SPAIN’S ombudsman has called on the country’s local councils – in particular those in Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid – to do something about the noise caused by outdoor cafés, bars and restaurants, and crowds celebrating large events. It points to the ‘hundreds of complaints’ it receives every year about the issue, and has reminded these administrations that they must ‘guarantee’ citizens’ right to peace. 

The call came in the 2022 annual activity report from the ombudsman, and which was presented on Monday in the lower house of parliament, the Congress of Deputies. 

In it, the Defensor del Pueblo, as the ombudsman is known in Spanish, stated that noise is ‘the most-frequent and repeated reason for complaint’ received by the institution. 

‘Only an adequate regulation and effective supervision of the conditions of these activities will avoid urban centres becoming uninhabitable places, given the impossibility for residents to have a normal life, in line with the rights that the Constitution guarantees,’ the text added, as reported by agency Europa Press. 

The ombudsman also called on councils to avoid the ‘suffering’ of citizens caused by extractor fans in restaurants, garbage collection trucks that operate in the early hours of the morning and the noise from air conditioning units. 

The report also pointed to the regular complaints from associations and platforms during 2022 in the cities of Barcelona, Bilbao and Madrid, in response to the proliferation of sidewalk cafés, the invasion of public space by such businesses, and the crowds of people that they attract. 

It also called into question the fact that this invasion of public space was an effect of the Covid-19 pandemic, but that no changes have been made despite the end of the public health crisis. 

In Madrid, for example, the ombudsman has sent a series of recommendations to the local council in an effort to encourage the effective supervision of sidewalk cafés in order to guarantee that local residents can enjoy their rest without being disturbed by noise pollution.

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