the volume of the chimes is overly excessive. This is very important if they are played too often, if they are distorted, or if they are played in an area where people are sensitive to noise.

The frequency of the chimes

To help understand what is considered "reasonable", the 2013 Code of Practice provides some clarity. It states that the chimes should not sound for more than twelve seconds at a time. Furthermore, the vehicle should have a loudspeaker that automatically cuts out after this period.

In terms of frequency, the Code states that the chimes can be played once on the approach to each stopping place, only once the van is stationary, and never at intervals of less than two minutes. They also should not be played more often than once every two hours on a particular street or when another van is in sight.

These rules might seem complex, but they are designed to strike a balance between allowing ice cream vans to attract customers and preventing them from causing annoyance or disturbance. For the latest updates on these guidelines, you can visit the official Defra website.

Insurance for ice cream vans

Now that we've covered the ins and outs of what time do ice cream vans have to stop playing the music and the other regulations, it's worth mentioning the importance of insurance for ice cream vans. If you're an ice cream vendor, ensuring that your van is adequately insured is as crucial as adhering to the music rules.

Our ice cream van insurance team can help you to find the appropriate cover to suit you and your mobile catering business. We understand the unique needs and challenges of running an ice cream van business, and we're here to provide the support and guidance you need. Don't hesitate to call us on 01926454907 to speak to one of our friendly team members or receive a quote online.

Summing up

child smiling at ice cream

The music of ice cream vans, while delightful and nostalgic, is subject to a set of regulations that govern when, where, and how it can be played. These rules are designed to prevent disturbance or annoyance to the public, while still allowing the vans to attract customers and bring joy with their delicious treats. As with starting any ice cream van business, it's essential for ice cream vendors to understand and comply with these regulations, and to ensure their business is adequately insured.

Remember, the next time you hear the familiar jingle of an ice cream van, there's a lot more to it than just the promise of a sweet, chilly treat! So, enjoy your ice cream, but also spare a thought for the vendors who navigate these complex rules to bring you your favourite summertime delight.

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