Officials defend silencing Big Ben's bongs for four years after backlash over 'bonkers' plan

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Parliamentary officials have defended the silencing of Big Ben after MPs described the plan to stop its chimes for four years as “mad” and “entirely bonkers.”

It comes after Brexit Secretary David Davis dismissed health and safety concerns linked to the tower’s ongoing restoration, urging the estate’s authorities to “just get on with it.”

Officials said the deafening chimes are being stopped to protect workers who are renovating the Elizabeth Tower that houses the famous clock and its bell.

Echoing Mr Davis’ claims, Conservative MP James Gray, who sat on the administration committee that initially approved the work, labelled the move “entirely bonkers.”

Following the backlash, Parliamentary officials released a fresh statement insisting workers on the 100 metre high scaffolding around the tower could also be startled by the 118 decibel bongs.

Big Ben: The famous landmark is to fall silent for four years (EPA)

And they dismissed suggestions the chimes could be restored during the hours that work is not being carried out as the process takes about half a day to complete.

The statement read: “It would not be practical or a good use of public money to start and stop the bells each day. In addition, as we cannot fully predict the times that staff will be working on this project, it would be impossible to reconnect the bells on a regular basis.”

Work on restoring the Great Clock, which means the bongs would be automatically silenced, will take around two years.

The statement added: “Constant proximity and prolonged exposure to the chimes would pose a serious risk to the hearing of those working on the scaffolding or in the Tower. 

“Whilst hearing protection provides a suitable short term solution to the 118 decibel chiming and striking of the bells, it is not acceptable for those working for long periods in the vicinity of Big Ben. 

“In addition, it is vital for workers to be able to communicate with one another on site, or to raise an alarm should the necessity arise.

“This would not be possible were the bells to continue to sound throughout the works. Workers on the scaffolding could also be startled by the loud sudden noise, with consequences for their own safety and those of other people in and around the tower. The only way to ensure people’s safety is to temporarily stop the bell.”

It will be the longest period Big Ben has been silenced in its 157-year history and will begin after noon on Monday August 21.

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