Big Ben maintenance man slams plans to silence clock for four years as 'nonsense'

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The clockmaker once responsible for maintaining Big Ben has slammed plans to silence the bell for four years as “nonsense”.

The great bells are to be stopped whilst the tower undergoes maintenance work, following concerns the noise could damage the hearing of workers.

But Melvyn Lee, whose clockmaker company Thwaites & Reed looked after the landmark for more than 30 years, dismissed the “absurd” safety fears.

He told The Daily Telegraph there had never been health and safety issue during previous renovations, adding: “There is something amiss. The need to close it down for four years is nonsense.”

Big Ben: Experts said plans to stop the Tower’s chimes over health concerns for restoration workers are ‘absurd’ (PA)

The bell is due to sound for the last time on the hour at noon next Monday until the renovation of the tower is completed in 2021.

Parliamentary officials insisted workers’ hearing could be put at “serious risk” if the bell was left on and warned that those using the 100 metre high scaffolding around the tower could also be startled by the bongs.

But Mr Lee said builders only need ear defenders if working directly next to the bell as it is not heard loudly elsewhere in tower.

Rodney Perry – project manager during the two-year renovation of the tower in 1983 – seconded Mr Lee’s opinion and said he never had “any issues with the ringing of the bells”.

“Workers wore ear defenders when working close to the bells,” he said. “It was only when we stopped the clock to do some repairs on the mechanism itself that the chimes were silenced. But that was only for very short periods. It is absurd to silence the bell for four years.”

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