When ice cream vans can - and can't - play music

The rules surrounding ice cream van music. (Getty Images)
The rules surrounding ice cream van music. (Getty Images)

Nothing says summer more than the tinkling of a tune revealing an ice cream van's nearby.

That plinky-plonk of a well known nursery rhyme that seems to whip (pun totally intended) up children into an absolute frenzy at the thought of a cooling sugar hit is total summer vibes.

But did you realise there are some rules and regulations surrounding where and for how long ice cream vans can play their music?

The topic came up for discussion on Radio 2 this morning when a listener posed a question to the QI elves about the tunes ice cream vans play and what's behind them.

While the tunes played are at the discretion of the ice cream vendors, turns out there are some official government guidelines about how much music ice cream vans are allowed to play.

"You're allowed to chime for 12 seconds every two minutes while you're driving," explained QI elf, Lauren Gilbert.

"But you can't play the chimes before noon, after 7pm or within 50 metres of a hospital, a school during school hours or church on Sundays."

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The sound of summer? (Getty Images)
The sound of summer? (Getty Images)

Presenter Zoe Ball seemed shocked at the restrictiveness of the rules replying: "These are very strict rules. Can you imagine the meeting that was held when these rules were discussed? And was there a representative form the industry there, I'm imagining there must have been."

Despite sounding somewhat restrictive, it seems the rules have been somewhat relaxed thanks in part to the Ice Cream Alliance, who successfully campaigned for an update on regulations in 2013 which previously hadn't been altered since 1982.

Ice cream van drivers used to only be allowed to sound their chimes for four seconds, but a change in rules in 2013 saw the limit raised.

In addition the rules state ice cream chimes should be played once only on the approach to each stopping place (or ‘selling point’), only once when the van is stationary, and never at intervals of less than 2 minutes.

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The chimes should also not be played more often than once every two hours in a particular length of street.

"The chimes should not be played in areas where people may be especially sensitive to their sound," the government guidance states.

"In particular they should not be played: a. within 50 metres of any hospital or similar institution; b. within 50 metres of a school during school hours; c. within 50 metres of a place of worship on a Sunday or other recognised day of worship."

As well as it being an offence for ice cream vans to sound their chimes before 12.00 noon or after 7.00 pm, it is also an offence for vendors to play their music at any time in such a way as to give reasonable cause for annoyance.

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There are rules surrounding how long and where ice cream vans can sound their chimes. (Getty Images)
There are rules surrounding how long and where ice cream vans can sound their chimes. (Getty Images)

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Interestingly, some ice cream vendors do fall foul of the law.

Last year, an ice cream man was banned from a street because a neighbour complained the tune it plays was distressing.

The resident said the van "plays his charms for more than the statutory 12 seconds but plays them louder than the allowed 80 decibels".

The local authority probed whether the van broke the legal limits on how long the chimes are allowed to be sounded for, eventually bowing to pressure from the resident to ban the van from entering the street.