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Letter: Leaf Blower Noise Drives Me Mad

Published on: 21 Sep, 2020
Updated on: 21 Sep, 2020

From: Roslyn McMillan

In response to: My Lockdown Continues As a Daily Nightmare of Noise From Building Works

Power tools in peoples’ gardens can be literally maddening, too.

In the Guildown area, certain households employ not gardeners but maintenance contractors to clear every single leaf off every single square inch of garden, every single week of the year, using those appalling leaf-blowers.

These pollute the air with their fumes and the airwaves with the terrible racket they make and, in many areas, slaughter beneficial insects that they hurl out of their habitats. For those of us stuck in nearby houses it is a regular nightmare.

In our garden, we have huge trees and, although we are pretty ancient, we use sweepers and rakes to remove leaves from the drive when necessary. The rest we allow to improve the soil.

I gather that some parts of the US ban leaf-blowers altogether and in Germany their use is restricted. I wish these ghastly polluters were banned here as well.

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Responses to Letter: Leaf Blower Noise Drives Me Mad

  1. Alix Tatlow Reply

    September 21, 2020 at 11:04 pm

    I object to having leaves, beech mast, gravel etc. whooshed at my car as the detritus is lazily blown out of the front gate into the road regardless of who is passing!

  2. Jim Allen Reply

    September 22, 2020 at 1:04 am

    What Roslyn McMillan is complaining about is two-stroke petrol engines being constantly revved, not leaf blowers themselves.

    I used a leaf blower to remove all the mud, leaves and litter to clean up Bowers Lane. One hour of noise for a pristine area mud-free, when it rains and the majority respect and keep litter-free.

    Now due to a life-changing event, I use an 18volt single-handed blower instead, almost silent. It blows the fine sand back onto the beds off the drive and pavements, such that fine grit does not get taken into the house.

    I can no longer use a broom or long-handled brush to clear up in our garden, a blower does the job of a brush very efficiently. Banning blowers would leave me struggling with a singled handed brush on my knees unable to support myself,  so please don’t blame the blower, though misuse of two-stroke engines can be annoying.

  3. Dominic Crolla Reply

    September 22, 2020 at 9:07 am

    From what I observe, on the other side of town, most leaf blowers do just that – blow the leaves onto the road or onto a neighbouring property. Rarely do I see the leaves being raked up and put in the garden waste.

    I use battery operated gardening tools to keep noise levels down but all of the contractors employed in my area appear to use very noisy petrol power tools.

  4. Steve Grove Reply

    September 22, 2020 at 11:53 am

    I remember watching a man with a leaf blower clearing his front lawn of leaves by blowing them into the road (presumably on the very unlikely off-chance that the Highways Department would turn up and sweep them away).

    He seemed very satisfied with his efforts. A little later the wind had blown most of the leaves back into his garden.

    It was really quite amusing.

  5. Kate Osborne Reply

    September 22, 2020 at 12:42 pm

    I agree with Roslyn McMillan. I have often seen one contractor blow the leaves on to a neighbouring property, just to see them being blown back the following day. Jobs for the boys and an absolute menace for everyone else.

  6. Angela Gunning Reply

    September 23, 2020 at 3:43 pm

    I agree absolutely with Ros McMillan. I also live in the St Catherine’s area. The racket from these leafblowers and other powered gadgets is appalling noise pollution. I thought the manufacturers of these machines claimed their decibel [dB] rating met legislative requirements.

    I have seriously considered contacting GBC’s environmental health staff to ask for some measurements. And I have seen operatives not wearing ear-defenders. So please use rakes and brushes to gather fallen leaves.

    Angela Gunning is a Labour borough councillor for Stoke.

  7. Peter Egan Reply

    September 25, 2020 at 6:03 pm

    I use leaf blowers all the time. I have picked leaves up by hand for years before blowers came in and I find it saves my back. Are the authority’s going to go back in time and mess everyone’s backs up from hard manual work?

    The people who complain are the usually toffee-nosed who don’t know what a hard days work is. Do they phone Gatwick every time a plane takes off polluting the atmosphere and making a very loud sound, or when the dustman turns up early? And why do the wealthy folks have massive gardens they cant manage, especially in the autumn when the leaves are coming down? Not everyone composts.

    Just blow them into a corner and when they are cleared away they may save some poor old soul, maybe you mum or dad, from slipping over and causing themself a serious medical problem. Autumn only lasts a couple of months and it’s all hard laboriously boring work that gardeners have to deal with.

    My last point is there are so many people working from home now because of the virus so, no longer in a nice central heated office in the city, they notice how noisy it gets in the real world.

    Leaves are dangerous if they are not dealt with in modern overpopulated environments. That’s why workers are paid to deal with them.

  8. Simon Schultz Reply

    September 25, 2020 at 7:31 pm

    First world problems.

  9. Nigel Watson Reply

    September 25, 2020 at 7:42 pm

    A very good, topical letter.

    The biggest problem is that modern, quiet, electric garden equipment is not used nearly as much as it nowadays could be.

    The second problem is the push by contractors to do frequent visits to blow leaves around. That is indeed a “job creation scheme”, and very largely unnecessary. For the environment, it is far better to leave any thin scatterings of leaves on the lawn or flowerbeds, where most of them will be taken down by earthworms and enrich the soil. On lawns, it is still good practice to remove deep drifts which will shade the underlying grass. But this does not need to be done every week. Gardens are not the living room, and extreme tidiness in them is not a virtue. As for driveways, well the autumn winds are likely to blow leaves off smooth surfaces into more sheltered places where they can be collected and composted; or onto rougher surfaces like soil or grass.

    The contractors, though, love their staff to be walking around, conspicuously waving a huge petrol leaf blower, and making their irritating stop/go loud noises to seem busy. With these staff (but no one else) kept safe in their earmuffs. This way of working is all about profits, with no thought for the neighbours or the way that, with everybody’s garden being “tidied” at different times, neighbourhood noise may become a nearly constant nuisance.

    Householders should demand that contractors only use quiet equipment. And GBC could usefully announce a decision to ban petrol-powered leaf blowers from, say, 2023 onwards. All residents would then benefit from quieter neighbourhoods and less air pollution.

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